A letter from Sharon Bryant in Thailand
Some of you have been following my blog and know that I have been studying Thai and getting acclimated to Thailand. Last month I began visiting the 25 schools of our partner church, and it was then that I began to appreciate the tremendous legacy left by our early mission workers. When Protestant missionaries arrived in Thailand, one of the first things they did was build schools to teach the Thai people their own language. It is the watchwords of the Protestant Reformation (sola gracia, sola fide, sola scriptura) that reveal why this was so important to them. "Sola scriptura" means that we, as Protestants, believe that a person is saved through Scripture alone—that a saving knowledge of God’s Word in Jesus Christ can come through the study of the Scripture. Thus, if a person can read the Bible, they can know God. So, we build schools and teach literacy.
The 25 schools of our partner church in Thailand are the legacy of those early missionaries. I am in the middle of reading the second volume of Samuel Moffett’s A History of Christianity in Asia (Orbis, 2005), a powerful work that shares the stories of so many who have gone before and the work that they did to bring God’s Word to Asia. Each chapter makes me want to stand up and sing the great hymn “For All the Saints.” What a great work they did and what a legacy they have left for us! And yet, it is an unfinished symphony. My aim is to add a few more notes to the score. Even as I write this, I realize that I am wrong. It is God who is finishing the symphony and I am one of the notes on the page—and probably just a 16th note at that!
We need volunteers. We need people who are willing to give two years of their lives to help our Christian schools in Thailand. We need those who are willing to help our schools move through the incredible demand that the next few years will bring. There will be more changes in our Christian schools in the next three years than these schools have seen in their entire history—which for some schools is more than 100 years! Why? The answer can be given in one word: ASEAN. When the Association of South East Asian Nations establishes its "community of nations" in 2015, two things will happen overnight to change this part of Asia. Both things will have a significant impact on our schools.
First, the official language of this community of nations will be English. Thailand has been teaching English in its schools for more than a generation, but it lags far behind in the use of this language in the public arena. Thai children struggle to speak English. We need volunteers who will provide opportunities for them to practice their English—and share stories of their Christian faith with these children.
Second, with the open borders of ASEAN, Thailand anticipates a large number of Asian immigrants from Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Malaysia. Their children will enter Thai schools and suddenly Thai teachers will be forced to use English to teach their subjects. Some of these teachers have not used English since they graduated from university. Yet they are excellent teachers. They are too young to retire, but this demand for instruction in English may force our talented Christian teachers to find other employment. We need volunteers to help them brush up on their English skills so that they can survive in this new world and continue to be the Thai Christian role models that their students need.
A tsunami of English is coming to Thailand, and in 2015 it will radically change this nation and its schools. We know it is coming. We need your help to get off the beach and to higher ground before this tsunami hits. The PC(USA) is currently looking for volunteers to come to Thailand. Do you know of someone who might serve?
Pray that we will find the Christian volunteers we need to help the students, the teachers, and the administrators with this tsunami of English that is coming.
Pray for the Education Ministry of Thailand as it struggles to understand the impact of ASEAN and develop new educational policies for this nation.
Pray for Ajarn Thanom Pinta, Director of the Education Ministry of our partner church, as he works with his staff and advisors to shape the educational policies that guide our Christian schools in Thailand.
As always, I thank God for you—for your unflagging support of me and my work here, for your prayers, and for the voice of God that speaks to you and me each day. May you feel God’s love surround you in all that you do.
Yours in Christ,
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, Thailand, pp. 133-134