A letter from Sharon Bryant in Thailand
The past three months have flown by with my feet barely touching the ground. In some cases it was because I was traveling between my old home and my new home as I moved from Chiang Mai to Bangkok in December under a new assignment with our partner church. My new job title is a long one, but it accurately describes what I do: Assistant to the General Secretary of the Church of Christ in Thailand for Ecumenical Relations. In this role I have three major responsibilities: (1) representing the Church of Christ in Thailand and interpreting its mission and ministry to its mission partners around the world (which includes working with correspondence between the partners and hosting delegations visiting the Church of Christ in Thailand and its ministries); (2) facilitating the work of the approximately 100 mission workers assigned to the Church of Christ in Thailand (which includes orienting them to living and working in Thailand, maintaining communication with them, solving problems, and supporting them in their efforts to minister to the Thai people); and (3) coordinating and facilitating the work of short-term mission workers who come as volunteers (which includes all of those who have come under the Christian Volunteers in Thailand (CVT) program and those who will come under the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program). It sounds like a lot, but fortunately I have a wonderful staff of three (soon to be four) who are incredible and they make the work fun and exciting!
If you have been following the news, you know that Bangkok has been the center for a series of protests against the current government, mostly for perceived corruption by various government officials. What I have observed is that these protests, which have been going on for months, have been mostly peaceful. Several major intersections were taken over by the protesters who set up orderly little tent cities. Days were relatively quiet, but those tent cities really rocked at night when protesters listened to speeches, music, and programs prepared to entertain and educate those who were protesting. Ranks of vendors, selling everything from meals to clothing to basics for living, surrounded these tent cities and stretched in all directions, creating a carnival-like environment at night. Both the government and the protesters agreed to keep the Bangkok sky train and subway operating so that those of us who live and work here can get to work during the day and back home at night. Those traveling by car were not so lucky, with long traffic jams that barely moved and lengthy detours around the protest sites. Fortunately for all of us, recent negotiations have resulted in all the protesters moving to one location, greatly reducing traffic problems and easing travel in Bangkok.
Katrina Hanson came from Malaysia to visit me in December. Katrina is a Young Adult in Global Mission (YAGM), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s sister program to our Young Adult Volunteer program. They have a program in Malaysia and the Malaysia YAGM group travels to Thailand each year for their spring retreat. Our CVT, Lucas Peter, came out of this program. Katrina was working at an orphanage in Malaysia when something unexpected came up, resulting in her travel to Bangkok. Katrina lived with me for several weeks, helping me prepare materials for upcoming conferences, dodging protest sites by traveling down small alleyways, and preparing for her return to Malaysia. She has now returned to her orphanage and I find that I miss her cheerful face and quirky sense of humor.
The very first conference Katrina helped me with was the CVT Winter Conference and Retreat on the beach in Hat Chao Samran. The 12 CVT volunteers came from their schools in all parts of Thailand for three days of rest and relaxation, recharging their batteries and refilling their minds. We discussed the book Who Cares? by Marcy Heidish and spent time talking about how we can support each other more effectively. We visited the Royal Summer Palace built by King Mongkut, Rama IV, on a small hill in Petchaburi. We built sand castles, played in the surf, and splashed in the seaside swimming pool. Finally, we just spent time together, eating, resting, decompressing, rediscovering our sense of humor, and building stronger relationships. Unfortunately our retreat ended on the day of the hotly contested election and major roads into the city were closed in an effort to control the protests. As a result we took some long detours that got us back to the CCT Headquarters in Bangkok around midnight.
Please pray for the people of Thailand as they struggle to find a way to reunite the country during this period of passionate protests and deep divisions.
Please pray for the 12 CVT Volunteers working in Thailand as they continue to adapt to a climate and culture that is very different from the climate and culture back home—wherever home is.
Please pray for Katrina and the other YAGMs working in Malaysia that they might find a way to be a way for youth in Malaysia to learn about the love of God.
Please pray for me as I learn my new role with our partner church, that I might truly be of assistance to them and that God might grant me wisdom in adapting to a new city and a new workplace.
I continue to pray for you, that you might find joy in all that God provides this year. Thank you for your continuing support of this ministry and all these volunteers. If you want to see more photos or learn more about any of these stories, I invite you to visit my blog: www.thailandtales.wordpress.com. Please remember us when you consider the work you will support with a financial contribution this year.