‘God is always doing something new ahead of us’ mission co-worker Sharon Bryant says during ‘Everyday God-Talk’
by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) World Mission co-worker the Rev. Sharon Bryant has three Bible verses that guide her work theologically as coordinator of Christian volunteers for the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT).
In a recently released episode of Everyday God-Talk, Bryant told host So Jung Kim that one of those verses speaks not only to the volunteers with whom she works, but also to how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and racism.
“When the volunteers are homesick, I tell them, ‘The Lord tells us to not focus on the past but to look to the future,’” she said, referring to Isaiah 43:18-19, “for God is always doing something new ahead of us.”
By not focusing on the past, Bryant says she has seen God prepare amazing things in new contexts. When her parents who were missionaries in China had to leave for Thailand to continue their ministry, she grew up playing with Thai children and developing friendships in the country.
The importance of those formative experiences is not lost on Bryant for living in our current context.
“During COVID-19, if we get stuck in what we were doing last year, how could we deal with new technology that we’re using today for ministry to new people,” she said, “that none of us were using a year ago?”
Bryant thinks the same principle holds true for the great possibility of change she sees coming through the protests for racial justice: believing that God is moving us into a new future that’s not defined by the ways we have traditionally done things.
The Christian Volunteers in Thailand program, which Bryant coordinates, has a long partnership with the PC(USA), which helped form the CCT.
Most of the volunteers Bryant works with serve as English teachers — which “Thailand desperately needs,” she said.
Bryant explained that Thailand is bound together with 10 other nations in Southeast Asia in a similar economic community to the European Union. But the Association of Southeast Asian Nations doesn’t have a common currency or a common language. To communicate with one other, they chose the language they’d all studied as a second language — English.
“It was chosen as the language for business and commerce, which makes it even more critical for the young people who are currently in school,” Bryant said.
Volunteers who teach English at one of the 27 private Christian schools with which the church partners receive housing and a $300 monthly stipend, which Bryant says is enough to live comfortably in the country.
Following the World Mission model, Bryant and the volunteers work in partnership with CCT and Thai colleagues in their ministries. By coming alongside those she works with in another country and learning from them, Bryant has come to appreciate through experience the truth of 1 Corinthians 12:13, which also guides her work.
“All have been baptized by one spirit therefore we are one body, that’s our belief,” she said. “So we ask our Thai colleagues what they need and how we can support them.”
The third verse that Bryant holds onto — and it’s been with her since childhood — is the Great Commission passage found in Matthew 28:16-20.
“My parents fervently believed Christ would not return until everyone on the face of the Earth had the opportunity to hear the gospel,” she said.
That passage and belief sent her parents to China, and then on a journey of leaving for Thailand, which changed Bryant’s life forever. It was where she began to learn how not to get stuck focusing on the past, and where she continues to see more clearly what God is unfolding right in from of our eyes.
As So Jung Kim reflected on the Scripture verses that theologically guide Bryant’s work, she said, “Remember your roots, but do not be obsessed. Let it go, move on to the future. God has prepared amazing things in a new context.”
In part two of the conversation, which will be released on Wednesday, Bryant will share more about her the interreligious, ecumenical and political context of Thailand.
If you know someone interested in serving God as an English teacher in Thailand, please email Bryant at Sharon.Bryant@pcusa.org. She’d really like to hear from you.
Watch Kim’s conversations on “Everyday God-Talk” on the Office of Theology & Worship’s Facebook page.
You may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.
Categories: Evangelism & Discipleship, World Mission
Tags: 1 cor. 12:13, church of christ in thailand, everyday god-talk, isaiah 43:18-19, matthew 28:16-20, mission co-worker, rev. sharon bryant, so jung kim, thailand, the great commission
Ministries: Evangelism, Theology, Formation & Evangelism, World Mission