July 1, 2006
Dear friends and family,
It's so hard to believe that our six months in Thailand is over. We have enjoyed our time here so much, and we want to thank each of you for praying for us and sending us encouraging emails along the way. You have truly been part of the work here.
We want to recap what we've done these past couple weeks, as this will be our last update. The next time you hear from us should be face to face!
Our series of "going away" parties have been so hard. We didn't realize just how attached we are to the people and the m's here. Monday night was our going away party at the clinic with the Adcock family (from Joplin, MO), and we are going to miss having this family of nine as our neighbors so much. As we are here at the clinic now these last couple days and they are not here, there is a strange quietness. It was very hard to say goodbye to this family, even though they live very close to Springfield.
Our last Sunday at Pua Baptist Church was especially hard. We have worshiped at this church since we first arrived, and though the service is entirely in Thai, we have enjoyed worshipping with the Thais in Spirit and in truth. As we have learned more of the language, we have come to understand the messages Pastor Samaan brings as well as the Thai worship songs. Most of all, we love seeing the children's smiling faces each Sunday and hear their sweet voices fill the air with singing and laughter. This church family will always have a very special place in our hearts.
We've always looked forward to heaven, but after working with such amazing Thai and American people, I think we have a better understanding of just how wonderful the promise of seeing and worshipping with each other again in the future really is. We can leave Thailand knowing that even if we never make it back to this side of the planet, we will see these believers again! In addition, it reminds us of all the believers on the globe that we have yet to meet, and how wonderful it's going to be to be gathered together on that great day.
Closing of English Classes and Sharing our Testimonies
Last Thursday (the 22nd), we had our closing ceremonies for our two youth classes, during which we awarded our students certificates for completing the English term with us. We also gave them each a track that explains who God is and what He's done for us through Jesus Christ as well as a New Testament for them to read. In addition, we were able, for the first time, to share the Gospel through our testimonies with each of our students. We shared about who God is and the difference Jesus Christ has made in our lives. We explained that just as it is physically impossible for the students to swim the ocean to visit America, it is also impossible for us to remove our own sins through any efforts on our part. Jesus Christ is the only one who lived a perfect life and who could be the sacrifice for us. In a land where the people sacrifice fruits and vegetables daily to Buddhist idols and spirit houses, the idea of a sacrifice is familiar, but Christ's sacrifice is unique in that it is absolutely complete and the only sacrifice that is effective. Jesus is THE way (and the ONLY way), THE truth, and THE life.
The children were very attentive as we shared our hearts, and many seemed interested in what we had to say. In fact, yesterday evening we attended another m's youth English class where they read the Bible in English and then translate it into the heart language. Most of our students have decided to join this class, which makes us very happy! It was good to see them one last time, but the truly special thing is that we know if they continue to come to this class, they will continue to hear about the one, true God.
We held a similar closing ceremony for our adult class on Saturday, the 24th. We gathered at the church to give them their certificates, tracks, and Bibles and shared something special with each adult through translation. They also shared very kind words with us through translation. This was the first time we had ever had a translator come to help us with our adult class, so we were able to communicate much more freely. After our time of sharing, we explained that there was one more thing we really wanted to share with them before we went back to America. We shared about who God is and what He has done in our lives. The adults listened so intently, as we have really built relationships with them. Two other m's shared their testimonies as well. When everyone was finished sharing, there was a pause, and we weren't sure what to do. Just as we were getting ready to close the ceremony, one of the unbelievers named Choosak asked in Thai, "Is there some place I can go to find out even more information about Christianity? Or is there something I can read?" This was such a precious moment as we had the opportunity to share about two local churches this man can attend as well as explain about the Word of God. Choosak added, "You mean I can go to church if I'm not a Christian? This is great to hear because I always wanted to come inside the church at Chiang Klang, but I didn't know I was allowed."
After the ceremony, we went with our adult class to a nearby restaurant for our least meal together, which was so much fun. We have enjoyed getting to know these Thais so much, and we will greatly miss teaching them and sharing meals with them. Please continue to pray for Eak and Choosak as they have now heard the Gospel and must respond. We pray that God will draw them to Himself and that they will become believers. Please also pray likewise for the many unbelievers in our youth classes. Pray especially for Em and Toon as they have been attending church very regularly but are scared their parents will be upset if they turn from Buddhism and follow Christ.
We traveled solo to Chiang Mai on Monday and stayed several days in this large Northern city. We practiced our Thai and even got to share a bit with a Tuk Tuk (it's like a taxi) driver when he insisted on showing us the "beautiful" Buddhist temples in the city.
We are now headed for Bangkok this evening (Saturday) by bus and will remain there until the 5th when we depart for the U.S. Our host family and friends from Pua are coming to Chiang Klang to see us off, and we're sure it will be a sad goodbye. "Rou je kit-tewng maak maak, tuk cone tee Pua." This means "We will miss everyone at Pua so much."
We had a chance to go to Nan one last time to visit with the two girls (Megan and Melissa) from my school (SBU). They will be living in Nan, learning to speak Thai, and completing the same program that we have completed for six months. Please pray for them. We are not sure exactly what their service project will be (perhaps teaching English also), but the m's here in Northern Thailand have a goal that everyone in Nan will have heard the Gospel by 2010. Please pray for the workers here, as Nan city is very large, much larger than Pua (where we lived). Nan is the capital city of our province and is about thirty or forty minutes away from Pua.
We thank you again for your prayers and look forward to seeing you again when we return.
Your brother and sister in Christ,
Ian and Elizabeth
PS - We will be posting pictures of our final weeks in Thailand to the following site. If you click on the link below and then click on the album "Goodbye," you should be able to see our new pictures. The internet has been off and on today, so the pictures do not have captions yet, and we may be posting more in Bangkok, so you might want to check it again next week. Here is the link: http://photos.yahoo.com/butterflyliz11.