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This is an album of photos from our first full missionary term in Thailand, from 2006-2010. Included are pictures of where we lived, daily activities, people whom we knew and worked with, outreach events, church, Thai Buddhism, Thai culture.
Click on any picture to see a larger image.
When the bigger picture pops up, you can scroll through the whole album by hitting your right arrow key (and left arrow key if you want to go back)
Karl teaches missions and church history at Bangkok Bible Seminary, assists with translation and editing at Kanok Bannasan (OMF Publishers Thailand), one of the few publishers of Thai Christian books, and preaches at local churches. Living right next to the seminary campus in downtown Bangkok, both Karl and Sun have opportunities to invest in the lives of students, the next generation of Thai church leaders. They are also involved in ministry with local Thai churches, laboring to see healthy models of biblical teaching and Christian living take root in the lives of Thai Christians.
At the beginning of this month, I (Karl) was in Bangkok for a few days to renew my visa. Believe it or not, it is less of a hassle to fly all the way back to Thailand to renew the visa than to apply for a new one. My body is still recovering from all the time zone changes but it was a good trip for many reasons.Besides successfully renewing my visa for another year, I had the chance to talk again with the same taxi driver who brought our family to the airport this past October. At that time, he had been studying the Bible with the Mormons and objected to the idea that God could just forgive someone, letting them go scot-free. We had a good conversation and I gave him a Gospel of John to read. As he took me to the airport again this past week, I asked if he was still meeting up with the Mormons. “Oh no” he replied, “I stopped meeting up with them after we talked, and I am a Christian now.” Wow! This was a great encouragement to me after a difficult term in Thailand when we did not see much fruit in our ministry. I wasn’t able to determine to what degree he truly understands the Gospel but he talked about how God can help us, and no longer objected to God forgiving people. I encouraged him to get involved in a local church to continue learning about Jesus.
In the video below, books are given away with 10 free trips on the subway (underground) in Brazil in order to promote reading. The subway scan card is embedded into the back cover of the book, and can be refilled online.
What if this was done with some Christian books? evangelistic literature? In addition to promoting reading, people might find themselves reading about the Gospel sheerly by virtue of having it in their hand while traveling. Granted that many people in the world today are oral-prefered learners, but I would bet that many people don't prefer reading simply because they are not used to it. Toting a book around in order to use the subway or train or bus might just encourage people to do something they otherwise would not have chosen: read a book.
Reaching such an agreement with public transporation authorities in some places would definitely be a challenge, but this idea seems pregnant with possibilities for both reading and evangelism.
[ส่องงาน #CannesLions2015] นี่คือแคมเปญโปรโมทหนังสือและส่งเสริมการอ่านที่ผมอิจฉาที่สุดเท่าที่เคยรู้เคยเห็นมาในชีวิตนี้ ทำไมเราถึงไม่ใช่คนที่คิดงานนี้ได้นะPosted by Zcongklod Bangyikhan on Friday, June 26, 2015
Click here if you don't see a video above.
Dear Friends & Family,The first half of July turned out to be a very busy but very productive time for us. Joining us for two weeks was a short-term team from East Sarang Community Church in Chino, CA. Karl coordinated the team together with Tam, who works in student ministry in nearby Lopburi. The schedule was packed with English teaching, an evangelistic student cafe, open air evangelism & tracting, children’s ministry, and preaching. Ministering at the Phrabaht church is often very discouraging and lonely, so it has been wonderful to have so many enthusiastic, dedicated young people with us, as well as their team leader, a former classmate of Karl’s from Gordon Conwell Seminary. Working more closely with Tam was also a great experience as Tam is a hard working Biblically minded servant of God with whom we can communication well.
Dear Friends & Family,The most enjoyable aspect of ministry this past month has been our evangelistic kids club in Nong Doan. As we’ve begun to go through major Old Testament stories, starting with creation and the fall, it is exciting to know that some of the foundations of a Biblical worldview are being absorbed into these young minds. While it is an evangelistic ENGLISH kids club, our focus is on the Bible stories and the whole thing is rather English-lite. Each week, we introduce some English vocabulary that corresponds to the Bible story (i.e. “flood” “boat” and “die” for Noah’s ark), practicing that vocab, and using it in a game. But the Bible story is always told in Thai with review in simple English later on. Every other week, Thai student worker Tam joins us for kids club and does a superb job telling the Bible story and interacting with the kids. We need more like him. On the weeks that Tam is not available, I (Karl) tell the story in Thai but it doesn’t compare with an active engaging Thai storyteller like Tam. Tam is also an up and coming preacher. I’d love to have him on a church planting team at some point down the road. It has also been great to have short-termer Brent and missionary friend Chris coming to help with the kids club. We haven’t gotten much help from the PhraBaht church so it is great to have some guys that I can rely upon.
