February 2006

Viewing posts from February , 2006

Did she just say that? – Feb. ’06

How about a funny story about cultural differences at my expense?

So I’ve been back in Bangkok for about a week after our trip to the south right? And my stomach since coming back to Bangkok, though perfectly fine while living with the sea gypsies in their tiny huts, has been far less than fine since coming back. I spent one full night throwing up and several portions of the following four days in the bathroom with seemingly never-ending problems at the other end of things. Well, in America, this wouldn’t exactly be something that you would announce to the world – close friends ok, but we surely wouldn’t let everybody in our problems.

That doesn’t work here.

I’m staying with some of my Thai CCC friends in a house just north of Bangkok, so they obviously knew about my problems – well, let’s just say it – my diarrhea. At the prayer meeting at church that next night they announced it to all – so that all of the church would pray for my diarrhea. Then, they also told all of the other 50 or Thai CCC staff living in Bangkok, so they would pray for my diarrhea and then all of those people probably told all of their families and the stray dogs on the street who are about to become lunch for someone (just kidding) and everybody else under the sun. So much so that every single person that knows me at all here, regardless of how well we truly know each other, has come up to me over the last few days and the first words out of their mouth infallibly are: how is your diahhrea? The next phrase after that one – (and i must warn you this will be a little more graphic, but so that you’ll see the true differences cultures i must continue) – and i’ll translate as literally as possible – is your poo soft or hard?

Yes, I know it’s gross, but here – they say it without a thought of being uncouth – it is just an honest question that is part of every day conversation. As a matter of fact, a few days into my illness, I ventured out on campus to meet some of the young students who are involved with the CCC ministry now. As I was introduced to several students for the first time, the introductions went like this: “”Student So-and-So, this is Matt. He has runny diarrhea.”” Yes really. Not, “”This is Matt, he was a missionary here for two years and just came back,”” or “”This is Matt – he loves Thailand and wants to meet some of our current student leaders.”” Nope, “”This is Matt, and he has runny diarrhea.””

I can’t help but laugh every time. Thailand is a country that if you’re not laid back before you get here, you’ll either get that way or go crazy. I think I’m good to go. I’m just curious who’ll be the first one of you all to ask me after I get back, “”Hey Matt! Great to see you! How’s your runny diarrhea?””

Full of Surprises – Feb. ’06

Boy, was I wrong. We got back one week ago from southern Thailand where I thought we would be ministering to a totally isolated people group on an lone island. While the fact remains true that we were there ministering to a group of people that was catastophically impacted by the tsunami of last year, the nature of the people, the circumstances that they found themselves in, the nature of the work that we were doing – pretty much everything else – was far different from what I expected.

Going in, I thought that I, alongiside of a small group of the Thailand Campus Crusade National Staff and a few Americans on a week-long mission trip, were going to an island that was cut off from the rest of the country because it was far from the mainland, that we would be ministering to a group of people that were “”on their own”” simply because of geography. There proved to be a far different story. As our boat full of about 15 Thai CCC staff, 6 Texans, and one lone Arkansan pulled close to shore, I was shocked not to find complete darkness and rudimentary huts, but fully-lighted bungalows, and several restaraunts – a full-blown resort! What in the world was going on? Where were the “”natives”” that I expected? Was this some sort of joke that my Thai friends pulled on me? Was this the wrong island?

No joke. Right island. So what’s up?

Well, it turns out that the only thing “”worse”” than being a people that time forgot is being a people that everybody knows about, and couldn’t care less about.

Just a couple of miles away from these island-paradise bungalows, only accessible by boat, certainly not able to be seen from the view of the bungalows, hidden from everyone’s sight except our Lord’s, was the home of these “”sea gypsies,”” or “”chao leh,”” as they’re called, who we had come to find. I quickly learned that these people were isolated not because no one knows about them, but because they are despised by everyone else and basically viewed as less than human by many. They have a been a nomadic people throughout their existence as a people group – moving from island to island, spending most of their lives lving on tiny boats. When the tsunami hit, this particular village lost half of its men, and many of its boats. Most Thais look down on the chao leh as the lowest possible level of society. The government doesn’t recognize them as citizens of Thailand, and thus they are cut off from all government services. That can’t go to a government hospital when they’re sick, because they’re not citizens. We heard a story of one mother who just before the tsunami was nearing the time to give birth to her first child. She was having complications as the time came, but simply didn’t have any way to get help. The child died within hours of birth. Of course there are private hospitals, but you must have money to visit those. What are they to do? Trade the fish they catch for medical services and go hungry instead? They can’t get treated when they’re sick, their children can’t get an education – throughout the years they have been a people without a country and a people with no one to care for them.

Enter God.

