A letter from Sharon Bryant in Thailand
There is extensive debate about the value of short-term mission projects—those projects that last from one to six months—and their real value for both those who host these short-term visitors and those who participate in such short-term efforts. We ask those who volunteer to serve as Christian Volunteers in Thailand (CVT) to make a two-year commitment. This length of time ensures that each volunteer will make an adjustment to life in Thailand and will have the opportunity to contribute at a significant level to the life of the community and the ministry they are assigned to serve. But many will not make such a commitment without having some “taste” of what the life of a volunteer is like. This is one of the reasons why the New Wilmington Mission Conference sends a Summer Service Team to one of the many mission locations where the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has an active presence in the world today.
So, what kind of a “taste” can you get in six weeks (the length of time that this year’s Summer Service Team was in Thailand)? This year, in a mad dash around Thailand (that had time built in for daily devotions, rest and blogging), the NWMC Summer Service Team visited 10 cities, walked through 7 significant temples, visited 20 ministries of the church, worshipped on Sunday in 6 different churches and visited 2 other churches, lived with Thai families from a Thai Christian congregation for three days, learning what daily life is like for rural Thai families, and even squeezed in a full day at the beach. In addition, this group of eight college students worked as a team with Thai teachers and administrators to deliver 6 one-day English Camps for over 600 students from 23 different Christian schools, playing games, teaching Christian songs, and introducing them to the nine other nations that, together with Thailand, will form the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.
In this six-week period of time the group was privileged to witness the baptism of a young Thai woman during the Sunday morning service of worship in Nakhon Srithammarat. This woman had learned about Christianity through her teachers and Christian education classes at the private Christian school she attended, Srithammarat Suksa School. It was mere serendipity (or a gracious act of God) that we were there on her birthday, the day she chose to start her new life in Christ. After the worship service the group gathered around her and learned more about her, promising to pray for her in her new life. Adult baptisms are a rare event in the U.S.A., but many young men and women in Thailand have come to a saving knowledge of Christ through the ministry of the 26 Christian schools of our partner church in Thailand. Having seen the fruit of this ministry, two members of this Summer Service Team have shared their desire to return after graduation from college to spend two years working in one of those schools, teaching English and sharing their faith with the students, 92 percent of whom are non-Christian.
That’s the value of short-term mission experiences: the opportunity for individuals to hear God’s call to service in another place. I do not pretend to understand where and how God calls women and men to serve in mission. I just know that it can happen at any time, in any place. But it is far more likely that those men and women God has tapped will hear God’s voice through an act of service provided by a short-term mission experience. For some, it becomes a lifelong commitment. Bill Yoder and Esther Wakeman came to Thailand in the 1960s through the PC(USA) to teach English in one of our Christian schools. They are both still here and still serving God in this wonderful land far from home.
· Please pray for these young men and women from the New Wilmington Mission Conference Summer Service Team as they return to the U.S.A. and to their classes in college.
· Please pray for our 26 private Christian schools as they struggle to comply with a new government requirement to raise teacher salaries by 50 percent in one year.
· Please pray for those who are thinking about volunteering for service with Christian Volunteers in Thailand as they make difficult decisions about commitment, family, and the risk of the unknown.
Thank you for your support of my ministry here and, if you know of a group of young men and women who might want to come to Thailand next summer for a “learn and serve” mission experience, have them contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With joy in God’s work,
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 183
Blog: Thailand Tales