My Ph.D Thesis... in One Image

When people hear that I am working on a Ph.D, they inevitably want to know what it is about.  Doctoral theses, by nature, are very specific and are often challenging to explain succinctly to people in a way that is both clear and understandable.
 
But recently I was presented with the challenge of summing up my Ph.D research in a poster.  Is that even possible?
 
Every year, the city of Edinburgh holds a “Doors Open Day” where historic buildings that are not normally open to the public open their doors and let people in to have a look.  New College, the home of the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh decided to participate this year, and the director of postgraduate studies put out the call for volunteers to produce posters of their Ph.D research to be hung up inside the New College building for visitors to look at on Doors Open Day.  There weren’t too many rules for how to do the poster, except that it needed to interesting and attractive for the general public wandering through the building who might not know anything about the field we are studying.
 
It enjoyed looking at the various posters from other students and faculty. I was fairly happy with how my own poster turned out too so I thought I would share it here on my blog for those who are curious to know what I am spending my time working on here in Edinburgh and how it relates to my missionary work in Thailand.
 
I appreciate that few people actually read Ph.D theses but over time I hope to produce various articles, blogs, etc. that will give little nuggets of useful info and insight into the things that I have discovered with the hope that the fruit of my research will benefit others.  This poster doesn’t include everything that will appear in my finished thesis but I hope that it serves as a taster of some of the major themes that I am looking at.

Click here to view the full-size image 

English Teaching vs. Evangelism - A Lesson from 19th Century Bangkok

On August 4, 1851 a unique opportunity opened up for Mrs. Sarah Bradley and a couple of other missionary women in Bangkok. It was a chance that any missionary would have jumped at, but also one that needed to be managed well… which it wasn’t, as will be seen.

Despite the general neglect of women’s education in mid-nineteenth century Thailand, King Mongkut (Rama IV) invited Mrs. Mary Mattoon, Mrs. Sarah Bradley, and Mrs. Sarah Jones to teach English to his wives and other women in the royal palace. The king was a forward-looking and modern-minded monarch who was eager to gain Western knowledge from missionaries and other Westerners. Previously, missionary Jesse Caswell had been a private tutor to the king and as a result King Mongkut became quite adept in English and was eager for others in the royal household to learn English as well.

View of Bangkok during Mongkut's lifetime, Grand Palace shown in center
View of Bangkok during King Mongkut's lifetime (Grand Palace is shown in center)

Dystopian Movies and the Gospel

My oldest son has asked me many times why I like dystopian movies and I haven’t been able to put my finger on it.  It seems weird to enjoy movies about a bleak, horrible future where life is awful and we are all living under the shadow of alien/robot overlords, or a catastrophic natural disaster, or some other extremely unpleasant state of affairs.  Isn’t there enough horrible stuff in real life already that I should not enjoy watching movies about horrible stuff too?  But it finally occurred to me what the attraction is, at least for me, and perhaps for others as well.
 
dystopian buildings in city
Image by Carroll MacDonald from Pixabay
 

10 Things That You WILL Hear from your Missionary

guest post by Larry Dinkins

This year I am Missionary in Residence at Dallas Theological Seminary. My job is to mobilize as many of the 1000+ students on this campus for missions. As I chat with them, I want to be honest and portray the rigors of mission life in a truthful way, but at the same time I count the last 40 years of my work with the Thai through OMF a blessed privilege and as such want my students to see all the positives and benefits of missionary life. I mention this, because of an article written by Joe Holman, a missionary to Bolivia, who entitled his article, “Ten Things That Your Missionary Will Not Tell You.” There is an element of truth to what Joe says, but I feel it only confirms a negative stereotype that is in most people’s minds about life on the field. I’ve always been told that it is “easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar” and so I wanted to give a positive spin to the ten negative assertions made in Joe’s article.

Gutzlaff and Tomlin’s Greatest Contribution to Missions in Thailand

In the few Thai church history books that exist, Jacob Tomlin and Karl Gutzlaff are credited with being the first resident Protestant missionaries in Thailand. Arriving on August 23, 1828, the two men only stayed for a few years before moving on to other parts of East Asia. Unfortunately, despite their good intentions, they didn’t have a lot to show for their efforts in Thailand before leaving for good in 1831 (Gutzlaff) and 1832 (Tomlin).

When they arrived, they already spoke Chinese and set to work distributing Christian books in Chinese, which attracted considerable interest from locals, especially the many Chinese residents of Bangkok, as well as opposition from Catholic priests. But they were not only concerned to share the Gospel with Chinese speakers and they set to work learning Thai. With a massive amount of help from some unsung local assistants, Gützlaff and Tomlin produced a translation of the New Testament in Thai, though the quality of their work was of dubious value and the king of Thailand said he couldn’t make heads or tails of it. They also started work on an English-Thai dictionary, and got up to the letter R. Aside from these modest literary accomplishments, Gützlaff and Tomlin’s efforts resulted in several inquirers but only one baptized convert, a Chinese man named Boon Tee (Koë Bun Tai).

If they had stayed, they might have accomplished much more. And if we look at only what they accomplished during their short stint in-country, it is questionable whether they deserve the high praise they receive in the annals of Protestant history in Thailand. But what they did do was get the ball rolling for Protestant missions in Thailand. How did they do that?

4 Rarely Mentioned (but Essential!) Missionary Qualities

If you read missionary literature or listen to talks on the missionary call, there are lots of qualities that come up as essential to being a missionary:  a commitment to God and the Great Commission, a love for the lost, flexibility, ability to learn language and work as a team, and so forth. Together with a good grasp of doctrine and the fruit of the Spirit, these are all really important for both becoming a missionary and remaining a missionary. I specifically say “remaining” a missionary because the qualities that lead a person and their church to think they are ready to become a missionary are not all that’s needed to survive and thrive in cross-cultural ministry over the long-haul. 

In that vein, I’d like to “fill out” the above list of missionary qualities with some rarely mentioned but equally essential qualities that all cross-cultural missionary should have.  Or if they don’t have them, they need to develop them. Otherwise their overseas ministry will be a short one. 

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