Saturday, February 24, 2007

Language Learning Blues

We have been staying in Thailand for over year. Every one in the family has their own reasons for liking it here. We love Thailand and we hope to stay longer and serve the Lord here. But we all agree that if we want to stay here longer we need to learn the languages. We are working with Myanmar people but we are staying in Thailand, so we have to learn Thai first and Burmese second. Phasa Thai is difficult because we need to learn new characters and although the grammar is relatively simple, the five different tones made it very difficult for us. There are just too many similar words that change their meaning when you change the tones. So even though you know the vocabularies and the syntax, if you say the words in wrong tone, you’ll surely be misunderstood.

We have been very busy the whole time last year that we didn’t put enough time learning it. We’ll be playing catch up this year. Hoping and praying that after six months, we can speak the words with the right tones.

Our effectiveness and usefulness here for the kingdom work really depend on our ability to learn the languages. And we know it will take a lot of hard works and patient.

Here are some of the characteristics of the Thai language that are different from English:
  • There are no variant or plural for adjective and nouns.
  • Adjectives follow the noun. Example, instead of saying “red car”, a Thai would say “car red”.
  • There are no verb conjugations in Thai. Tenses of verbs are understood from the context or from adverb of time. This makes our life easier.
  • There are no articles.
  • There is no verb “to be” with adjectives. So if you want to say, “She is beautiful” Thai would say “she beautiful”. I like that, English is just too complicated.
  • Thai is usually omits the subject of a sentence when it is understood from the context.
  • Thai is a tonal language. If the tone is not correct, you won’t be easily understood, even if your pronunciation is perfect.
This is John 3:16 in Thai:

เพื่อทุกคนที่เชื่อในพระบุตรนั้นจะไม่พินาศ แต่มีชีวิตนิรันดร์

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Heavenly Piano Show

My friend Jeseric Macaranas shares his gift in music through his Heavenly Piano Show. This You Tube Video is the Episode 7 of his series of shows. Jeseric attends my church in the Philippines whenever he is in town. If you love piano music you will surely enjoy this. You can watch the other episodes here.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Die with dignity

Every Monday evening my friend, our Pastor and I agreed to visit people in our area. The people we are paying a visit would be new believers, church goers or church members. We do our visits in early evening. I kinda enjoy the visits because it is the time when we talk with friends and a chance for us to know them better. It’s funny because we communicate with each other in three languages—Thai, Burmese and English—mixed together.

One Monday, we visited two church members who are working in a resort. The resort is actually a motel where people rent rooms and stay for a night. I still couldn’t understand why the Thais could it a resort.

Anyway, after a short lively talk, we sang songs and I assumed the Pastor gave a sermon; and he did it without opening his Bible. Then we prayed aloud together for the two persons. These stuffs can be done in a Christian country and nobody will mind. But in a Buddhist country, this definitely made people wonder and attract some kind of interest from the onlookers.

One of the workers invited us to pray for a 96-year old man, apparently, the patriarch of the owners of the resort. So we obliged to go and pay a visit to the old man. We went in and we were in for a shock of our lives by what we saw. The old man is a virtual living skeleton, skins and bones, blind. He was sleeping and the toothless gaping mouth has been that way for a long time. There was a hole in his neck where he was obviously breathing and when we were there he coughed and fluid came out from that hole. He was being fed through a tube connected to his tummy. He was groaning. He could not move, I could tell that he has bed sores. A care taker was doing the moving for him. He exercised old man’s arms and legs.

I couldn’t understand it. Why is he being kept alive by the family (who seems to have abandoned him) when the fact is he could have died a better death ten years earlier? What’s the point? If this man had a choice, I can tell, he wants death. We were asked to pray and all I could mutter is Lord let this poor man die... Life is short indeed, and if we desire to live longer than the appointed time, we will die a worse and undignified death.

Moltmann rightly states that " our (present) activist society has elevated youth into an ideal to a positively comic degree; now it is time to rediscover the dignity of age. Death has been viewed merely as a tiresome nuisance; now there are reasons for once more learning ... the art of dying, so that we may die with dignity."

