Monday, February 10, 2014

Happy New Year!

The year 2013 seemed to have come and gone so quickly. The Lord has shown us once again how faithful is he to his children. We welcome the year 2014 expecting great things from God. Thank you so much for your love, prayer and support.  You have been our partner for eight years now and we are still looking forward for many more years of fruitful ministry.

We remember coming to Mae Sai with our three very young children on a cold winter morning. It was 5th of January eight years ago. We came with just three luggage and little money, some friends and relatives were afraid we will not stay long in the mission field because they knew how meager our support was then. But God made a way for us, he brought us friends like you who will help us to continue with the ministry he has given to us. (The photo was taken when we arrived in Mae Sai 8 years ago).

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We want to share to you the highlights of our activities at the end of of 2013.

Christmas Celebration With ROL Kids

Last year, we celebrated Christmas differently. We were invited by our friend Joanne, a volunteer working at River of Life (ROL) Children's Home in Chiang Rai, to join them in their Christmas celebration. We are thankful for the opportunity of sharing the joy of Christmas with children who could not celebrate Christmas with their respective family (just like our children).

ROL is blessed with a big place and beautiful facilities including a big swimming pool that our children enjoyed in spite of a very cold weather. The kids enjoyed the fellowship of a new friends and the serenity of the place. Thanks to Joanne and the staff. We know that this is not the last time our kids will be together.

With ROL Kids

New Year Celebration with the Filipino Fellowship

We believe one of the reasons we are not feeling homesick is because of the strong fellowship among Filipino kingdom workers in Mae Sai. In fact, the Filipino community had worked together in several ministries in the past like English camps, organizing seminars & trainings, and recently organizing an English worship for other English speaking kingdom workers.

We are blessed to celebrate the coming of the year 2014 with other Filipinos. We are humbled by the way God has been using us in the region through different ministry platforms. We are looking forward to working together this year for the advancement of the kingdom of God.

Filipino Family

January 2014 Activities

This month we will be hosting a YWAM team from Madison, WI for several days. It has become a tradition for the team to come and stay in the house and take care of the children for a weekend. This year, however, we will be working with them in other ministries.

First, the team will work with us in teaching English at the municipal school for a week.This will be an opportunity to share the gospel to the pupils. Second, we will hold an English Camp at the school in a village in Shan State. Geographically, it is in Burma but people there called this place Shan State. It is mainly tea and coffee plantation at the border of Thailand and Burma. It will be a 2-hour travel from Mae Sai. Please pray for God's guidance and protection for this ministry trip and the team members.

Continuing Ministries

Besides taking care of the twelve children. We have other continuing ministries that we do for the community and church. Using the newly built study center, Narlin is teaching ten students on different time every afternoon. She is also requested to teach English at a nearby Music school every weekend. This gives opportunity to know some influential people in the community. Thankfully, we have a volunteer helping us with the teaching.
Joey preaches occassionally at Pantamit Church and teaches at ARLDF . This year, Mae Sai Border Out of School Training (MBOOST) might start the training again in the next two months. Please pray that God will give us the wisdom and energy to be good teachers.

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More Prayer Concerns

Thank you so much for your continued support and prayer. The only reason we believe that we are here in Mae Sai is because of your partnership. Please continue to pray for our needs.

Pray for the children's needs. We know that they are growing but lately we noticed how dramatically they are changing physically. We have to buy them new clothes and shoes. They are also changing spiritually. They are learning to read and study the Bible deeper. Please pray that the Lord will use us to provide for their physical and spiritual needs.

Please pray for the needs of our own children. Pray for Jared and Jillian's protection as they are now living on their own. Reuven will have to spend another year here in Thai high school so that he can graduate. We are amazed how God is providing for their school tuition. We are thankful for the people God is using to provide for their needs.

We will go to Chiang Mai immigration office this week for (again)  the extension of our visa. For some reasons, the Immigration Office has not extended our visa for one year at once. Our visa is being extended one month at a time. We know that one of the reasons has something to do with the Foundation that gives us work permit. We are considering to get our work permit with NCWSA next year. Please pray for guidance.

Narlin is invited again this year to share her testimony at Philippine Women Missionary Union (PWMU) Triennial Meeting. This time we want to take the opportunity to go home together as family and to reconnect with our family friends who we do not see for a long time. Please pray for wisdom and provision.

Once again, we thank you for your continued partnership--prayers, love, and support. May God  bless you richly.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Village ministry

Children of KoknoiA friend called Narlin on the phone and asked if we could drive them to Ban Koknoi to bring a mother to see her daughter. Koknoi is a village on the mountain that we used to go to do ministry. We taught English and brought YWAM team to minister with the children over there.

The story goes like this: Our friend’s friend came into an agreement to have a “symbiotic” relationship with the village school. The school needed more students to get the government support and our friend needed a place for the children. The children had lived there for over three years and consequently the school acquired new buildings and facilities because of the additional students.

For some reason, however, this year the children were moved to another town and are now living in another children’s home in that place. Apparently, our friend’s friend made similar agreement with this village school again. Regardless of the idea behind all of this, I think the move was good for the children.

We are going to Koknoi to see the girl who decided to stay. I think everybody was upset with that decision so her mother will go to convince her to return home or to go with the rest of the children. We were excited to go to Koknoi because we had been there and we have friends in the village. Unfortunately, the trip was cancelled because of the mother got sick. We hope to make the trip some time.