Dear Friends & Family,The beginning of July saw the start of two new evangelistic efforts in Nong Doan. Every Wednesday afternoon, Karl is teaching English and Bible to students at Anubaan Nong Doan Elementary School. The school called him up to come teach English, and Karl negotiated with them to teach for free as long as he could use Bible stories as part of the curriculum. During every class hour, Karl will teach just English for 50 minutes and then gets the last 10 minutes of class to tell a Bible story in Thai. The first week, first through third graders heard about how God created the world. Next up will be the creation of man and the fall.
Dear Friends & Family,Merry Christmas! Thank you for your prayers for all of us. We are feeling strong and are working very hard with the Christmas outreaches and school programs scheduled for this month. Thank you also for the gifts and cards you have sent us.Here in Thailand, Christmas is not a time for family gatherings and celebrations, but a time of vigorous outreaches. If you look at our calendar, we have 10 outreach events for this month. It takes quite a bit of time to prepare and organize these events, but we praise God for opening such opportunities and for providing people and resources for them to be possible. Please pray earnestly for us and for all our brothers and sisters in Thailand who are also doing numerous other outreaches. Pray that God would be pleased to use these outreaches to
Dear Friends & Family,Thank you for praying for us during the Christmas season. It was a very busy time and when we finally finished our last outreach at Nong Doan High School on Dec 30th, we were exhausted. However, we praise God for the many opportunities to get the Gospel out. We were able to get into all three public schools (two elementary, one high school) in Nong Doan and share something about Christmas with the students. This was a great blessing and opportunity, and not without a certain irony since Christ is virtually banned in American schools yet the doors are open to share Christ in public schools in Thailand, a very Buddhist nation.
Dear Friends & Family,Thank you for for your continued prayers. We ourselves could be more faithful in prayer so you could pray for us in that respect. Karl has taken PhraBaht church members out to Nong Doan a few times already, part of our plan to do Bible study, prayer, handing out tracts, and visitation in Nong Doan every other Sunday afternoon. Each time we go is a bit different, and not all the same people go each time, but we are hoping that doing this regularly will create a greater culture of evangelism within the church and a greater understanding and application of the Gospel in the lives of the church members. One of the challenges of “doing” evangelism like this is that some people might get the impression that evangelism is merely an event, something that you “do” and then are done with, rather than a constant desire to love and share the Gospel with the people in your life - at home, at work, at school, in your neighborhood. Although I don’t have any
Dear Friends & Family,Thank you for for your continued prayers. We press on in all our responsibilities and we appreciate your pressing on in prayer for us. Our big news is that Sun is pregnant again, about 17 weeks as of this writing. Due date September 21st. We are excited about the prospect of a new little one but also a bit anxious as Sun’s previous two pregnancies ended in miscarriage (at 4 months and 2 months, respectively). Thus, we hold on to the fact that God is sovereign and God is good, praying that God will graciously give us another child to be with us for many years to come but also trusting that if He doesn’t, then it is good and He will strengthen us for whatever is ahead. In the meantime, Sun has been exhausted for the past few months, eating every 2-3 hours, yet only nauseous on occasion. Karl has been trying to take care of her and Joshua, while Joshua has been pretty self-focused as can be expected of any toddler. It is fun, however, to watch him to look into Mommy’s bellybutton to see if he can see the new baby.
