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.