Since our last furlough in 2017, a clear vision has emerged for our community in northeast Thailand.
We are here to reach children and youth because we want to start an inter-generational movement that begins with helping them build a biblical worldview that they will pass on to their children. We help them build that biblical worldview by telling them Bible stories and helping them interpret and understand their life experience through the lens of those stories. And when they learn to interpret and understand their life experience through the lens of the Bible, they no longer fear ghosts and spirits or use charms and magic to protect themselves from those forces. They feel safe knowing that Jesus is watching over them and guiding their lives. They pray to Jesus when they have problems in life, and they regularly offer thanks to Him for His love and care. They feel connected to Jesus and to a community of Christians who support them and to whom they offer spiritual, mental and physical support in return. They contribute to the betterment of the community they live in and help others learn how to connect to Jesus and the Christian community.
In the past four years, we have been able to tell Bible stories to hundreds of children and their caregivers. Through those stories, we have helped many of these children and caregivers begin to understand that there is a God who loves them and is deeply interested in their lives. And without our ministry, it is likely that most of them would not have had the opportunity to learn about the Creator God who made the world and gave His Son to us to prove how much He loves us all.
There is one young man, named Therapong, whom we have been teaching and mentoring since he was 14 years old. He was baptized this summer shortly after he turned 18. He has been our student since Tonya first started teaching him English at his junior high school in 2017. Over the past several years, we have seen his love for and commitment to Jesus grow.
Last year, Therapong was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident. While He was lying in the hospital, seriously injured and afraid that he might die, he told us that he saw a man dressed all in white, who was shining, and he came to him and comforted him. He believes that man was Jesus, whom he learned about from the Bible stories we had told him. After that, something awakened in Therapong’s heart, intensely stirring him to want to follow Jesus and be His disciple.
We continue to mentor Brother Therapong, and he has been volunteering as a teacher at our learning center to help younger students with their homework. He also loves to read Bible stories to his father, with whom he lives, and he often tells Bible stories to children on Sabbath mornings at the learning center or around the village.
The change in Brother Therapong’s life is a shining example of the vision and mission that we believe God has entrusted to us and all of you who support our ministry through your prayers and consistent support.
We had planned to return to America for donor ministry and a little rejuvenation in 2020, but we postponed our trip. Though we were disappointed, several critical things happened here that have strengthened our ministry and helped us be more focused and intentional in our outreach. One of these developments was the forced closing of the creative learning center and finding new and innovative ways to connect with the children and caregivers in the surrounding villages to tell them Bible stories. For this opportunity, we are truly thankful to God.
We anticipated that the situation might improve this year, but due to continued travel restrictions here in Thailand, we have decided to postpone our U.S. furlough indefinitely. We feel that this is the best decision for our family and for our ministry at this time.
However, AFM approved for us to have a “virtual furlough.” We will be taking a much-needed retreat away from our project site here in Thailand later this year. Also, we will be actively engaging in donor ministry and critical fundraising while remaining in-country. We ask you to please pray for new ministry partners who will come alongside us and commit to supporting our work with families and children in our part of Thailand. We would also ask you to please consider partnering with us or asking someone you know who you think would be interested in joining our ministry support team. The work we do would not be possible without the financial support of our friends and family in the U.S. and around the world.
As always, we thank you for your faithful support and encouragement in helping us reach the Isan people of northeast Thailand for Christ.