A number of people have asked me for apologetics resources in Thai, so I thought I would assemble a list of what is available. You’ll find that list down below but before you go get the goods, there are few things that need to be understood about apologetics in the Thai context.Apologetic Issues in Thailand are Different than in the West
Apologetics resources in the English language are intended to meet the challenges to the Christian faith in the English speaking world. For various cultural, historical, and religious reasons, not all of those issues are applicable to a Thai-speaking audience and thus do not need much attention (if any) when teaching on apologetics in Thailand. Issues that the vast majority of Thai Christians are not dealing with include higher criticism, secular humanism, the historicity of Adam, the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, atheism, and postmodernism. Those are Western issues that grew out of historical and cultural forces in the West stemming from the Enlightenment, Rationalism, and the Fundamentalist / Modernist controversy. For the most part, Thailand did not experience those movements in Western thought. To the degree to which Thailand has experienced those movements, it has only been peripheral and mostly confined to the more educated upper-classes who have lived abroad or received a Western education.Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that the issues I’ve listed above don’t matter or are not important. They are important. They do matter. But the the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible are not being called into question in Thai churches, so why mount an apologetic defense against an enemy that your listeners haven’t met (and probably won’t meet) in their context?
I sometimes get email from Christians living outside of Thailand who want to know how to share the Gospel with a Thai friend, neighbor, relative, etc. It is easy to think that can Thai Buddhists are so different from the standard secular or Christian Westerner, that sharing the Gospel with them will be really difficult or will require a lot of special knowledge. The good news is that although there are differences, they are not so vast that it is impossible to share the Gospel effectively. In this short post, I want to give just a few pointers to get you started in sharing Christ with a Thai Buddhist that you know.
Although it is not absolutely necessary, if you want to share the Gospel with Thai Buddhists it is good to know a bit about Thai Buddhism. Alex Smith’s little book, "A Christian's Pocket Guide to Buddhism" is a good place to learn about Buddhism. But even before you go out and buy a book, just ask your Thai Buddhist friend about what they believe and what Buddhism means for them. Most people like to talk about themselves, and many Thai are open to talking about religion. Buddhism has a lot of diversity within it, so reading a book will only give you a general idea about Buddhism. No book can tell you what an individual person thinks about their religion. It is okay to talk about differences in beliefs, but if you can avoid saying things that sound like you are insulting Buddhism, that will go over better. And pointing out what you perceive as logical inconsistencies in Buddhism probably won’t further the conversation as much as you might hope. Asking about their faith with a real desire to know, however, may open the way for your Thai friend to ask about your faith as well.
“I am just calling to order books, right?” replied the confused secretary, taken aback at why she would be asked such a strange question. She had simply been asked to order some books for a professor, and now the publisher wanted to know if the professor was a Christian?Uncertain about where the conversation was headed, the woman on the other end of the phone explained, “Yes, that’s right. We are a Christian publisher, but this title can be used by both Christians and those who are not Christians.” The secretary didn’t say whether the professor was a Christian or not, but did proceed with an order of 40 books for the students in a Southeast Asian Studies course at a well-known state university in Thailand.
In his book, “The Altar Call,” author David Bennett looks at the ministries of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John Wesley. All three are widely acknowledged as successful evangelists who saw many come to Christ, yet the first two were Calvinists and the third an Arminian. However, as Bennett documents, none of them used the altar call or any other form of public invitation to produce Christian conversions. While listeners would sometimes approach these preachers to inquire about salvation, these men did not issue public or private calls for people to indicate their conversion by an external response of some sort. These men preached about law and gospel, counseled people, and left the results to God.1
I have just finished four orality (Simply the Story) workshops in the Thai language in Khon Kaen, Bangkok, and with Thai/tribals in the Chiang Mai area. This is the fourth year that we have done such training with the Thai and these patterns continue to emerge:
Orality and the Need for Bible Storytelling in Thailand
1. Thai at their core are oral learners and although education is widespread, the majority after school do not use what they have learned and often end up semi-literate or even functionally non-literate. It may be true that most all who come to Christ have been influenced at some point by printed material or tracts, but it is the relational dimension of hearing personal testimonies/witnessing that influences them the most.
One would think that Americans are fairly literate group of people. But unfortunately, many are not readers, nor even critical thinkers. That’s not to say people aren’t smart but just that they don’t process and learn primarily through the printed word. I’ve included below a fascinating summary of the literacy rate in the United States (source). The implications for evangelism and discipleship both in the West and the Majority World are staggering. For more info about oral strategies for sharing the Gospel, see this page on the Simply the Story website.
What would you guess the literacy rate is in the USA? The published literacy rate for the USA is 98%. Interestingly beside that rate, there is a note saying, "85% functionally literate." Humm? I wonder. What does "98% literate" mean then?