A letter from Sharon Bryant in Thailand
The last three months have been challenging for me. In August my mother slipped peacefully from this life into the next as I sat beside her bed here in Chiang Mai. My mother was 92 years old and had lived with lymphoma for the past six years, knowing that it would eventually claim her life. She came to Thailand with me in 2011 and during the last 18 months of her life was surrounded by the friends she made in the years she worked here with my father. She is pictured here (third from the right) with some of the many missionary friends who worked with her in years past. Following her death, my sister, Carol, and my two brothers, Ken and John, traveled to Chiang Mai to help me celebrate her life. In honor of my mother, who thought we should celebrate death as the joyful passing from the troubles of this world into the presence of God, we gave out brightly colored silk scarves to everyone who came to the seven worship services that make up a typical Thai Christian funeral. We sang all of her favorite hymns and read all of her favorite Bible passages and, after each service, we shared stories and memories of Mom with her friends. By the end of the week, we were filled to the brim with joy and laughter!
As you know, a large portion of my work involves finding Christians who are willing to come to teach in the private Christian schools of our partner church here in Thailand and to share the love of God with the students, many of whom are not Christian. In August I welcomed the first three CVT volunteers who have come during my tenure. Rev. James Riggins (American Baptist, Pennsylvania) and Rev. Stephen and Linda Thomas (Church of the Nazarene, Idaho) were eager to begin work. As part of their orientation, I took them to the offices of our partner church to learn about its many ministries in Thailand. When the current officers of the church learned that I was in the building with three new Christian volunteers, they interrupted their executive committee meeting to greet James, Stephen and Linda and, together, we posed for a photo in the conference room where their meeting was being held.
In late September I learned that two women who were scheduled to arrive in October as new CVT volunteers had changed their minds about coming. So, on September 30, only one new volunteer, Trinh Hagedorn of Pennsylvania, began his orientation. Unfortunately, just over a week after he arrived and began his orientation, Trinh became ill with flu-like symptoms. When I took Trinh to the doctor, a series of tests revealed that he had dengue fever. Ten days of bed rest, lots of fluids and blood tests every other day to monitor the progress of the disease knocked Trinh out of the rest of his orientation. While Trinh rested at my home, I worked with James to complete his orientation (which had been interrupted by the death of my mother) and to discuss some of the things that he encountered in his first month teaching at a Christian school in Pitsanuloke.
In the meantime, Stephen and Linda ran into some problems at their school in Trang. After several unsuccessful attempts to resolve things, the decision was made to move them elsewhere. However, Stephen and Linda wanted to stay in the south, where they have lived and worked before and have many friends. Long story short, they have officially left the CVT program, found a new home in Haad Yai, and have been offered several opportunities to serve God in that place. While it was hard to say “Good-bye,” I rejoice that Stephen and Linda have not left Thailand, but are simply serving God in a new way here.
Life is not always easy, even when we walk with the Lord each day. And yet, I have found that God always provides something new and exciting, even as we stumble through the challenges. Trinh has fully recovered and is teaching in one of our schools in Nakhon Pathom. James is doing well in Pitsanuloke and has great ideas for improving the English program at that school. He has also started an English-language worship service at the local church on Sunday afternoons. Stephen and Linda are no longer part of the CVT program but are finding new ways to minister in this land that they love. And there were two other beautiful moments for me: When the Church of Christ in Thailand gathered this month for its General Assembly, not only was I invited (along with 19 other pastors) to distribute the elements for communion at the closing worship service, but a student of my father’s and a good family friend was elected Treasurer of the church. He is pictured here being installed by the three other officers of the church.
Please pray for my ministry here: First, that I will seek to lean only on my Savior, Jesus Christ, and trust in his promises to be with me in all that I do in his name, and second, that this ministry to God’s children here will rise from these early challenges to be stronger than before and that we will see many come to serve here in the name of Christ.
Thank you for being a part of my ministry here. Your prayers, your letters, and your support of this ministry are constant reminders of God’s love. Please visit my page on the PC(USA) website to learn more about my ministry and learn how you might contribute prayerfully and financially to this incredible ministry: http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/missionconnections/bryant-sharon/
With joy in God’s work,
Rev. Dr. Sharon L. Bryant, Coordinator
Christian Volunteers in Thailand
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 183
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 195
Blog: Thailand Tales