More than 11 years ago, Cindi and I sensed God calling us to serve as long-term, cross-cultural missionaries. We had been wrestling with this thought for a couple of years, but in February 2011, we felt convicted that it was time to act. Where would we go? What would we do in the mission field? These and many other questions flooded our minds. We did not have a special burden for any particular country; we simply felt compelled to go because of the sheer need in the unreached world. When AFM offered us the call to go to Thailand, Cindi and I were taken aback, “Isn’t Thailand ‘fairly’ well off compared to other countries?” we thought to ourselves.
Nonetheless, as we learned more about the actual call, who we would be working with, and the needs of Thailand in general, we had peace that God was indeed calling us. Still, we felt our sense of inadequacy for the task. Could we learn a tonal language? Could we adapt to a new culture and climate?
AFM told us that the ability to raise the necessary funds for support was “the confirmation of the call” to the mission field. Fundraising was the first hurdle we had to overcome on our faith journey. Although we faced challenges, God more than provided for us, and time and time again, we were in awe of people’s generosity and God’s providence. Every fundraising goal we set, we were able to meet, and to this day, we have always had a healthy fund balance. God has truly blessed us through our faithful donors and confirmed and strengthened our faith. By God’s grace, we launched to Thailand in November 2012.
Our first order of business upon launching was to learn the language. Even though we were blessed with good Thai teachers and the ability to devote our energies to learning full-time, it was still an incredible challenge. Many times, I questioned the wisdom of coming to Thailand. I felt so useless as I could barely communicate. But even during those times, I felt a quiet assurance that we were where we were supposed to be and that in our weakness, God’s strength could be magnified through us. We discovered that learning the language endeared us to the Thai people and gave us more profound insights into their culture and way of life. It was a rich experience!
We were privileged to be part of an AFM missionary team in Khon Kaen, and by God’s grace, the Central Thai project started Peace Music Academy as a Center of Influence to provide a platform to serve and minister to the city. Through the years, I have marveled at how God has grown and staffed the school with excellent student missionaries and local helpers. One of our first converts, Pi Joon, has now become the school’s director! Watching his growth and development has been a pure joy. Even when the school was just starting, God was already preparing a local person to eventually lead it.
The music school has provided us with a platform for ministry and has served as a bridge to invite people to church. Through the years, we have seen many students and families attend church services and functions and get involved in various activities. We have been able to do health outreach, youth ministry, various types of community service, in-home visitation, and Bible studies. We have seen people get baptized, and young people catch the vision to give their lives to Christ’s service—two of our college-aged youth are currently preparing for the ministry.
Our ministry reached a milestone this past March as our new church and school buildings were officially dedicated to the Lord. In October, our church was organized as an official church within the Thailand Adventist Mission. God worked through many self-sacrificing donors and the cooperation of several church organization layers to complete the building project. Our hope for the future is that both the church and school will continue to grow and that more leaders will be developed who can contribute to the ongoing work of ministry in Thailand. We want our school and church to be a blessing to the country at large, and we want them to facilitate the effective evangelization of the city of Khon Kaen. We hope to start a branch Sabbath School/church plant early next year and continue the ongoing work of discipleship and ministry.
Through it all, our family has matured in faith and grown numerically, too, as both of our daughters were born during our tenure here. Thailand is home to them. We have learned to trust God’s leading, even if it does not always make sense, and we have learned to pursue deeper spiritual, emotional, and mental wholeness as our brokenness is revealed through the tests and trials of life and ministry. We have learned that if we are willing to step into that painful process, holding God’s hand, He will bring us out stronger, healthier and more useful to His cause. We have learned how to be team players, sacrifice for the good of the whole, and be humble enough to learn from others and lay aside our cultural ethnocentrism. We now see the beauty in the different and unfamiliar and appreciate the cultural diversity in this world. The list could go on, but what we have gained probably far exceeds what we have given.
Thailand has become home to us, and it has been much harder preparing to leave than it was to come. When we decided to pursue a call to overseas missions, we had no idea where we would end up or how God would use us. Looking back now, we can see God’s hand in this whole endeavor and see more clearly why He sent us here. As we step forward into the future, we are excited to continue working with AFM in a different capacity. I will be a recruiter, and Cindi will continue homeschooling our girls. We do not know how things will go or what God has in store, but we are confident that God is leading us and that the lessons we have learned over this past decade will make us stronger and better equipped to fulfill God’s calling in our lives. Please continue to pray for us and the work in Thailand and beyond!