Friends in KoknoiI tell you this story to let you know that in the past years, God had given us opportunities to visit and minister to the hard to reach villages around Chiang Rai. We hope to do more of this in the future. We had been to two villages this year and the village school teachers had invited us to do English camp in the school

This is why we are thankful to God for our giving us the “miracle” truck. We can go places to share God’s love to the villagers.

Rocky

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Prayer Concerns

Please pray for the children in Koknoi and other villages around Chiang Rai that God will use more Christian workers so that they learn about the Word of God and that they will have good education so that they can  have better future.

We thought we could make the trip to Koknoi last Saturday. But as you already know, the truck’s tires are dangerously bald already. We could not make the trip with the bad tires. We borrowed money from the Microfinance Cooperative of Grace Church so we can change the tires. Please pray for God’s provisions. We need THB 25,000 (roughly USD 800) to pay for the loan we made for the tires.

We hope to do more village ministry in the future in partnership with NCWSA. Please pray that God will send people to help us to teach English and share God’s love in Shan State this coming summer.

It’s exam week for Reuven. Thankfully, his exam schedule does not conflict with our scheduled trip to Chiang Mai. Please that he will do well in the test.

We will be traveling to Chiang Mai today (16 July 2013) to appear at the immigration office for our extension of our visa. It has been raining heavily today and the roads to Chiang Mai are winding and slippery. Thankfully we already have the new tires. Please pray for safe travel.

Please pray that our visa will be extended without any problem. The Foundation and I had worked together so that every documentation is properly done.

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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Joy and Assurance

Joyful greetings in the name of Christ. Thank you so much for your love and prayers. We are sharing to you some of our stories this month. We want to begin with Andrew and Luke:

I was trying to concentrate on my study but the noise of the two little boys happily laughing and playing wildly had distracted me in a good way. It made me smile. The moment gave me an unexplainable joy and assurance that we made the right decision to take them into our life. Nataset (Andrew) and Flook (Luke)have eventually adjusted and settled in the family, ‬the long hour of crying were finally over. As a matter of fact they are enjoying the love being showered to them by their older brothers and sisters.

We thank you not only for praying for us but also for being part of God’s answers to our prayers.‭ ‬Your support,‭ ‬gifts and contributions have been sustaining us and our ministry.

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Roofing Project

In our previous newsletter,‭ ‬we shared to you about the temporary roofing we put up five years ago to prevent the rain from coming in the dirty kitchen and laundry area.‭ ‬The tarp roofing had became old and worn out it was no longer able to serve its purpose.‭ Some of our friends learned about it ande collected funds among themselvesfor the installation of the roof and construction of the bench and sink.
‭We are grateful for God-given friends who are ready to help us in time of need. ‬The construction of the roof and the sink is almost complete. We also thank the Lord for our handyman friend who found time to do the work in spite of his busy schedule.

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Lea’s Visa

Narlin and Lea went out to Laos to get non-immigrant visa.‭ We did not bothered to review the supporting documents provided by the Network for Children and Women Association‭ (‬NCWA‭)‬-Mae Sai,‭ ‬and even if we did we could not have noticed it because the documents are written in Thai.‭ ‬The small error caused the Thai Royal Embassy in Lao to deny Lea her visa.‭ ‬However,‭ the immigration ‬officer told them that if they can submit the corrected paper they can issue a non-immigrant volunteer visa right away.

Because of the time and distance, ‬Narlin and Lea decided to settle with a tourist visa for the meantime and come back to Laos after two months with the correct documents.‭ ‬She may have failed to get the visa but it was a learning experience that can be useful when the need to get volunteer visa for people who want to come and work in Mae Sai.

Birthday Celebrations

Month of June,‭ ‬we celebrated three birthdays.‭ Narlin’s birthday was on the 14th, Nataset on the 18th and Joey on the 19th. Jillian celebrated her birthday without us for the first time in the Philippines. It is the eighth year that we celebrate our birthday here in Mae Sai. God is good and faithful. We are hoping to celebrate many more of our birthday here.

More Prayer Concerns

  • Pray for strength, wisdom and boldness to share the gospel to the people we encounter every day, moreover, to the people we are teaching and we befriended.
  • Please pray for our health specifically to that of the children. The rainy season has started and it seems that dengue breakout could not be prevented because of our proximity to Burma.
  • Please continue to pray for all our children’s schooling. The school expenses are taking its toll on our budget. We have 10 children on elementary school and 2 in pre-school with one of our children in high school and two in college in the Philippines. We thank you so much for your prayers and support for this particular need.
  • Pray for our partnership with Network for Children and Women Association (NCWA). We are thankful to God that the association is able to provide government recognition to our children’s home. In the future, we are hoping to work with individuals, foundations and organizations for future projects to help improve the life of the people both physically and spiritually.
  • Pray for our visa. As we have shared already, the process in extending visa in Thailand takes a lot of time. Our work permit has been extended already. The next step would be to extend our non-immigrant volunteer visa. We need to be physically present at the immigration office and to pay the fees for three people--Narlin, Reuven and Joey
  • We are thankful for our miracle truck. I could not believe that the truck has been with us for almost three years. We have been using it everyday to drive the children to the school. We also used it for our outreach activities to the villages. I noticed that the tires are wearing out. We are praying for God’s provision as we might be replacing them before the year is over.
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Friday, June 21, 2013

Thank you Lord

I already forget about this blog until I read my own blog posted on Facebook. I still received email thanking me for some materials I posted several years ago when I was still active in blogging. I will post again our latest family and ministry update and I hope I can post more. Thanks for those who still find this blog useful.

