Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Christ on the Bangkok Road

During our mission to Thailand, we often found ourselves seeking connections ...... between here and there, between west and east, between Christian and Buddhist. One never knew what connection we might make, or what might result from it ..... and that was part of the excitement of mission.

It could be through a traditional American children's tune, adapted for young Asian ears ..... or it might be the realization that there are few places in this world where one can go without meeting another Manchester-United fan .....

..... or it could be discovering the art of Sawai Chinnawong ..... which is exactly what happened to our mission team during a visit to the McGilvary College of Divinity, part of the International College at Payap University.

According to the Overseas Ministry Study Center, "Sawai Chinnawong, of Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand, is known for portraying Christianity through a Thai graphic idiom. Sawai is an ethnic Mon whose Buddhist ancestors migrated to Thailand from Myanmar. His drawings and paintings, inspired by traditional art from central Thailand, reflect a deep Christian faith."

The book, "Christ on the Bangkok Road: The Art of Sawai Chinnawong" is available from OMSC for $19.95, and can be ordered online HERE.

Reporting on "The Christian Story: Five Asian Artists Today,” a 2007 exhibit at of New York City’s
Museum of Biblical Art, the Religion News Service said, "Thailand's Sawai Chinnawong is perhaps the most literal of the five artists, portraying specific biblical scenes ranging from the Garden of Eden to the Nativity." RNS went on to suggest that, while the five artists featured in that exhibit were not household names in the Western art world, "they are still better known in the West than in their own countries. These five contemporary Asian artists are all Christians, working as members of a minority religious tradition on a continent where Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam command the largest share of loyalty. That has not stopped these artists from producing biblically inspired art that expresses deeply held religious beliefs."


"My work represents influences from many styles," he explains in an online introduction to his work, Art at the OMSC. "I believe Jesus Christ is present in every culture, and I have chosen to celebrate his presence in our lives through Thai traditional cultural forms."

"My belief is that Jesus did not choose just one people to hear his Word, but chose to make his home in every human heart. And just as his Word may be spoken in every language, so the visual message can be shared in the beauty of the many styles of artistry around the world."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

It's Not Just Those People, Over There

The problems of human trafficking and child exploitation. The Thailand Mission Team gained an unprecedented perspective into these problems - and possible solutions - during our mission to southeast Asia. But let's get one thing straight ..... these problems are NOT just among 'those people,' over there.

This reminder comes from Kelli, a Midland member of our mission team, who urged us to watch
this video from Fox Network's The Morning Show. Featuring an interview with reporter/producer Lisa Ling, it highlights the problem with teen prostitution in the United States ..... including Dallas, Texas.

While we're on the subject of video, this is a good opportunity to spread the word about the
SOLD Project, a grassroots movement dedicated to exposing the truth behind child prostitution through multi-media and the collaborative response of individuals striving to make a change.

"The facts surrounding the child sex trade horrify most every person I have a conversation with," Rachel Sparks, Founder and Chairman of the SOLD Project, writes. "People are shocked by the rate at which it occurs, the fact that it exists in America, and that adult men & women are actually paying for sex with children. This is one social injustice that leaves no room for debate. Nothing justifies it, and there is no excuse to let it continue."

"The SOLD Project is a documentary designed to educate people about the haunting reality of the child sex trade in Southeast Asia & the World, and to give them the tools to halt these atrocities. I founded The SOLD Project after learning about the brutal sexual exploitation of society’s most vulnerable people – children." (CLICK HERE to view a trailer for the documentary)

"We at The SOLD Project have faith that the hope for positive change lives within all people. We can each be a part of restoring innocence and freedom back into the devastated lives of these child victims."

"While we do not pretend to have all of the answers - we are on a journey toward finding them and with your involvement we can. Your comments and questions are welcome. Post your ideas. Share your dreams. We are in this together. We need you, but more importantly these children need you." (CLICK HERE to learn how you can make a tax-deductible contribution to the SOLD Project)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Prayer Requests

The Thailand Mission Team, and Faces of Children, ask that you add the following to your prayers .....

