A letter from Carol and Leith Fujii in Thailand
“Please answer my brother’s questions about God … I tried to explain what I understand …” Ratanak began while waiting for the doctor to arrive in their hospital room. As Leith, Ratanak and his brother talked about the existence of God, the context seemed very similar to when we first met over 10 years ago. You may remember Ratanak, our beloved Cambodian brother, who was in Thailand as a political refugee when he first met Christ. (Our March 2001 prayer letter tells more of his story.
Last month we had the joy of being reunited with Ratanak and Chhivrong, his wife, and family in Cambodia. Ratanak is now officially known as Vuthy Chaay. It was the Chaays’ first visit back to Cambodia since their arrival in the United States six years ago and since becoming U.S. citizens last year. A medical emergency of a relative brought us together 10 years ago, and a family member’s illness was again bringing us together in Christ’s providence and timing. This time it’s Chhivrong’s younger brother, Chhivpah (pronounced “chew pa “), who has a rare disease affecting his vision. Vuthy brought Chivvpah to Bangkok to be attended by one of the few specialists in the region who might be able to help him. Chhivpah, recognizing his need for God, is beginning to read the Bible and is sincerely seeking answers to some profound questions. What an encouragement it was to watch Vuthy eagerly sharing his faith in Christ and so earnestly serving the members of his family. His relatives, most of whom have never known of Christ, greatly respect Vuthy and Chivvrong. And like Chhivpah, they want to know more about our Lord Jesus and to have faith with understanding.
Vuthy has since returned to California, where he also requires extensive medical treatment for a very rare, painful and life-threatening disease. He is undergoing a series of chemo treatments and we ask prayer for him as well as Chhivrong, who is expecting their third child in September. One can probably imagine how difficult all this must be as well as trying to get established in a meaningful vocation. The St. Paul Lutheran Church has graciously supported and cared for this precious family throughout these difficult years of transitioning to life in America and now in this medical crisis. Through it all, God is at work and being glorified!
On our way back from Cambodia, as we were beginning our descent into Bangkok, we felt an eerie quietness below. Just the day before, many had been killed and large buildings set ablaze. As a curfew was being enforced in Bangkok we wondered, “Will we be able to even get home tonight?” Thankfully we did make it back home, but the streets, usually filled with pushcart vendors and people milling around, were strangely deserted and quiet. Although we weren’t physically present during the height of the killing and rioting, every night we turned on the television to follow the news. Our hearts were burdened with concern and prayer for our beloved Thailand. “This is not the Thailand we know” was the response of many. Since the notorious fighting, rioting and destruction on May 19 things have quieted down and appear normal, at least on the surface. Thais are going on with their lives, cleaning up, rebuilding, and tourist-affected businesses are hoping that foreign visitors will return. We are concerned that our present government is able to hear, address and make changes for the country — otherwise the anger and rage that overflowed to the streets of Bangkok in May will most likely erupt again. Some say the UDD red shirt movement may go underground and could become like the continuing saga of unrest and terrorism in the South. We certainly see our need for God. A country divided, a fragile peace. We would ask your continued prayers that all sides would be willing to work together toward constructive change.
In the midst of this dark event in Thai history we would like to share a picture of hope. While the red shirt protestors sat for almost two months trying to oust the present MP and government, baking under the unforgiving summer sun, there was one couple who tried to make a difference. Cathy and Dan were only passing through Bangkok on their way to the United States. They had compassion on the masses of red shirts, saw an opportunity, and took it. I would say most Thais, as we did, tried to simply avoid the area where the protestors were camped out. Most Thais had been quite frustrated with the political stalemate and the prolonged disruption. But this couple, having purchased Christian literature from a bookstore, began to distribute the literature to both the protestors and military who were standing guard. They spoke the only Thai they knew, “khaow dee, jak free” (good news, given freely). The protestors, most sitting idly with too much time on their hands, eagerly received and read the literature. Taxi cab drivers yelled from their cars, asking for more. Although Cathy and Dan did not solve the issues these protestors were fighting for, they let a number know that there is hope in Jesus Christ. Yes, the changes He can make in individual lives can lead to positive change in society as well.
Thank you for your continued interest and investment in the work of building God’s kingdom in Thailand. Pray that we will be faithful to live and proclaim Jesus in every circumstance and situation He leads us into.
Carol and Leith Fujii
The 2010 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 126