DSCN2775Once again, we thank you for faithfully remembering us in your prayers. We thank the Lord for your partnership in God’s ministry here in Mae Sai.  All of us here especially the kids are enjoying the benefits of your love and generosity.

After what seems to be a long hot summer, heavy rain began falling on  the second  week of May. The rain gives us relief from the oppressive heat and refreshes our body and soul. Watching water falls from heaven reminds us of God’s faithfulness to his humble servants.

Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before- (Joel 2:22)

Our Recent Philippine Trip

We are thankful for the opportunity the Lord had given to us to visit the Philippines twice within six months. We thank our friends who help us financially to make this journey back home possible. We realized this may not happen again. The first time was when we were invited to share our missionary testimony at the 10th Anniversary celebration of Asia Vision Short Term Missions (AVSTM) in December.The second time was at the wedding of my (Joey) younger sister, Bethie last month.

It was also a rare opportunity when all the members Dela Paz family were reunited after many years. They have reunions on Christmas but we could not go home to join them. We are thankful to the Lord for that wonderful time. And again, this may not happen again in a very long time. We are thankful for the AVSTM Team who looked after the children while we were in the Philippines.

Bethie's Wedding

2013 School Opening

After a long summer vacation, the kids were again very excited to go to school. This year, the kids have outgrown their school uniforms and besides they are old and faded already,  we bought each kid  three sets of new uniforms (PE, regular, traditional, and scouting for the older children).  These uniforms need three different kinds of shoes.  The kids are very excited with all these new things that they even keep their shoes beside them when they go to sleep.

Reuven is also in his second year in Mae Prasitsat High School English program. The school fees for the program are expensive but again we thank the Lord for his provisions. Jared and Jillian had already enrolled for college at University of Cordilleras in Baguio City.  Their school starts on the third of June.

We are thankful for God’s faithful provisions for the kids' schooling. Thank you for your partnership in providing good education and home for these wonderful kids.

First Day of School

Welcome Lea, Our New Co-Worker  And Natahset, Our New Baby

Our two reliable daughters who provided us with help had left us. Jillian went back to the Philippines for college and Nuch has moved on to look for another work.  Nuch wanted to stay and help with the children but we understand that she still wants to accomplish more with her young life. So we let her go to follow her desire. She is now teaching pre-school in Rayong. We will be missing these girls . They had been a huge help for us for years.

Nevertheless, God has provided us another helper. Lea is part of the AVSTM team that came to minister with us through English camps and looked after the children while we were gone. She decided to stay with us and help us with our ministry. We thank the Lord for bringing to us the right person to be our co-worker. Lea had extensive experience with children and doing house works.

Please pray that Lea can get a work permit and a one-year visa. Pray for financial provisions and supporting documents.

Lea with the kids We had another addition to the family. A boy named Natahset. He was born four years ago in Chiang Rai to a single mother. His mother gave him up for adoption and our friend took him. We were actually with this fried when the mother gave the baby.  After  four years, our friend find it difficult to get him to school because most of the time she is staying in Burma. So we are helping her with him. Natahse will be staying for us while he goes to school here in Mae Sai.

Natahse

Network for Children and Women Association (NCWSA) Office

Three years ago we were invited to attend a meeting of an organization (samakom in Thai) called Network for Children and Women Association. Apparently, its main objective is to prevent human trafficking—to save young women from prostitution and the children from being victims of child trafficking. The organization was started by Khun Abraham (founder of the biggest children shelter in Mae Sai) and Ajan Sunnit (the Pastor of the church we are attending). However, when Khun Abraham had his own Foundation, the leadership was left to Ajan Sunnit. We have been working with the organization ever since we joined it.

All the time we are with the organization, we noticed that it has very little funding and very few activities, however, we are surprised that it is fully recognized by the Thai government. Hence this year, we started organizing English camps under its name. The organization is also able to provide legal covering for our children’s home. We also let them use the small room upstairs as its office. The organization membership is composed of the church pastors and leaders. We are hoping that through this organization, we will be able to provide work permit and visa for future missionaries and volunteers. Below is the photo of our last meeting in our house which we do regularly once a month.

NWCSA Meeting

Roofing Project

We do our laundry and charcoal cooking (we do it a lot) outside the house.  So we thought it would be good to put tarpaulin roofing tacked on a bamboo frame. It serves as a shade against a hot sun and cover from the rain. However, we failed to anticipate that the rainy season always start with hail storm and strong winds. The wind blew away the tarpaulin and we had to reattach it on the bamboo frame.

We asked the owner if she would allow us to put a permanent roof. She gave us her permission but she made it clear that she will not be paying for it. Our handyman friend (who did all the works and repairs in the house) made an estimate of the cost of labor and materials. He came up with 28,000 Baht.  This includes the cost of a bench and kitchen sinks. If a permanent roof is installed we plan to do all the cooking and dish washing in this area so that the extra space we will have inside the house will be used as dining area.

We do not want the money intended for the children and ministry to be used in this project so we are hoping that God will provide funds specifically for this project.  We’ll be sending out  update about the development of this project.

