A letter from Sharon Bryant in Thailand
I believe I was privileged to have been raised in a Christian home with two loving parents who were committed to serving Christ and raising their children to do the same. Many children today do not have that same experience. Many young families, under pressure from work, a weak economy, and too much debt, struggle to put food on the table each day and have no energy left to add family devotions and prayer to the long list of things they must accomplish each day. Many families do not take advantage of Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, or other Christian Education programs that can teach children about Jesus and the great love of God. Many children do not understand that this great and wonderful love surrounds them each and every day of their lives.
Thai families struggle with the same problems of work pressure, mounting debts, and the lack of time and energy to spend with their families. The 26 schools of our partner church, the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT), are actively working to help those families, especially in the area of teaching children about the love of God. Daily Bible reading and prayer are a part of the routine at each school. Christian teachers teach the children how to pray from a very young age. As the schoolchildren gather around the flagpole each morning to hear the national anthem and see the Thai flag raised, they also hear verses of Scripture from the Bible and the prayers that are said for the nation, the king, the school, the teachers, the children and their families. Each week students attend chapel and participate in a service of worship where hymns are sung, Scripture is read, and a lesson is taught from the Bible. In their classrooms they also read stories from the Bible and participate in activities that teach basic moral values and develop character.
This is even more amazing when we stop to consider that fewer than 10 percent of the almost 60,000 students in these schools come from Christian families. Most of these students come from Buddhist families, as 95 percent of the population of Thailand is Buddhist. Another 4 percent are Muslim. Yet many of these families are willing to pay the tuition for a private Christian education because they know that their children will be safe, well cared for, given a good basic education, and taught moral values. In addition to all these things, we want these children to learn about Jesus Christ. In fact, Presbyterian World Mission has identified evangelism as one of the three Critical Global Issues that we should address. This is why it is so important to have Christian teachers in these schools and why we seek Christian teachers to serve as volunteers. When these schoolchildren ask questions about faith, we long to have those questions answered by those who have a deep faith in God and an active prayer life. It makes a difference. Many of these children give their lives to Christ and some are called to serve God through the ministries of the church.
Many decades ago a young Thai boy named Kusak enrolled as a student in Trang Christian School, one of the 26 private Christian schools under the CCT that are served by Christian Volunteers in Thailand. From his first day on campus he heard the stories of Jesus. His teachers at the school loved him and taught him what it meant to be a Christian. A young Presbyterian missionary invited him to a Bible study in his home and, in time, he gave his life to Christ. I know this story very well because that young missionary was my father, Rev. Richard Bryant, and those Bible studies were held at my home when I was a child. My father was one of those who encouraged Kusak to continue his education at Bangkok Christian College (BCC), another private school of our partner church. Kusak went on to serve as a teacher and manager at BCC for more than 40 years. Last year Kusak Sarakittipan was elected to serve as Treasurer of the national Protestant church, the Church of Christ in Thailand.
Kusak’s story is only one of many stories I can share about the work of our schools and our Christian teachers. It is proof that this long-term strategy of evangelism through our mission schools has worked in the past and is still working today. It is a wonderful partnership through which we in World Mission seek to meet our global partners in the area of their greatest need through your constant prayers, your generous gifts, your special visits and (how I love it!) your regular correspondence with those of us in the trenches. Please continue to pray for our schools, for the many students who are enrolled, and for our Christian teachers. And please give generously that this work and this outreach to non-believers might continue to be strong and to bear fruit in this land. More stories of the ministry of Christian Volunteers in Thailand are posted in my blog: www.thailandtales.wordpress.com.
During July, August and September I will be on Interpretation Assignment in the U.S.A. My journey will begin and end in Seattle, Washington, where my sister lives with her family. Most of this time I will be traveling and staying with those who have invited me to come and share stories of my ministry in Thailand. My complete itineration schedule can be found on Mission Connections webpage (www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/missionconnections/sharon-bryant-2013-IA/). If you are trying to catch up with me, give me a call on my U.S.A. cell phone at (512) 221-4154 or send a note to my email account: firstname.lastname@example.org. I do covet your prayers during my travels—that God might be glorified in the stories I tell and the fruit of this ministry.
With joy in God’s work,
Sharon L. Bryant