Intercede with Prayer - Garden of Hope
Please pray for:

Please be in prayer for the ethnic hill tribe children taken to jail late last month who are frightened and confused. Pray for their safety and that God will comfort them when they cry.

Give thanks to God for the young woman, a street ministry outreach worker, who visits these children often and brings them food, medicine and clothing. Pray that God will give her wisdom and strength as she ministers to them and deals with the authorities.

Give God thanks and praise for the children’s drop-in center that recently opened. Please pray for the children who come there, that they will find a safe place to visit while their mothers work in the bars or brothels. Pray for the children who sell flowers and trinkets—that they also might find a safe haven in this center.

Pray that God will encourage and support the staff and volunteers of the center and that they will build good relationships with their neighbors.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Steve's Blogcast - "The Holy Hand Grenade"

Steve Gumaer co-founded Partners Relief & Development in response to the needs of refugees and displaced people from Burma. This audio-blog, maintained by Steve, is meant to be a more personal stream of conversation than the organization's newsletters and email updates allow for. "Here you will find unpolished writing, a raw and undeveloped pen, one that brings you into the core of what Partners is all about," it is stressed. "The writing here is meant to be unedited. The opinions expressed here may not be those of Partners Relief & Development."

CLICK HERE to listen to "The Holy Hand Grenade" .....

If you have questions or wish to contact Partners you can send an email in to info@partnersworld.org and let them know what you think.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sawasdee Krub, and Happy New Year

From a friend in Thailand, Hong Pirojh Chew, who had been our guide ever since our arrival in Chiang Mai, in the early days of our mission. Hong was a hard-working and caring individual, and showed incredible patience with the many, many questions and requests that were asked of him over the course of our mission.

"Happy Thai New Year to you. ( Thai New year take place from 13 - 15 April )," Hong writes. "Very Glad to hear from You. Hope You are Well and Hope all friends of you happy and healthy."

Khob khun krub, Hong!

CLICK HERE for more on Songkran (วันสงกรานต์), or Thai New Year, from Asia Source

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Prayer Requests

The Thailand Mission Team asks that you add the following to your prayers .....

Intercede with Prayer - Refugee Children
Please pray for:

Children to be given an identity if they do not have one
More health workers and medical care in refugee camps
Registration of non-registered refugees so they can leave the camp
Children who are orphaned or separated from their parents and siblings
Refugees to be welcomes in destination countries (United States, Australia, Canada, etc.) where they have been resettled
Organizations helping refugees resettle - that they will have the financial resources, staff, skills and love needed to assist refugees in adapting to a new life in a new land
Churches to get involved in resettlement and help refugees integrate in new surroundings
The Gospel to be shared with refugees in the camps, and with those who are resettled
Peace in Burma - that refugees might return to their land where their homes and villages once stood
The transformation of the hearts of the military regime in Burma

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Steve's Blogcast - "Essence"

Steve Gumaer co-founded Partners Relief & Development in response to the needs of refugees and displaced people from Burma. This audio-blog, maintained by Steve, is meant to be a more personal stream of conversation than the organization's newsletters and email updates allow for. "Here you will find unpolished writing, a raw and undeveloped pen, one that brings you into the core of what Partners is all about," it is stressed. "The writing here is meant to be unedited. The opinions expressed here may not be those of Partners Relief & Development."

CLICK HERE to listen to "Essence" .....

If you have questions or wish to contact Partners you can send an email in to info@partnersworld.org and let them know what you think.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Prayer Requests

The Thailand Mission Team asks that you add the following to your prayers .....

Intercede with Prayer - Trafficking
Please pray for:

Victims and those vulnerable to trafficking and prostitution
The staff at Nightlight and Garden of Hope, and their ministries to victims of prostitution and trafficking
Churches to open hearts and eyes to victims of trafficking
Clean-up pornography on the Internet and in the movies
The repentance of those who engage in trafficking, and profit from prostitution
The work of Homeland Security Investigator Gary Phillips and his partners working in Thailand to combat trafficking
Gary's successor, who will be replacing him sometime this year
Additional Homeland Security officers for Thailand
Congress to call those working in Homeland Security and non-governmental organizations working in Thailand, to testify when legislation about trafficking is being considered
More government and law-enforcement officers to participate in combating trafficking
Cooperation among all who work to combat trafficking and child exploitation

Sunday, April 6, 2008

'On the Road with Steve' Coming to Midland

The following arrived in the e-mail this week, sent to us by Steve Gumaer, one of many, many friends that we met while on mission in Thailand (to the right, Steve talks with Mission Team members during a meeting in Chiang Mai) . Steve and his wife, Oddny, started Partners Relief & Development in response to the needs of refugees and displaced people from Burma.