Roof Repair

Temporary Roof

More Prayer Requests

  • We are thankful for God’s provisions for the kids’ schooling this year. He indeed is faithful.
  • We are thankful for God’s healing.  In the last couple of months, the kids were having problem with heat. At least three of them had fever and cough. We also learned that Mae Sai is on the top of the number of kids who are infected with dengue. We thank the Lord for healing and protection.
  • Please pray for Narlin as she continues to teach English voluntarily at the school. The English teacher at the school had resigned and therefore she will have more teaching load this semester.
  • Please pray for Joey as he will be teaching at ARLDF in the following weeks. Pray for wisdom and strength.
  • Please pray for Jared and Jillian for their studies in the Philippines. Pray for provisions for their school fees and the apartment they are renting.
  • Please pray for Lea that she can get her visa and work permit as soon as possible.
  • Please for boldness, strength and wisdom as we share the Jesus' saving grace to all the people  we encounter everyday.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Land I Will Show You: Our Testimony

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The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

These verses are God’s words to Abraham but these passages felt very personal to me when my family and I were preparing to go as missionary to Thailand. Not because I think that God will make us a great nation or He will make us famous but because we were going to a foreign land with nothing to hold on but God and his promises.

We joined Asia Vision Short-term Missions (AVSTM) in 2004 as short-term missionaries and this event marked the beginning of our journey. The short missions trip opened our eyes to the need of the nations to know Jesus and his love. The trip made us realize that God has called us to be missionaries. We eventually left for long-term missions in 2006.

In two years, we did what we have to do to raise our support. We preached in churches, associational meetings, WMU activities and youth camps. We realized then that our hard work was not enough to raise the fund. And if we waited for it to be completed, we may never be able to leave. We believed, however, that financial support or the lack of it was not an excuse to disobey Christ’s commissions to go.

In January 2006, with money barely enough for travel expenses and no assurance of regular support, Narlin and I together with our three children, packed all our possessions and “left our country, our people and our father’s household to a land that God will show us.”

It was seven years ago and we have been living in Mae Sai all those years but God is still showing us wonderful things about the land.

God is Showing Us the Land: Ministry Opportunities

When we arrived in Mae Sai and met some of the Christian workers, we realized that we had been praying for those workers and for their ministries for several years even before we decided to come to Mae Sai. It was God’s confirmation to us that it was indeed the land he had called us to minister.

Although we did some research and explored Mae Sai, we still knew very little about the land and its people. The information we got from books and internet were at best only partially true. Until now, we have no idea how many people are living in Mae Sai. The land is composed of different people groups from within Thailand and migrants (documented and undocumented) from neighboring countries—Burma, Laos and China.

Suffice to say, that after all these years in Mae Sai, we feel that God is still showing us what is in the land. Most of them are good (e.g. several UPGs or its representative are found here) but some are bad (e.g. child trafficking, illegal drug trade, prostitution, HIV/AIDS). But we considered these discoveries as opportunities to minister. We are limited both in resources and manpower but we have to do what we can do to help in our own small way. God has given us the privilege to adopt twelve wonderful children who might have been victims of child trafficking.

Recently, God has given us the privilege to work with a local churches, association of churches and network with NGOs fighting against human trafficking. We are also teaching English to the children and teachers in the municipal school. We are given the privilege to mentor community and church leaders. God is indeed still showing us the land.

God is Showing Us the People: Ministry Partners

We came to Mae Sai with no team to either received or work with us. But God can turn this weakness into strength. This setback open the way for our partnership with a Burmese church. The church was on its second year when we came. It was young and it was struggling.

Although we did not speak the language, we offered our help to teach English through Sunday School. Eventually, we were requested to lead the morning worship in English and Burmese. These attracted other English speaking Christian workers in the area and after a year it became a well attended bilingual worship service in Mae Sai.

However, after five years, the Pastor thought that it was about time to use only Burmese in worship service. This decision ended any participation from English speaking congregation. Nonetheless, we thank the Lord for giving us the opportunity to contribute to the church development. At present, the church has several ministries that include primary school, children’s homes and nursery.

Not having a team also gave us the chance to work with independent Wetern missionaries. We were requested to help them in founding Bible schools and training centers.  Sad to say that these partnerships had to end because of cultural differences and theological preferences. Nevertheless, at present one of the Bible schools is still operating.

Moreover, in previous years, we had been helping in receiving and coordinating YWAM teams that come every year. We have the privilege of knowing and working with these wonderful people of God. Many people from different teams become our friends and prayer partners. However,  YWAM-Mae Sai Base had been established last year and we were happy to know that the there is an official host for future YWAM teams who will come to Mae Sai.

We also worked with Angela in setting up Grace Home Kindergarten Center the same year we arrived. She held a key position in Wa Convention for 10 years and still respected as a leader. The kindergarten ministry opened the way for fruitful ministries with the Wa children in particular and to the Wa people from Burma in general. Every summer we are working with her in holding SEE trainings and English camps both in Thailand and Myanmar.

AVSTM is another important partner in the ministry. The organization had been working with us ever since we came to Mae Sai. The team usually come every summer to help us in organizing and leading the English camps that were held on mountain villages in Chiang Rai, in the towns of Mae Sai and in Tachilek in Myanmar. They are also teaching SEE classes, leading seminars and facilitating trainings for church leaders.

The team extends their helping hands in teaching and caring for the children we adopted. In the past the team were able to reach out to the remote villages in the mountains. Our prayer is that this partnership will grow stronger.

God is Showing Us His Faithfulness: Ministry Provisions

The first three years had been difficult for us financially. As I said, we were able to raise funds for the air fare and enough money to last for another three months in a foreign land. People pledged but apparently most of the pledges were easily forgotten. Paying the bills and house rent was a real struggle. Moreover, renewal of visa every year was and still is a major financial concern.