Here I remember the word of the preacher...
1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. 9What profit hath he that works in that wherein he labors? (Ecclesiastes 3:1-9)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Homeless people and abandoned houses

Being from the Third World and working right now with migrant workers from impoverished neighboring countries, I could not resist posting this quote from Jurgen Moltmann. We are working everyday with poor migrant workers, homeless, exploited, and most of the times abused. Their plight is a result of many factors like political oppression, economic privation and possibly religious persecution. Here, the migrants are homeless while there are hundreds of beautiful “row houses” which are abandoned, apparently left by their rich owners to live in the beautiful suburb.
Even though with the NASA spaceships we stand on the roof of the world, so to speak, when night comes we return to the world underground cellars. The one watches the clock and ‘hasn’t any time’; the other is on the streets and has no place. The person who is without a country is usually without a home too, the person without a home becomes restless and stranger in a hostile world. To a large extent, over population engenders the mass of surplus people who have to emigrate if they want to survive. Millions in the countries of the Third World have become migrants without either country or home. In the societies of the industrial West, the problem of the homeless is not a housing problem or a matter of an ‘overload boat.” this is an anti-social policy of pushing people out… In the reports of an Open-Door community in Atlanta, Georgia, I read that (1) Housing precedes life, housing precedes employment, housing is a human right. (2) But keeping countless people homeless meant that a cheap labour pool of disposable people is always available, because these people have no country, family, or other ties.

Jurgen Moltmann, Science and Wisdom, p126
The photo is from www.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bible Quizzes

I took Bible quizzes one after the other. The first one was really easy. But the second was tough one, it made me think and scratch my head. I just couldn't remember what characters are mentioned where. My only consolation is perhaps those names are never meant to be remembered. It's fun. Take it see how you fare.

HT to Dr. Jim West and David

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
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You rank 57% on the biblical comprehension scale.

Good work. You obviously know your Bible well. However, there remains plenty of room for improvement. Close attention to the details of Scripture can result in great rewards over time. Perhaps a more focused Bible study plan would help you improve your level of biblical comprehension.

How Well Do You Know Your Bible?
Quizzes for MySpace

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The newest member of the family... Timi!

We were sad when our pet dog Sam was killed in an accident. He was the object of affection for my children for several months and we still feel sad every time we remember him. Yesterday, somebody gave us another dog and we are very happy to have her. We named her Timi (from itim which is the tagalog word for "black." She is a cross bred of a Black Labrador (mother) and perhaps a beagle (father).

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Danger of Materialism

As career missionary, my wife and I made a commitment to our Lord Jesus to work in the field fulltime. It doesn’t mean sharing the gospel all the time to all people we meet. This kind of aggressiveness in witnessing though sounds great is actually counter productive, rather than attracting people, it actually turn off people away from the gospel. Of course, there are unavoidable times of inactivity and for missionaries this is the most difficult stage. We learn to wait on God. Working full-time means we will not to look for jobs to support ourselves because “secular” job takes the time we need to work for the kingdom.

We defend on our supporters for our financial provisions. God had been faithful in providing our needs. He uses people. However, there are times when supports are not coming and we have to write a touching email to let them know the situation we are going through. There are times when we really have nothing even to pay for our bills. But God never fails and he always sees us through difficult times.

I mention this because one of our friends believes that materialism is one of the main reasons that people are not willing to give to the mission works or to the missionaries. She says “that I am just very sorry that we have not been consistent in our support. Financially, it has been difficult to move people to give these days. It may be the materialistic atmosphere in our world today.” And I agree with her because of the lure of this world to gain more, even Christians are not totally free from the temptation. Filipino Christians spend thousand of pesos for their cell phone (which I think is a piece of an overkill gadget we can live without) but give so little to mission. It’s sad. This quote below expresses this truth.
Riches (material possessions) tend to create conceit of power, independence and security. It also tends to make insensitive to the need of others in less fortunate circumstance. In addition to the injustice and suffering caused by the production and uneven distribution of wealth in the world at large, wealth also binds people to this world and makes them forget about the coming world.

It is worth noting that the New Testament, including Jesus’ own teaching, contains far more warnings against the danger of riches and the service of Mammon than against any other god or religion. While modern Western Christians sometimes are very worried about syncretism in other cultures and religions, they largely ignore Jesus’ words about the danger of wealth and affluence.

To be credible the church has to confront the lifestyle of affluent western society. Only a simple lifestyle will do. Radical as it may seem, I believe that a real spiritual renewal of the church in rich societies and an effective missionary outreach to modern people only will be possible when the Spirit of God has convicted God’s people of the sin of materialism. Jesus’ words, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you as well are spoken to people who worried about material things.

Tormod Engelsviken, “Modernity and Eschatology,” in Faith and Modernity, pp. 178-79.