Missionaries, Protect Your Marriage

A while back I wrote an article on “How to Protect Yourself from Moral Failure on the Mission Field”, but I failed to include something important.  After reading my post, a missionary colleague many years my senior wrote to point out that my “how-to list” should have included “nurturing your marital relationship”.  He was right.  And in light of recent news of Tullian Tchividjian’s resignation due to infidelity, I thought it might be a good time to make a few observations on missionary marriages and longevity on the mission field.  I don’t want to comment on Tchividjian’s case in particular, but rather the broader issue of protecting your marriage, as it relates to missionaries.

As with anyone in full-time ministry, there are lots of stresses and demands upon missionaries, including language and culture stresses that are a much smaller factor when you are working in your home country.  And in the midst of various pressures, the marriage relationship is easily neglected.   And if the marriage is neglected, that relationship is no longer the joyful, life-giving fount that God intended it to be.  A good marital relationship can be a shelter and refuge from the stresses and demands of the outside world.  It can be a place to laugh, to cry, to rant, to debrief, and to share all those things that would cause you to be virtually tarred-and-feathered if you shared them on social media.  

Missionaries and Materialism

Some people might think that missionaries don’t have problems with materialism.  After all, these are the people who have “given up everything” to move to a foreign country in order to preach the Gospel.  Or, at least, that is the traditional way that missionaries have been viewed.  In the age of globalization, however, the division between “home” and “field” is not so simple and the ease of communication and transportation can lead to heightened expectations for being able to maintain a lifestyle and standard of living similar to what you enjoyed in your home country.  And that is a problem because it leads to disappointment, bitterness, frustration, a lack of satisfaction in one’s life and ministry, and in some cases attrition.

What is the root of this materialism?  And how can we address this issue and keep missionaries on the field longer?  I believe that the core issues are expectations and attitudes of the heart.  

Goodbye Chickens

For the past couple of years, our family has raised chickens as part of homeschooling for the kids.  We have all come to enjoy the chickens, despite the upkeep they require.  Joshua has written his own eBook about chicken raising and had been trying to train one of the chickens (whom he named "Champion").  Unfortunately, we recently had to give up our chickens after our neighbor complained about them to our landlord (who is a relative of our neighbor).  We were all really sad to see them go, as they had become part of our life here.  And they were giving us 6-7 fresh eggs per day. 

We are thankful to God for the opportunity to have the chickens and are all agreed that we'd definitely like to keep them again in the future, if we have the opportunity.  Please see below for several pictures from our last day with our chickens.  

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Book Review: "A History of Thailand" by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit

Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit, A History of Thailand, third ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), Kindle Edition.

Years ago, I read David Wyatt's "Thailand: A Short History" but it was a bit too dry and not too short. I nearly gave up as he went on and on reconstructing the pre-history of Thailand. But Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit's “A History of Thailand” has been a completely different experience. The authors have written a briskly moving narrative that gives you the big picture, highlighting the important people and events in the development of the country without getting bogged down in the details. The first chapter (Before Bangkok) takes you through early history to the founding of Bangkok in 1782. In not too many pages, the authors give a helpful picture of the 15-18th century, the empires of Southeast Asia, the old Thai feudal system, and the steps leading up the founding of the Chakri dynasty. And it is the Chakri dynasty and the last 200 years of Thai history that form the bulk of this book.

As the book unfolds however, tracing the political, cultural, and economic development of the country from Rama 1 (1782) to the pre-coup political climate of March 2014, it becomes obviously that writing a history of “Thailand” is problematic. As it were, there was no “Thailand” per se, until the colonial powers forced the kingdom of Siam to define it borders in response to French and British colonial acquisitions in Cambodia, Laos, and Malaysia. In the late 19th century, the kingdom of Siam spread across what is now Central Thailand into Western Cambodia, while the Lao kingdoms and Shan States functioned rather independent of Siam to the north, albeit many of them in a tributary relationship to Siam. The region that constitutes modern day Southern Thailand was also only loosely connected to Bangkok. But as the colonial powers claimed some of these territories and agreed that others belonged to Siam, the government of Siam felt that it was necessary create a sense of unity and nationhood among these different territories and peoples in order to consolidate power and ward off interference from foreign aggression. These reasons, along with the belief that the majority of “Thai” people are passive peasants, led to justifications for a strong state with Bangkok as the center. The strong state was first embodied in the absolute monarchy, but after the revolution of 1932, the strong state re-emerged on-and-off in the form of military dictatorships up through the 1970s and beyond.

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