*****

This email is to invite you to visit one of the churches I'll be speaking at over the next six weeks.

The internally displaced people of Burma, numbering over a million, are some of the most dignified, tenacious, brave, and good hearted people I have ever met. One of my favorite stories you may remember from a previous update, summarizes what I mean. It was sent to me by a
Free Burma Rangers relief team leader last year. They were assisting a community whose villages were attacked in Nangblyn district, Karen State, Burma.

Pastor Ner Payaw led a service in the rain for the 300 people who were fleeing the Burma Army. They all arrived at the river in a downpour and had to huddle under pieces of plastic or banana leaves as the rain came down. On the second day at this hide site, the pastor organized a prayer service. The next day a powerful wind storm (from a typhoon in the Bay of Bengal) caused many trees to fall. He got his family and two other families out of three shelters just before a giant tree snapped and crashed down on his and the other two families' shelters.

He had painstakingly built his shelter out of bamboo and had just finished the thatch roof, which took two days to construct. Now the hut and all his families' possessions lay under the fallen tree. What was his reaction to this new calamity? He looked at the mess as he stood in the wind and rain, then he turned to the team and laughed and said, "Look, God just sent me firewood!" He then set about making another shelter for his family.

"Look, God just sent me firewood!"

I wouldn't be making a joke at that point. I doubt I would be thanking God either. But he did, and so often in my experience, the people of Burma who are beat up, oppressed, displaced, and in hiding act with tremendous character. They go about the joyful business of life in the midst of terrible tragedy and conflict.

As I visit churches over the next six weeks I'll be speaking about people like Pastor Ner Payaw. I'll do my best to paint a picture of the people we work with who are vulnerable and abused, yet a powerful symbol of faith, real freedom, and a willingness to live out the words of Christ, not just talk about them. If you want to hear more, grab a seat up front in the middle row.

On The Road,
Steve Gumaer, Director
Partners Relief & Development

Where to Get The Best Seat...
Sunday, April 3, Harvest Bible Church, Elizabeth, CO
Sunday, April 20, Life Church Reno, Reno, NV
Sunday, April 27, Calvary Chapel Lone Mountain, Las Vegas, NV
Wednesday, April 30, Calvary Chapel St. George, St. George, UT

Sunday, May 4, First Presbyterian Church, Midland, TX
Sunday, May 11, Good Church, Kansas City, MO

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Word From Thailand: Soccer Donations

As reported in this post from February 6, one of many Friends In Mission that we met while in Thailand was Asia Athletic Institute, a Christian ministry that reaches out to the youth of northern Thailand through sports, English language instruction and health care. Contact with Astrid Sebert, who heads AAI, had just been made a few weeks earlier in January. Our meeting with Astrid included the transfer of a large bundle of soccer (in Thailand, we say football) gear – both new and used – that had been donated by the Dallas Texans Soccer Club of Midland. The donated gear included shirts, socks, shin guards, cleats, goalkeepers’ gloves, and equipment for coaches.

"I brought some of the soccer balls to a refugee camp last week," Astrid wrote to us earlier this month. "The kids were very happy with them. They do need to clear some land, though to play soccer in the camp. God bless, Astrid"

AAI also plans to use donated gear to equip a new soccer team being formed at a school in Mae Hong Son, a small town in northern Thailand, near the border with Myanmar (Burma). In February, Astrid also discussed plans for expanding existing programs and introducing new programs as part of AAI’s continuing mission to bring more people to Christ. At that time, she also provided our mission team with Scripture and lessons used by AAI, which will be used as devotionals for the Upward Basketball program, here in Midland.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Friends in Mission:
Mae Kha Chan Children's Home

A new addition to the "Friends of Mission" links on our weblog is the Mae Kha Chan Children's Home, a place in northern Thailand where orphaned Hill Tribe children may come to live and grow in body, mind and spirit. The home represents a remarkable coming-together of many caring groups and individuals, guided by the Holy Spirit, and it left an indelible impression on our hearts when our Mission Team visited the home in February.