That was the situation when we had Tina. She was three years old when her mother died of unknown sickness and her father of AIDS. She was one of the children we were taking care of at Grace Home Kindergarten Center.  We never planned to have a ministry to the orphans and abandoned children but God put us in the middle of it and we accepted the challenge. Our dilemma then was that our support was barely enough for our family, how can we provide for twelve more people in the house. But we never doubted God’s faithfulness to provide for his servants. 

We can testify with the words of missionary J. Hudson Taylor when he says, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” God works in our lives in mysterious ways. After accepting the challenge, the Lord brought people into our lives (some of them we did not even meet personally) who made contributions to our ministry. These contributions are sustaining our ministry up to the present.

Interestingly, Thai people, total strangers would knock on our gate and will bring food that was enough to feed eighteen people for  couple of days. Other Christians downplayed this act of kindness as part of the Thai religious practice. But we believed that it was all about God’s miraculous provisions.

In closing, we want to thank AVSTM for giving us the privilege to share our testimony. Thank you also for partnering with us in our ministry in Mae Sai. Our prayers is that this partnership will continue and grow and that God will continue to use AVSTM to inspire and encourage many people to get involved in the remaining task of reaching all the nations for Christ. We encourage those who are called to be missionaries to go and see how God enables, empowers and provides. Those who do not go will be equally involved in missions through prayers and support. Missionaries in the field greatly need people who will performed these tasks.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Christ is above all

Colossians 1:15-20

There was a rich and famous man. He was also a religious leader and he did not like Christ and his followers. He did his best to stop them from gathering and worshiping together. He hated what they were teaching about the salvation that God was offering to the people in Jesus Christ. He hated them so much that he killed those who were preaching the gospel.

One day as the man was traveling to a place called Damascus to arrest and to put Christians to jail, a big bright light suddenly flashed around him. He heard a voice asking him why he was persecuting him and his followers. It was his first encounter with the Lord Jesus. He became blind and in his blindness he saw the truth. He became a Christian and he was considered as one of the greatest Christian in history.

He was the Apostle Paul. When he came to know the Lord Jesus, he believed that Jesus is all he need. Jesus is sufficient and has the supremacy in his life. He endures all kind of persecution and hardship. He was jailed, whipped and stoned because of his faith. He did not give up because for him, Jesus is all he need.

Our passage this morning was written by Paul to the Colossian Christians when he was imprisoned in Rome. We will see what Jesus means to him. He wrote to the believers in Colossae about the uniqueness, supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

If you or I were imprisoned because our faith what would our letters from prison read like? What Paul writes is both surprising and revealing. He did not complain about what happened and he did not complain because he was in prison. Instead he focus on Christ and expressed his appreciation of who Jesus is and these thoughts about Christ keep him going. He also wanted the Christian in Colossae to know and appreciate who Jesus is. In the same way, God wanted us to know who really is Jesus.

How do we react when we are in difficult situations in life? If we know and appreciate who Jesus is it will help us deal with the difficulties.

For us to understand more of the meaning of the the passage, we need to know a little background about Colossae and the church there.

Colossae is a small town in what is known today as Turkey. It used to be the center of clothing industry but during Paul’s time the industry was going down. It was cosmopolitan meaning there were mixed population of Jews and Greeks. The Colossian Church was planted by Epaphrus, a disciple of the Apostle Paul while he was teaching in Ephesus. Paul was not able to visit the church in Colossae

Colossae had a big problem. The people were being influenced by many religious teachings. Hence, it was also becoming a big problem among the church members in Colossae. The Christians were getting confused and their understanding of who Jesus is was being corrupted.

I don’t have the time to point out what are the false teachings but the these teachings caused the church members to believe that some of them could save themselves by hurting their bodies. In contrast, some members believed that they could do bad things like adultery, drinking, gambling, smoking and other vices and they will be saved anyway.

These false teachings affected their knowledge of who Jesus is. They came to think that Jesus was less than God, that Jesus was more like an angel than the Son of God. Needless to say, this misunderstanding about Christ resulted in pride and immorality among the church members.

Our beliefs about who Jesus has a direct effect on how we live our Christian life. If we do not recognize that Jesus has died on the cross for our sin, and that he has the power to save us from our sin. Then we might ignore Christ altogether in our lives. And maybe we might just continue living a sinful life.

In this passage, the Apostle Paul wants to make it clear to the Colossian church who Jesus is. This is the truth that God wants us to learn this morning.

Jesus is unique (15)

“He is the image of the invisible God, the first born overall creation.”

The Bible declares that there is no one like Jesus. Many people think that Jesus is like Buddha or he is like Mohammed or many famous religious leaders. But the truth is that there is no one like him. He is unique.

“He is the image of the invisible God.” This is one of the strongest statements in the Bible about Jesus being God. Here the Bible declares that Jesus is not only equal to God, he is God. He is the visible (can be seen) image of the invisible (cannot be seen) God. He does not only reflect God but Jesus reveals God to us.

As the book of Hebrews declares in chapter one verse 3:

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

In other words, everything we know from Jesus makes us learn more about God. When we look at the love of Jesus on the cross, we see the love of God. When we look at the righteousness of Jesus we learn of the righteousness of God. Looking at the power of Jesus makes us seek the power of God.

Just like the Christians in Colossae, the Christians in Mae Sai are in danger of having our faith confused and corrupted by the different religions and teachings that we found around us. What make it worst is that even in the churches, few Christians are teaching ideas that are against the word of God.

I believe the challenge for us this morning is we have to focus our faith to Jesus. We need to learn more about him through talking with him in prayers and through the pages of the Bible. If we fail to do that then our knowledge of Jesus will be very little. And if we know very little about Jesus then we also know very little about God, the Father. If we know very little about God then we will have doubts regarding our faith.

We believe without doubt that Jesus is unique (the only one)-who shows us God and that He is God.

Jesus is powerful (16-18)

Jesus is not only the unique image of God but he is also the “firstborn overall creation.”

[16]For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. [17] He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

The word “firstborn” Paul uses in this passage refers to Jesus’ status. In Paul’s time, the firstborn in the family had special status. The firstborn was given authority over the family. And so Jesus, the Son of God, has authority because of his status as a firstborn. He is the agent of creation.

False teachers taught that God’s power is limited to the spirit only. And because of this, they think that Christ’s power is also limited only to spiritual life. But Paul explained that all the thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities of both the spiritual and physical worlds were created by Christ and therefore are under the authority of Christ himself. This includes not only the government but also the spiritual world that the false teachers were so concerned about. Christ has no equal and no competition. He is the Lord of all.[1]

God is not only the creator of the world but he is also sustains it. In him, everything is held together, protected, and prevented from breaking out. Because Christ sustains our life we should live for him and serve him. We are his servants we must trust him daily to protect us, care for us, and sustain us.

Knowing these truths, I believe the challenge for us is to put Jesus in the highest place in our lives. He deserves our worship. We must worship him through the power of the Holy Spirit as creator and sustainer of our lives. We should be thankful to God for giving us this church where we can worship Him with other believers. But we should worship him not only every Sunday but every moment of our lives.

Jesus is sufficient (19-20)

The passage does not talk only about the uniqueness and supremacy of Christ but also of His sufficiency.

[19] For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, [20] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

“All the fullness of God is in Jesus.“ In this passage Paul was trying to refute the teaching that Jesus is only human and not God. Yes, we believe that Jesus is truly man but we also believe that He is fully God. Christ has always been God and will always be God. Because Christ is fully human and fully God, he is sufficient for our needs because he knows them. Most importantly, he knows our need for salvation.

Christ’s death gives way for us to come to God. If Christ did not die for our sins, we could not have a right relationship with God. We can have peace with God, we can be reconciled to God by accepting Christ who died in our place.

Sometimes we have doubts if accepting Christ alone is enough for our salvation. We think that maybe salvation is more sure if we accept Christ and do good works. We feel better when we accept Christ and then observe other religious practices (like in Buddhism and animism). But here we learn that our salvation is through faith in Christ alone. We cannot add anything to earn our salvation. Jesus Christ is sufficient.

The challenge for us is to keep in our minds and hearts that Jesus did everything so that we can be reconciled to God, so that we can enjoy our fellowship with our Father. The only things we need to do is live a life that will give glory and honor to his name.

Conclusion

In Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting, The Last Supper our Lord’s hands are empty. Here is the inspiring story why it is so.

Da Vinci dedicated three years to this painting, determined that it would be his crowning work. Before the unveiling, he decided to show it to a friend for whose opinion he had the utmost respect.

The friend’s praise was unbounded. “The cup in Jesus’ hand,” he said, “is especially beautiful.” Disappointed, Da Vinci began to erase out the cup. The distinguished friend was stunned and asked for an explanation. Da Vinci explained that “Nothing must distract from the figure of Christ.”

Da Vinci focused attention solely on Christ by removing the distraction of the cup. Having removed the cup, he had to do something with the hand. The left hand was already outstretched just above the table, lifting, as if to bless and command. Now the right hand, also empty, was also outstretched invitingly.[2]

It should be the same with us. Because Jesus is our God, he is supreme and he is sufficient. Our faith should be focused in Jesus Christ alone. Nothing should distract us from Christ.


[1]. Life Application Study Bible

[2]. http://www.sabda.org/netbible5/illustration.php?topic=967

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Temporary homes, eternal treasures

Our house.jpg

The 13-hour bus travel from Bangkok to Mae Sai was pleasant but not the less tiring. We arrived in bus terminal very early in the morning. I remember everything, it was January and it was raining. It was cold, in fact, it was colder than we had expected. Even the sun seemed so lazy to peek out from the thick clouds. We had arrived to the place we know little about and would become our home for seven years.

Although we were commissioned by two churches and several organizations, we had not received any assurance of commitment for regular support. We came to the field on our own. Nobody arranged for our housing or the ministry that we would be doing. We were totally dependent on the Lord's guidance and provisions.

Fortunately, there were people who kindly helped us during our first two weeks. We met Angela, whom until that time, we only knew by name. We also met Pastor Maung whose church we would become active members. He, his wife and few church members would become our friends and family during our first year of stay in Mae Sai.

We believed that we were in the place where God wanted us to be. with only a few clothes and some books for our kid's home schooling, we practically did not have anything. No house we can call our won. We slept in Angela's house during the night and walked around the town we could call our own during the day looking for the elusive home.

After two weeks, with the help of a lady named Nim, we found an abandoned row house. Apparently, some people thought it was a good idea to buy these cheap houses but realized later that they did not want to live in this kind of house. So they abandoned the house and was left uninhabited for many years. But for us, it was once again God’s miraculous provision at that time. The house had everything that we need in it. It had closets, book shelves, mattresses, bed frames, bedding, comforter, blankets, dining table and a rice cooker. It was our first experience of God’s miraculous provisions.

