A letter from Sharon Bryant in Thailand
Grace to you and peace from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I give praise to God for every day that I am granted the privilege of working in this place and that praise comes with deep gratitude to those who support the work that I am doing. We have now survived for more than a month under the rule of the National Council for Peace and Order ushered in by the coup d’état in May. The streets are quiet again. Some of the freedoms (e.g., speech and assembly) under the old Constitution have been suspended, but that has served to drastically reduce the inflammatory rhetoric that was pitting brother against brother. Just recently the curfew was lifted and life has returned to "normal"—except that the tourists have vanished. My heart goes out to the many street vendors who sell goods to tourists. I know that many of them barely survive on a good day, but now there are very few tourists and I see fewer and fewer little stalls on the streets each day—and I wonder what has happened to those families. The current government seems intent on returning a healthy Thailand to the people with elections scheduled for next year. One sign of the times is the poster I saw recently on the Bangkok Skytrain. It reads: “Let us together build a new Thailand with unity.” And thus, I pray.
A big disappointment of the past three months was the postponement of the opening of the Thailand YAV program. The staff of the Church of Christ in Thailand, our partner in ministry, had worked with me for more than a year to find appropriate placements for Young Adult Volunteers and they were so excited about having young adults in ministry here. Some of the programs that they identified as good placements for our YAVs included the Child Protection Program, the Women’s Ministry, the Youth Ministry, the Student Christian Center, and the Education Ministry. Last year I introduced the YAV House in Bangkok, where we had hoped that up to four YAVs might live in intentional Christian community. Unfortunately, my acute bronchitis during the critical YAV Discernment Event (interviews and placement) in March, coupled with the civil unrest in Thailand, made it difficult for our YAV candidates to select Thailand as their first choice. So I am living in the YAV House alone and hoping for a different outcome next year. In the meantime, God has found other uses for the YAV House. It now hosts a Tuesday night Bible study for members of International Church Bangkok. Most of those who gather are young professional expats living and working in Bangkok. The YAV House has also housed two volunteers, Daniel Crofts and Sarah Derrick, from the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) as they work here for six weeks.
The most uplifting event of the past three months was the one-week ASEAN Mission Conference sponsored by the Christian Conference of Asia. Representatives from churches of 14 nations gathered in Chiang Mai to discuss the coming ASEAN Economic Community. (ASEAN is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is scheduled to begin functioning as a single economic unit in 2015.) In addition to renewing my friendship with Rev. Dr. Cheon Min Heui, the Executive Secretary for Ecumenical Relations of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK), I met church leaders from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, and a host of other nations. Being at this conference was like drinking water from a fire hose! There was so much that I did NOT know about these other nations and the unique place of the Christian church in those nations—the struggles they face and the opportunities they have. I found that I was not alone: We all agreed that we were abysmally ignorant about each other and the best use of our time over the next two years would be to make a concerted effort to change that. (I am unable to share some more meaningful photographs from the ASEAN Mission Conference as doing so would endanger some of those pictured.)
Finally, a personal joy and blessing from God that I would like to share. Less than one week before Christmas 2013 my older brother Ken suddenly lost the use of his right hand and arm, as well as some of the function in his right leg. His wife rushed him to the hospital. No, it was not a stroke. A CAT scan and subsequent MRI identified a tumor in his brain. The week after Christmas doctors operated to remove it, and ever since then he has been working to regain his speech and the use of his arm and leg while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy. My sister, Carol, and I were able to be in worship at First Presbyterian Church in Greenville, Illinois, on Easter Sunday to hear him preach for the congregation that called him as a pastor 20 years ago. It was a joyful Easter!
• Please keep Rev. Ken Bryant in your prayers as he continues his recovery.
• Please pray for the people of Thailand as they work to establish a new democracy and to reunite the country.
• Pray for those whose survival needs have been adversely affected by these political events.
• Please continue to pray for the 15 CVT volunteers as they reach out to young Thai boys and girls to share the good news of the gospel by word and deed.
• Please pray for the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program in Thailand that God might send young adults to minister here next year.
• Please pray for the churches of Southeast Asia, especially those churches in nations where Christians cannot worship openly or share their faith with others.
Thank you for your continuing support of this ministry and our volunteers. I continually praise God for your generous hearts. 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.