The home houses 65-70 Hill Tribe children, ages 6-17, and is preparing to house 55 more in the beginning of May (which is the start of the new school year in Thailand). "Our goal is nurture their given talents while allowing them to study in many various fields and teaching them valuable skills they can use to better not only themselves, but also their community," they explain. "We encourage them to pray for God’s direction in their futures and teach them how to study the Bible and follow Jesus." The children have come to the home for various reasons, such as the death of one or more parents to AIDS, and/or extreme poverty. It is noted that many children their age are sold into prostitution or forced labor to pay for family expenses.

The home began through the love of a single woman ..... "while visiting a Hill Tribe village which, like most, had no electricity, bathrooms, or schools; Lawan Promwongsak, a Thai Christian woman, met five children that desperately wanted to study the Bible but had no education to speak of. God gave her a vision to work for these disadvantaged children and give them the education that was necessary to develop their communities."

She brought these children to live with her in an abandoned house in the town of Mae Kha Chan, which she was allowed to rent free-of-charge because the owner and other members of the local community believed it was haunted by ghosts. The building may have been small and dilapidated, but the mission continued to grow - but so did the surrounding community. As the area began to develop, the owner of the house began asking for rent. They prayed for help and guidance - and that prayer was answered through the
Manna Foundation. The result was a large piece of land very close to town and a brand new building, which opened in November, 2006.

A roof over their heads, and food on the table is just part of the operations of the home. The children have planted a large garden, which they are extending throughout the property, and are raising pigs and catfish. It is stressed that they focus on doing activities that involve all of the children and reach out to the local Buddhist children as well. You are also asked to visit their
Prayer Projects to see what they are planning to add. The children all have chores in the home, they wash and iron their clothes, do their own dishes, and other various duties.

Providing guidance for the children are the house parents - actually, an entire family ... the Askrens. James and Katie, Celeste Josh and Jerrah were our hosts when we visited the home, early in our mission trip. The Askrens also have a website of their own, which is also being added to our "Friends in Mission" list.

"The Lord opened the doors for us to come to the Mae Kha Chan Children's Home and we are excited to see how He is providing the means for this journey," they write. "We praise God for His love and for His kindness, and we look forward to serving Him in Thailand."

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Spreading the Word: Midland

This coming Sunday, April 6, members of the Thailand Mission Team will present a report on their activities earlier this year in southeast Asia. The presentation will be hosted by First Presbyterian Church of Midland, on the corner of A Street and Texas Avenue, on the west edge of downtown Midland. Admission is free, and the public is cordially invited.

From 9:15-9:45 a.m., the church offers coffee, fellowship, and light breakfast items in Lynn Hall. The Mission Team's presentation will follow. After prayer and words of welcome and introduction, there will be a program of words and pictures, music and video, which has been prepared by team member Karen Winkler.

Following the program, team members will answer questions from the audience ..... and not just about the recently-concluded mission. The audience may also ask about activities now under way - in both Thailand and the United States - and about ideas for future efforts

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New Mission for the Old Blog?

It has been almost two months since our mission team returned home from Thailand. It's also been almost two months since the last post on this weblog. The first few weeks were devoted to returning, unpacking and restoring our lives to something resembling the routine that we knew here, in West Texas.

But not all the way. There is no absolute return, and our sense of 'normal' has changed a little as a result of our experiences in southeast Asia.

This weblog was intended to be an online component of our mission team, our preparations and our experiences. But those experiences have not ended with our return to the United States - and maybe the weblog shouldn't end, either.

Why not build and expand upon the weblog, the way so many of us are building and expanding upon what we experienced, and what we learned in Thailand?

So, look for some changes in the weeks ahead - some adjustments to our links, our features and our content that reflect a new mission for the old blog.