We lived in that house for over three years. God proved true to his promise that he will provide. Monthly provisions for the payment of rents and utilities always came in the nick of time. God is faithful. We were in that house when we got Tina and a year later we got Nuch. Few more children will be added a year later. It was then that we realized that God was giving us a new ministry. We need a new house with a big a yard that the children can play and work on.

A year later, God had found us another home. An old but bigger house with a big yard but it needed a lot of works--cleaning, painting and repairs. But God had helped us in many ways by sending teams and individuals who were willing to do the hard works. We cleaned the yard, trimmed the grass and made vegetable gardens. For us, it is the most beautiful small spot in this part of Mae Sai-- our home.
ourhouse2.jpg

Jillian Teaching.jpg

Gilmhe Teaching.jpg

Until recently, the house seemed to be getting smaller. The children are growing so fast. This is something we already anticipated but it is coming sooner than we thought. Nuch is now in college and the girls, of course, are growing faster than the boys. Moreover, we are having English, Thai, Bible and music lessons in the house. Visitors and guests were coming often and at times with twelve and when so many things were going on at the same time, the house was verging in to a chaos. We realized we need a separate place for the boys and to hold those classes. But then we thought, it was financially impossible. We could not afford the monthly rate and the utilities.

Needless to say, God never ceased to surprise us. A home that fits our need had become available. A row houses nested in the middle of a community, a strategic place to know the people and minister to the children were provided by God. We converted it to learning center and invited the children from the community (besides our adopted children) to learn English and Thai for free.

We thank the Lord for the people who have been helping us with our ministry. Keeping two houses is not easy but we believe that God will provide for the monthly rent and utilities. We believe that God will use this place to point people to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We believe that this will be a place where God will be honored and glorified.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Not One But Two

Kristi & Pia

We have been working with Sayama ever since we came to Mae Sai. She is managing several children’s homes and orphanages in Burma. When we took Tina into our home, it marked the beginning of our ministry to the orphans and abandoned children. She began asking us to help her in by “adopting” the younger children who come to her.

So we were not surprised when one day, she called us up and told us that a Pastor came with a little girl from a remote village in Burma. And although she wanted to take care of her, the orphanage had no room for another child.

We had been very selective in adopting children. Our experiences had taught us that we could not just take every child who comes to us. We had adopted children before whom we thought do not have parents or next of kin. Only to be  surprised that after a year,  people claiming to be their aunties came and took three of the children away from us. We felt cheated.

To make sure that we were not getting another child who might be claimed by a relative later, we asked Sayama to give us the child’s background story.

Her story goes like this. The little girl’s mother has died. The father has remarried and moved out of the village. The little girl was left behind to the care of the neighbors. Sayama said the neighbors took turn in providing food and shelter for the child. The girl even though she was only four years old was asked to do menial chores in the neighborhood. Her main responsibility, however,  was to go to the jungle every day to gather firewood. This was what she was doing when the Pastor saw her in the woods.

Narlin and I knew when a story was made up or true. This story at least for us, sounded true. But we did not want to appear very enthusiastic about all this. We set a date with Sayama to see the girl first and only then we would decide if we would “adopt” the little girl.

We met Sayama at the border and saw the girl. But lo and behold, there was not only one girl but two. Sayama had found a way to “trick” us to consequently take not only one but two girls. (The other girl was almost a year older.) She knew beforehand that we were hesitant to even take one but she put us into a position where it was impossible for us to say no to both. “They have the same story".” She quipped. It didn’t matter anymore to us that time. We cared for the children more than we believed her.

The girls were dirty but beautiful and relatively healthy. At first glanced, they looked strikingly similar but upon closer examination we saw their individuality. One has round dark brown eyes and hair while the other has jet black China eyes and hair. I guess because they had been together a long time, they now have each other’s look. It made sense to us then that they need not separate, we had to take them together.

Pia's bdayPia and Kristi with the other children during Pia’s birthday.

The girls had been with us for almost a year. We changed their names to Kristi and Pia. Kristi has a cute sense of humor, full of life and laughter. If you happened to be with her, she will just talk to you and tell her story. It does not matter if you understand her or not, she will surely make you laugh. Pia was very quiet when we first saw her. But that did not last long, because now she also learn play with the other children. She has already won a coloring contest in the school.

They are both doing well in the school. Every morning I drove them to school, I watched them go down from the truck and run to the school happy and laughing. We thank the Lord that we have the opportunity to take them under our care. By God’s grace, we already had saved these girls from child labor and perhaps we had saved them from child trafficking as well.

Please pray for Kristi and Pia. Together with the other children, they need your love, support and prayers.

This a repost from Missions Beyond Borders.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From Bunker to New House

TIna@hospitalThe quiet night was broken by a loud banging noise that made the floor and windows vibrate. Tina fell from the top of the bunker bed that the girls are using because of the limited space of the bedrooms.

Narlin went to the room and found Tina sprawled on the floor crying. We took her downstairs and checked if everything was well with her. Fortunately, there was no broken bones and big bumps except for a small bluish swelling on her right cheek. We put ice pack to reduce the swelling and to give some relief to the pain she was experiencing. We delayed her sleep for an hour and observed her to make sure that everything was really alight.

We woke the next morning and she seemed to be fine. That was until she was in school. While Narlin was teaching at the school, Tina’s adviser approached her and said that Tina had been crying the whole morning. The reason was her bruised was painful. So after Narlin’s class we went straight to Mae Sai hospital and had her checked by the doctor. The doctor thought that an x-ray would be required, so we have to wait two hours because we came during the break. We had our lunch at the hospital.

