Friday, June 20, 2008

Futsal and Snookers
The first couple of weeks here, we as a team, have been focusing extensively on meeting new people and building friendships. Relationships are very important to the Thai people, and many of the students who have come to Christ in the past have been attracted to Christ because the love that they experienced while in a relationship with a staff person or CCP (Cross-Cultural Project) student (John 13:34-35). So the men have been doing this by going to eat lunch in strategic places on a daily basis hoping to meet new students, and then inviting these students to play either futsal (this is basically indoor soccer), basketball, ping pong, karaoke, to watch the Euro Cup (soocer) on TV, or even learn new games with them like snookers (this is a game similar to pool, but much harder). Below are some pictures from these times with students. Please take time to pray for these men, and also being praying for us as we continue to try and build friendships with these men with the hopes of sharing the Gospel with them. Evangelism is often times a very long process here because of their lack of knowledge about Christianity and who Jesus Christ really was. We are daily praying that God would convict the Thai students of their sins, and allow them to see His goodness and glory. Lastly, Kelley will be giving you an update on the girl's side of ministry here next week.

This is us at a place called Raja City playing futsal with Thai students.

This is Clay and I with (left to right) Nun, Gok, Game, and Ben.

This is Clay and I with (left to right) Tdee and Oam.

Snookers definitely humbled me!

Brian Firpo (COT Regional Director) and Gok.

Dang (the pastor of Covenant Church, which Campus Outreach planted), myself, and (left to right) Ben, Gok, Game, Beer, and Nun.

Also please be praying for the following men:
Ken-we have had the opportunity to share the gospel with him already and he has lots of great questions.
Jep-we also have shared with him multiple times. Please pray that God would open his heart and that he would stop giving himself to women and partying.

*These two are guys that I routinely have been playing futsal with and am asking God to give me an opportunity to dive into spiritual things with.

The Snake Village
This past week, our entire team was able to explore and experience more of the Thai culture as we took off for the countryside about an hour outside of Khon Kaen. And believe me it was one of the CRAZIEST things I have ever experienced. As you well know, King Cobras are one of the deadliest snakes in all of the world, and most of us see people handle them and defy death by coming eye-to-eye with them on TV, but we got to see these incredibly large and deadly snakes within a couple of feet away. Not only that, but we witnessed as men and young boys courageously (or stupidly, which ever perspective you have) stared these serpents in the face and dared them to strike. I guess when you live out in the middle of nowhere you will find anything to do for fun or to make money. Better them than me!

As you can tell this guy has been bitten a couple of times. He is missing some of his fingers.

Look how young this kid is!

Look at my brave wife!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I wanted to give everyone a brief overview of what we are praying for this summer and ask you guys to be praying with us and for specific students. "The Kingdom" is our overall theme for the summer, and throughout the summer we are asking God to unpack what Jesus meant in Mark 1 when He said, "the kingdom of God is at hand". Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, which is the same as Great Britain, but here the king is deeply loved and has more power. He really serves the poor and relates well to the common people, even though he makes them serve idols. Huge pictures are up of him everywhere, and they do not allow you to say anything negative about him. So as we learn to serve the one TRUE KING in Jesus Christ, the Kingdom civilians (community of believers), and those outside the Kingdom, we are hoping that the Thai people fall much more in love with Christ than they do their beloved king. So please beg with us for these students because 95% have zero concept of Jesus Christ. Below are ways you can be praying for Kelley and I, our team, and the Thai students:

  1. Is that we would be able to grasp at a deeper level this idea of what it looks like to experience the Kingdom of God right now. The Scriptures seem to be very clear that the gospel is not just reduced to personal salvation, but involves God's plan to redeem everything around us. We desperately need His wisdom and understanding to help us draw specific application for our lives.
  2. That Kelley and I's consumerism would be exposed in our marriage, and that we would fight to give to and serve one another. God has given us one another in order to compliment one another and push one another to the Cross, but we often reject one another's nudges toward the Cross rather than receive His grace in it.
  3. Please continue to pray for our support. We have no idea where we are right now because of being here in Thailand, but we are continuing to ask God to raise up people, churches, and businesses to be a part of advancing His Kingdom throughout the world.
  4. Please pray for the following students:

This is Clay and I with Tdaem, Tdong, Breeze, and Note.

This is me with Pop and Tdawn.

This is Clay with Nat.

Also please pray for:
Por (2)
*These are girls Kelley has met and is trying to build a relationship with.

"and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation" Romans 15:20

Monday, June 09, 2008

Who or what do you worship?
Today, Kelley and I took a tour of Khon Kaen with Brian Firpo, who is the regional director of Campus Outreach Thailand. He wanted to give us a more intimate feel for the city and the culture. Each city in Thailand has a "holy place" that is revered and cherished by the people, so we visited there first, and later we ventured over to a Buddist temple. It was my first time being in any such place. To be honest the places were very beautiful, as you can see below, but they broke my heart as well. It blew me away to see people bowing down to idols, and offering up cries of hope to gods that cannot hear them, and will never faithfully meet their needs. Sadly, they pay for these prayers as well, hoping to somehow earn merit or good luck.

I began to think that open idol worship was one of the more heart wrenching things I had ever seen, but then God reminded me of my own heart, and I was quickly led to repentance. The Thai people may worship idols for all to see, but I have a tendency to worship idols that I can mask or temporarily hide. My job, success, the approval of others, my wife, my reputation, and financial comfort can all be things that I find life in and/or become more important to me than my worship of God. The Scriptures are very clear in several places like Psalm 115 and Romans 1 that our hearts are "idol factories" (as John Calvin puts it), and the wrath of God is to actually turn people over to their idols; to give them what they really want, which hardens and perverts the heart and mind. I don't know about you, but I want to make sure that I am constantly dismantling the idols of my heart by "putting off" the things that so easily entangle in this world, and "putting on" the character of God by allowing the Word of God to dwell in my heart richly (Col. 3:1-16). I want to encourage you to please examine your heart, as I examine my own, and ask the Lord if there is any grievous ways (idolatry) within our hearts. He has called us to pursue holiness, and constantly dismantling the idols of our hearts, by His grace, is definitely a big part of that. May you and I be a people that are not consumed with anything but the Glory of God!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Swatatdee Krap (Hello from Thailand)
Well, after 43 straight hours of traveling (yes that is right, kind of crazy huh) we have gotten safely to Khon Kaen, Thailand. Things are really different here, but we are enjoying ourselves.

Here are some key differences:

Food in Thailand is good, but very spicy (the red sauce will light you up). Thai's drive on the "other" side of the road, have tons of outdoor food markets, don't have many air conditioned spaces (even though it is more hot than back home), and love to sing karaoke. They have karaoke places everywhere, and they definitely get into it. Of course, this is very fun to watch and you know we have to sing a little as well! They love soccer, have more motorcycles per capita than any other place in the world, and the entire bathroom is a shower (no tub). The culture is very laid back and the people here are extremely nice. It is not a competitive society like ours, which is a breath of fresh air.

We all have ministry partners from the Campus Outreach Thailand staff and have been on campus a couple of days already with them. We are meeting new students, and trying to build relationships with the Thai students that the staff already know. It has been cool to begin dreaming about what God may do in these students lives...especially in a culture that does not have a context for the person of Jesus Christ. Below are some of the pictures that capture our first couple of days here in Thailand: