Today, we are facing an unpredictable pandemic. The lockdown and curfew in Thailand have been extended to July. Although lockdown has been eased during the daytime within the same province, traveling between the different provinces still has its limitations (for example, there is a mandatory 14 day quarantine for those who travel to different provinces). Even now, many businesses are waiting to reopen. The Night Bazar, one of the most popular markets in downtown Chiang Mai is still closed. No one knows how long it will be kept this way. During the past three months of lockdown, many people, both Christians and non-Christians who own small business at the Night Bazar have been suffering severely; some of the Christians are having to rely on Buddhist temples for their daily sustenance. Each meal, they have to get in long lines to receive food at the Buddhist temple. In Laos, some people have to walk for over 30 kilometers in order to get help, a bag of rice (45 kilograms). Myanmar is also facing similar circumstances. Many are struggling in these tough times.
All in all, we truly give our special big THANKS to IDES who provided the funds to acquire food packages for roughly 150 families in Thailand, 150 families in Myanmar, and 150 families in Laos. With the help from IDES, in Thailand, we were able to help the Shan community in our area. These Shan people were displaced from Myanmar and came to Thailand for manual labor jobs. With the ongoing lockdown, these dislocated people have no work, no income and no food to feed their family. We are very glad to be able to help them alleviate some hardships. Also, we are able to help the group of street vendors at the night market. These people have been struggling due to the lockdown. It turns out that many were widows, children, dislocated people, manual laborers, and even people with disabilities; almost all of these people were left out from government aid or other charitable help. Some of them received our food packages with tears, and said “we will be able to survive for several more weeks!” After receiving the help, some of those people with disabilities made a call to us with shaken voices and cried with joy. On another day, when a little Shan boy received food, he jumped up and down while saying “Yes, we have food to eat!”
|Nick and Mary in front of the rice bags|
|Instant noodles and cooking oil were sorted into packages|
|Eggs were also sorted in sets|
|The Shan kids at Hua Fai Government School came to get food for their families|
|The elderly with disabilities were very thankful|
|For safety, the people waiting in line were spaced out and wearing masks|
|The kids might have been a bit too close to each other... but they were so excited to get some food!|
|They are so happy!|
|Smiles on their faces made all the hard work worth it|
|Stephen handing out the packages for the Shan children|
|After some time, Mary also handed out the packages|
|These instant noodles were a hit especially for the kids|
|They are smiling underneath the mask|
|Handing out rice!|
|This boy was very happy to take food back to his family|
|They all checked out their packages|
|These girls are strong!|
|We are happy to be part of this task to bring joy and hope to people|
Again, thanks to IDES for making our mission works special by meeting the needs of the struggling people at the right time and most of all to reflect God’s image to the society around us and to the people in the mission fields.
What else happened in May?
Looking back at May, we are pleased with many activities. The lockdown provided some benefits in the sense that we were able to plan out our goals and directions for when this situation gets better. Besides all the planning, we had lots going on. The whole family took several trips throughout the month to visit brothers and sisters in Christ in the mountain villages about several hours away from our home. We were able to do this because regulations on traveling within provinces are now slowly easing.
Stephen went to a funeral at a remote village called Sammuen. This village is roughly 4 hours drive away, through rough mountainous jungle terrain. There was a funeral for one of the members who converted 30 years ago because of God’s answer to Stephen’s prayer. 30 years ago, the man had an acute stroke which caused him to be paralyzed. After praying, God immediately restored him. Since then he and his family have accepted Jesus Christ and stayed strong in the faith. For many years their siblings stood against his conversion, and many did not even attend the funeral. Even with this amount of shunning, this family has kept their faith firmly. So, it was a very important and valuable trip for Stephen to go and encourage them in this nostalgic area.
|Everyone standing around the grave|
|Stephen gathering with the elders and friends in the village|
On another trip, Mary, Nick, and Becky went to the Huay Ko Lisu village in Chiang Dao to visit Mary’s relatives and the brothers and sisters in Christ there. Mary’s parents live in this village and they have been quite depressed because they haven’t seen our family for nearly 2 months (As you may know, Mary’s father is one of the first native missionaries who made the first mission trip from China to Thailand in 1958). It was a great trip to be able to visit Mary’s family and the members of Huay Ko Church; the Church members have not been able to meet in the church because large gatherings are still restricted. It was a very great trip!
At home, praise God, we finished our summer rice harvest. The rice field is now a joint operation with a couple Shan immigrants from Myanmar. Many refugees moved to Thailand in order to find jobs; most are able to find some form of work but some still lack the permits. Several who are not as skilled in construction have to farm. Many Shan will become farm hands and get paid very low wages per day. We decided to give several Shan farmers the opportunity to farm with us; we have a few who would come and help us tend to the rice fields. When we harvest the rice, they will get half of the crops to either sell or eat. As you know, a lot of our rice is for self-consumption and for guests, especially Kingdom workers.
Through all of this pandemonium, we are so encouraged by partners and those who care even about the people on the other side of the world who they have never even met. We are so thankful to be part of this task to show Jesus to the world. Just like in the third century, we want to make Jesus famous through our actions. May the Lord be glorified through these actions.
The family is doing well. Isaac started school online, and he seems to love waking up and just going to class in his pajamas. When he needs a break, he cooks some instant noodle; he seems to be taking all the “college lifestyle” in and loving it. Beside of teaching to Christian leaders from different countries in sporadic hours via Wechat application, Stephen has been in the office most days to revisit the book of Jeremiah. Becky and Nick have been teaching English to university students in Laos through Zoom video conferencing program. Nick has also started partnering with coffee farmers and roasting coffee. The coffee program is set to help out the Christians to have sustainable living. In Myanmar and Laos, the hope is to have non-Christian farmers in very remote areas come to Christ and turn away from their original cash crop, opium. Mary is very happy that this year’s rice harvest went very well. Last but not least, John and Anna seem to be doing well. We were really sad to not be able to attend their private wedding ceremony due to travel restrictions. Overall, everyone is doing well, so thank God for that.
|Isaac enjoying the online class|
|Becky teaching Laotian university students as Isaac helps out with the Zoom program|
Thank you for your prayers and partnership in furthering His Kingdom in Southeast Asia and China.
1. Please pray for the new converts in Laos. The harvest of souls in Laos is growing bountifully. Almost daily, people (even shamans and officials) have turned to the Lord Jesus Christ. These new converts need to learn the Word because as you may have known, the people in Southeast Asia have grown up from total pagan cultures. Many lack the chance to study the Bible, so we want to make great efforts to teach them. For now, due to travel restrictions, we are unable to go into the country where the mission field is currently thriving. We are hoping to go in as soon as we can.
2. Congratulation to Mr. and Mrs. John Wongratanamajcha for starting their married life together. We also extend our warm welcome to Anna as she is now a part of our family (we want to also encourage her to stay strong as she starts to fill out paper works from now on with this long last name). Please pray for this new family!
|John and Anna Wongratanamajcha!|