In The Land of Smiles
While in Thailand we visited two children’s homes. First, we visited the Agape home and met with Roy and Avis Rideout. It was wonderful to be able to spend time with the children there, 80% of whom are HIV positive. It is clear that they are well-fed and cared for and that they’re needs are looked after.
We also spent the another evening at the Abundant Love Children’s Home where we treated the children to some Christmas themed face painting. There were many visitors at the home that day, as it was a special day to celebrate Christmas with a feast of traditional Thai food, ice cream and fruit provided by our team, and a Christmas pageant.
Another facet of our time in Chiang Mai was visiting several of the churches in the local area. At each church we were given a tour, had the chance to meet and talk with the pastors, and learn a little about them. They each had their own unique story to tell about how they came to faith in Jesus Christ, how their church had started and what the plans were for the future.
An Urban Church Plant
The church we attended for Sunday morning worship was very unique. Unlike many of the other churches we had visited in the mountains, which were well established and known within their respective communities, this was a small urban church. The Good News Christian Center was planted seven years ago by two Graduates of the PAOC bible college in Thailand, a married couple named Santiya and Aphainun.
In the early stages, the only support their home church could give them was to cover the rent for their home/ministry facility. Things were very tough in the beginning, however God provided for this little family and blessed them. As Santiya would visit the market and talk with the ladies there who were selling their goods she began to share her faith with them.
Soon Santiya and her husband began to teach English and give different types of music classes as a way to make ends meet. Through offering these services to their community they were also able to share their faith with their students and many would come to know Christ.
A Real Faith
As we stood that morning and began to sing together in Thai and English all at once, I could sense God’s presence.I had forgotten how beautiful the sound of people worshiping together in different languages could be.
As we continued to worship, I realized that what I was sensing was not just the beauty within our voices united in praise. There was something else God was trying to bring to my attention.
Suddenly, it dawned on me that the reality of the words these market vendors, students and children were singing were as “real as it gets”.
They were singing “… When the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say blessed be your name…”
What darkness have I ever known in comparison to these people? Only God knows their personal stories of how they have struggled. Many of them have probably wondered where their next meal might come from or have struggled to keep their children safe as they work. Some of the children who hadn’t been sponsored probably didn’t have school supplies or uniforms.
In the west, sometimes our abundant blessings have become a deterrent to realizing our need of God and of salvation.
There have been times where I have sat in a Sunday service distracted by my to-do list which ironically only exists because I have been so blessed.
In this tiny living room, in a house church full of CCP children and street vendors, these people were singing about a faith that was very real and tangible to them.
This was the Gospel in action.
I felt challenged. I felt refreshed. I felt God’s presence.
The Past, The Present AND The Future
Later that day, Aphainun took us to the location where they are planning on building a new facility for their ministry. Currently, Santiya works with about sixty children. Many of these children are CCP kids while still more are awaiting sponsorship. Only a handful of these children could attend our service earlier that day because of the size of the building. Imagine having a space only the size of a small living room and ministering to sixty children out of that space. Imagine how many more children’s lives could be reached within this community if they had a bigger facility. Just imagine…
As I observed the look on Aphainun’s face as he told us of his plans for this piece of land I had another “light-bulb” moment.
We had visited many churches and also other ministries within the area of Chiang Mai. Every story was similar in that a particular ministry came from humble and small beginnings. Every ministry within Thailand started in a conversation such as we were having. A servant of God, with a passion to show the love of Christ to their country and a dream in their heart.
Every ministry had their own personal story of growth. Their stories told us where they had come from and the fruitfulness and growth of their ministries as they had stepped out into uncharted territory in obedience to the call of God.
Here is the final and most important piece to the puzzle of spiritual growth within Thailand. Every ministry had a plan, a vision of what the future of their ministry would look like. These are not maybe-might be-someday plans. These plans were thoughtfully and prayerful considered and being believed for, while not knowing exactly how it will happen or where the funds will come from.
God Will Continue to Move
I have no doubt in my mind that the ministries and churches within the province of Chiang Mai will continue to grow and flourish. As long as there are servants of God, a willingness to hear his voice and obey his call, God will provide the means to complete his work!
Children’s Ministries Leader
Happy Valley Goose Bay