The result: no broken bones but the inflammation on her cheek was not looking good. She had to take medicine for several days but she will be fine.

We need to get rid of the bunkers but it means we need more space for bedroom. This what made us think that our decision to get another house for the boys is a very good idea. The children are growing. Boys and girls could no longer share the small space upstairs. And besides the Thai government requires boys and girls to stay on separate buildings.Narlin and Tina

At first, we were thinking of a place that we could use for ministry like English learning and training center.  But if it is the reason, we are willing to forget about the idea and we almost did.

We have been moving stuff for a week now. The boys are sleeping in the new house starting tonight. Tina does not need to sleep on top bunk. There will be enough space for everyone.

This means additional expenses. But we believe that God will provide. We are grateful for our family and friends who remember us in their prayers.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Buddhism

buddha

I stumbled on the lecture notes by Professor Malcolm David Eckel, Ph.D. an Associate Professor of Religion in Boston University. I found his lecture notes enlightening and current. I will be posting fragments of his lectures here.

The lecture is a survey of the history of Buddhism from its origin in India in the sixth century B.C.E. to contemporary times in America. The course is meant to introduce students to the astonishing vitality and adaptability of a tradition that has transformed the civilizations of India, Southeast Asia, Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan and has now become a lively component in the cultures of Europe, Australia, and the Americas.

The lecture begins by exploring the religious and cultural world of the Buddha in ancient India. To understand the Buddha’s contribution to the religious history of the world, it is important to know the problems he inherited and the options that were available to him to solve them. In ancient India, before the time of the Buddha, these problems were expressed in the Vedas, the body of classical Hindu scriptures. The Vedas introduce us to scholars and ritual specialists who searched for the knowledge that would free them from the cycle of death and rebirth. The Buddha inherited this quest for knowledge and directed it to his own distinctive ends.

Born as Siddhartha Gautama into a princely family in northern India about 566 B.C.E., the Buddha left his father’s palace and took up the life of an Indian ascetic. The key moment in his career came after years of difficult struggle, when he sat down under a tree and “woke up” to the cause of suffering and to its final cessation. He then wandered the roads of India, gathering a group of disciples and establishing a pattern of discipline that became the foundation of the Buddhist community. The Buddha helped his disciples analyze the causes of suffering and chart their own path to nirvana. Finally, after a long teaching career, he died and passed quietly from the cycle of death and rebirth.

After the Buddha’s death, attention shifted from the Buddha himself to the teachings and moral principles embodied in his Dharma. Monks gathered to recite his teachings and produced a canon of Buddhist scripture, while disputes in the early community paved the way for the diversity and complexity of later Buddhist schools. Monks also developed patterns of worship and artistic expression that helped convey the experience of the Buddha in ritual and art.

The Buddhist King Asoka, who reigned from about 268 to 239 B.C.E., sent the first Buddhist missionaries to Sri Lanka. From this missionary effort grew the Theravada (“Tradition of the Elders”) Buddhism that now dominates all the Buddhist countries of Southeast Asia with the exception of Vietnam. Asoka also left behind the Buddhist concept of a “righteous king” who gives political expression to Buddhist values. This ideal has been embodied in recent times by King Mongkut in Thailand and Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her nonviolent resistance to military repression in Burma.

The Indian tradition was radically transformed by two major new movements. The first was known as the Mahayana (“Great Vehicle”); the second, as Tantra or the Vajrayana (“Diamond Vehicle”). The Mahayana preached the ideal of the bodhisattva who postpones nirvana to help others escape the cycle of rebirth. Tantra developed a vivid and emotionally powerful method to achieve liberation in this life.

Buddhism entered Tibet in the seventh century and established itself as a powerful combination of Indian monasticism and Tantric practice. Tibetan Buddhism eventually developed four major schools, including the Geluk School of the Dalai Lama. Today, the fourteenth Dalai Lama carries Buddhist teaching around the world.

Buddhism entered China in the second century of the common era, at a time when the Chinese people had became disillusioned with traditional Confucian values. To bridge the gap between the cultures of India and China, Buddhist translators borrowed Taoist vocabulary to express Buddhist ideas. Buddhism took on a distinctively Chinese character, becoming more respectful of duties to the family and the ancestors, more pragmatic and this-worldly, and more consistent with traditional Chinese respect for harmony with nature. During the T’ang Dynasty (618–907), Buddhism was expressed in a series of brilliant Chinese schools, including the Ch’an School of meditation that came to be known in Japan as Zen.

Buddhism entered Japan in the sixth century of the common era and soon became allied with the power of the Japanese state. Buddhist Tantra was given distinctive Japanese expression in the Shingon School, and the Tendai School brought the sophisticated study of Chinese Buddhism to the imperial court. During the Kamakura Period (1192–1333), Japan suffered wide social and political unrest. Convinced that they were living in a “degenerate age,” the brilliant reformers Honen (1133–1212), Shinran (1173–1262), and Nichiren (1222–1282) brought a powerful new vision of Buddhism to the masses, The Kamakura Period also saw a series of brilliant Zen masters who gave new life to the ancient tradition of Buddhist meditation.

Since the end of the nineteenth century, Buddhism has become a respected part of life in countries far beyond the traditional home of Buddhism in Asia. The teaching that began on the plains of India 2,500 years ago has now been transformed in ways that would once have been unimaginable, but it still carries the feeling of serenity and freedom that we sense in the image of the Buddha himself.

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