A letter from Sharon Bryant in Thailand
Most of you know that I am the child of Presbyterian missionary parents who spent their lives serving Christ in other lands. Rev. Richard and Evelyn Bryant met on the mission field in China in the late 1940s and were married there. But the communist takeover of China left them searching for a new mission field. With the encouragement of a seminary classmate, Rev. Sinclair (Tommy) Thompson, my parents accepted an invitation to serve in Thailand and spent the next 50 years serving the church there. I grew up in Thailand, returning to the United States to go to college. I wanted to return to Thailand, but my career moved in a different direction.
Why am I here now? A gentle nudge from God (aided by Rev. Jack Stotts in Austin, Texas) pulled me from a comfortable career into seminary. After serving as a hospice chaplain and pastor of a congregation in Texas, I visited Thailand with my mother in 2008. It was on that visit that I first felt the call to mission service. I inquired into the needs of the church in Thailand and came across a posting for a Coordinator of Christian Volunteers, serving the church by working with short-term mission volunteers. By the grace of God and with the support of many people, I was appointed to this position by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT), the largest ecumenical Protestant church in Thailand. After a whirlwind of activity, I am here in Thailand, beginning my term of service. How amazing to discover that the room next to my office here is the "Sinclair Thompson Library." What a small world it is!
The Need … and Its Blessing
I am excited about the work that I am doing because it is one of the ministries that blesses the giver as well as those who receive the gift. As Coordinator of Christian Volunteers in Thailand, I am setting up a program that will attract people to serve as short-term mission volunteers in various ministries of our partner church throughout Thailand.
There are many reasons why this ministry opportunity is so exciting, but two reasons stand out. First, research has shown that short-term mission service provides a critical service to those who host the mission workers abroad as well as to those who send them. These mission workers support ministries in the local overseas church at a level above and beyond what the local church is capable of providing with its own resources. In addition, the majority of those who serve the church in short-term mission assignments overseas go on to serve the church in some capacity for the rest of their lives. Thus, this mission service is as beneficial to the future of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as it is to its partner church in Thailand.
Second, it is much easier for people to enter mission service if learning a foreign language is not a requirement. The schools of our partner church in Thailand teach English to their children, and native English speakers are in demand as teachers. As you know, English is becoming a global language and it is critical for developing countries to be able to use this language. Among the 10 countries of ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Thailand currently ranks ninth in its understanding and use of English. The 25 schools of our partner church want to be seen as the leaders in providing this education because this attracts non-Christian students into a Christian environment, allowing opportunity for many to experience a strong Christian witness and to make a decision about their own life of faith. It is a powerful ministry to the next generation of Thai leaders. By the time the next school year begins in May 2012, the CCT estimates that it needs about 400 teachers of English in its schools, serving in Christian witness and ministry to boys and girls here in Thailand.
Pray that we will find the volunteers we need to help the schools here and to share the message of the gospel with boys and girls who are struggling to learn English.
Pray that God will guide me as I meet with the leaders in the schools and the officers of the church to understand their needs and to create a program that will meet those needs.
Pray for Acharn Thanom Pinta, Acting Director of the Ministry of Education (and my new boss), that he will have wisdom in bringing together the gifts and talents of his staff to further the ministry of the gospel within the schools of our partner church.
Pray for Acharn Mike Fucella, Director of the Office of Ecumenical Relations, as he works to communicate the needs of the church here to all the ecumenical partners who work together to serve Christ and spread the good news of the gospel here in Thailand.
Pray for the new government of Thailand, brought to power by the recent election, that the transition in government will be smooth and unite a deeply divided nation. We are not sure how these changes might impact our work here.
From a heart overflowing with joy, I thank God for the work that you do for Christ wherever you are and give thanks for your support of me and my work here. I hope that the coming months will bring you closer to Jesus Christ so that you may feel him at work in your life. May you have joy in his presence always! Don’t forget that you can always keep up with what I am doing through my blog at www.thailandtales.wordpress.com.
Yours in Christ,