If there is one truth we have learned and enthusiastically embraced in this frontier-missions journey, it is that we can trust God to accomplish His purposes if we but seek and follow His leading step by step. When we accepted the call to go to Khon Kaen six and a half years ago, we were eager, optimistic and curious as to how the goals would be reached—starting with raising the necessary funds to launch to Thailand. We were aware that this was indeed a challenging mission—one of our friends called it extreme church planting! At the same time, we were drawn to the idea of doing something that would require complete dependence on God; to do something that only He could take credit for.
Recently, when we realized the time had come to return to the States for our children’s educational needs, we did what is now second nature for us—we prayed, and we watched for God’s leading for each member of our family and for our team and project. Through a series of events and timing that only God could orchestrate, we decided to return to Berrien Springs where Gabriel and Daniel will study at Andrews Academy, and Ricardo will continue to serve with AFM at the home office as the Africa Field Director and Director for Ministry initiatives, leaving Kyle Tumberg as the Central Thai Project leader.
We have nothing but thanksgiving and praise for how God has proved faithful at every step of the journey. First, we are thankful for all who read Adventist Frontiers magazine and support the frontier mission work. When Jesus told the disciples to feed the multitude, they depended on food shared by another. Jesus multiplied that food and made it a blessing for thousands of hungry people. When we were called to go to Thailand, we depended on our support team. God has blessed your concerns, efforts, prayers and financial support, multiplying them to feed the spiritually hungry in Khon Kaen.
We are thankful for Pastor Wanlop and his commitment. He left retirement in another part of the country and, with his wife Phii Tongmee, moved to Khon Kaen in response to the need. There were Sabbaths that it was just them, Lung Chuen and us gathered in his living room. Together we prayed and dreamed of a flourishing church. Today, about 50 people meet at Peace Music Academy for Sabbath worship. We are welcoming Thai Buddhist visitors and are blessed to have new believers like Nok (our “first fruit”) reaching out to the newcomers. The Discovery Bible groups are providing a place for the gospel to be shared in ways that are practical and relevant for Thai Buddhists.
We are thankful for the leadership of Pastor Apisit, our new Thai pastor, and his family. He is full of energy, commitment and vision. His wife is from Isaan (our region of Thailand) and speaks the local dialect. She is also working as the secretary of our music school. Their two sons have already been a blessing, connecting with local children and actively participating in music school and church activities.
We are thankful for the English-speaking members (mostly expatriate English teachers working in government schools) who are taking on leadership in the budding Khon Kaen International SDA Church. They have organized community-service activities and have even contributed by accompanying Kyle Tumberg and Pastor Apisit on home visits and providing English and ukulele lessons to the children of parents studying the Bible.
We are thankful for Dr. Ruth, a Thai Adventist dentist who invited Ricardo to help with the church’s violin ensemble during our language study stint in Bangkok. God used that experience to cast a vision for using music as a way of connecting with our community. Today, Peace Music Academy welcomes more than 50 students who are studying violin, viola, piano, guitar, ukulele and flute and who can take such classes as “English through Music” and “Morality.” We are thankful for the leaders of the Thailand Adventist Mission who supported this idea and who have partnered with us through the years.
We are thankful for Danny and Shaeny Pung who did so much at the very beginning to get the school up and running, and we are thankful to the Sorensens who joined us. Their years of experience in Thailand were invaluable, and Chris’ musical gifts and ability to build relationships in this context catapulted the school forward.
We are thankful for Khru Ton, a vocalist and accomplished guitarist who is the answer to our prayers for a Thai music school director. As the Sorensens’ furlough time drew near, the need for a Thai director became more urgent and, just in time, Khru Ton joined us. The team at the music school, which includes three teachers from Ecuador and our fantastic student missionaries, provides a fun atmosphere to learn music and be meet Christ. One of our students and her father have been attending church and participating in worship. It is thrilling to see the grander purpose of the music school being realized.
We are thankful for our incredible team God put together. There is still much to do in Khon Kaen, and we look forward to seeing God’s plan continue to unfold. Kyle brings experience and passion for evangelism, and Cindy provides efficient, quality work in the area of accounting. Chris Sorensen will continue working with Khru Ton and the music school team. The information and insights from our culture study have greatly increased our effectiveness, thanks to our teammate, Daniëlle K., who led our culture study and provided training to the expatriates in our church. She is finishing the application of this work, and the final product will be materials that will benefit not only Thailand, but work with Buddhists all over the world.
And we are thankful for our precious Thai friends. We miss them and look forward to staying in contact with them. We have been overwhelmed by the kindness of so many, and we will continue to pray for those that have yet to know Jesus for themselves. We long for the final harvest where we will all be together and give thanks to God face to face.
Finally, we are thankful to continue working with AFM in a new role, and we look forward to continuing our adventure in this life that God has given us.