Since the tsunami, God has done an incredible work in this small group of people. The local church leaders heard about their plight soon after the tsunami hit and began to seek God on how best to help them. A local church leader contacted Campus Crusade for Christ for additional help and things got into motion. CCC and the local church joined together and brought manpower and finances together to buy a small bit of land on a previously unwanted piece of Payaam Island to give these people a permanent home. Boats were purchased to restore these people with their only known way to sustain themselves. CCC staff and volunteers came from Thailand, America, and other parts of the world to build houses for each family. And through their witnessing God’s love in a tangible way, about half of the people in the village who previously worshipped spirits in the trees, sand, and sea have become our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus!

Our work was far different from what I expected – we spent our 10 days there building additional houses – (2-room stilt-huts to you and me – but about three times bigger than what these people had before the tsunami) – for this people group. All of the chao leh from this particular village have homes already, but another village of chao leh heard about what amazing things “”the Great God”” had done for this village – and they want to move their entire village to join with this village! All because of what God has done!

And how great was it to get to attend to church services and get to praise and worship with this new group of believers! No set time for worship services either – random praise singing was heard several different nights and Sunday morning services started with the village kids running around shouting to each hut – “”It’s time to worship God!”” An open-air church building with a roof and a room full of guys wearing the same clothes they have had on all week and fresh in from a morning of fishing, women much the same, and several kids not wearing any clothes at all was the setting for a service with no scent or taint of cultured-Christianity – just a small group of people knowing nothing about what a church service was “”supposed to be like”” – only there to praise the God who had so abundantly provided for them and to seek to know Him more.

How very much we, as Americans, a people who have had the gospel throughout our existence, could learn from these new believers in the middle of the Adnaman Sea who have know Christ for less than a year?

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Yep, that’s a God-thing – Feb. ’06

After a couple of weeks in Southern Thailand, and another week of fielding non-stop questions about my bowels, I’ve been able to jump back into campus ministry at our main campus for almost 2 years – Kasetsart University. (And yes, I’m running smoothly again. Thank you for your concern, prayers, and funny e-mail responses).

Upon returning to Kasetsart U., I was pumped to get back on my ol’ stomping grounds – to drink the best fruit smoothies on the face of the earth, to eat the best pork with good sweet red sauce and rice thing on the face of the earth, and to have to step over and around the nastiest, ugliest dogs on the face of the earth – (which crowd the KU cafeteria in hopes on snagging a tasty morsel) – on the way to purchase these wonderful treats.

Most exciting though, was the prospect of metting many old friends on campus. There was however, one huge problem standing in the way. I lost the one sheet of paper with my friends phone numbers and email addresses over 1 1/2 years ago. Almost all of my closest friends here, including most of the student guys who became Christians and continued to meet with me every week for Bible study and prayer and such have been no problem to catch up with. I kept in touch with most of them really well – (I didn’t lose their contact info) – and we have already gotten to spend lots of time together. But for these others, the students who became good friends, those who heard the gospel on several occassions, (and hopefully saw the gospel), and continued wanting to know more, but never exercised faith in Christ – these are the ones who I didn’t have a clue how to get in touch with. And to make matters worse, most of them have already graduated. Back home in Crossett, no problem. But this is Bangkok. How I am I ever to find them in this massive city of more than 12 million people?

Well, God is amazing. I had to go ahead and type that part now, instead of waiting until the end. I walked onto Kasetsart U. for the first time in three years and by the end of only one afternoon, I was able to either meet with or talk on the phone to set up appointments with 5 guys who I really wanted to see! By the end of the second day of my search, I had either met with or talked to every single person that I had in mind to find from my old campus – even all those who had already graduated! Talk about knowing that something has only been done by God and could only be done by God – this is one of those somethings.

Two guys I was able to contact after bumping into some of their friends who hadn’t yet graduated, and asking for their phone numbers. Another two friends I got their phone numbers by someone coming up to me who I didn’t even remember and saying, “”Matt, how are you!? It’s great to see you! Note and Noy would love to talk to you – I’ll calll them right now!”” Another group of guys who had graduated “”just happened”” to be back here visiting friends
for the first time in months and saw me across a crowded cafeteria. I even met one guy who was back in Bangkok for only three days – on vacation from his job 14 hours away! All of these “”random”” meetings have come on a campus of more than 30,000 students under some incredible circumstances.

Can you say “”God-thing?””

All of my Thai CCC staff friends were absolutely shocked. They told me later on that they thought there was absolutely no chance that I would find even a few KU friends – and I’ve found them all! It’s been one of those things that just makes you stop, take notice, and give God the credit that He always deserves in everything saying, “”God it is ONLY You. Without You, that is flat-out impossible. You are amazing!

Would you please praise God with me for His provision and leading to meet all these friends, and pray that God would work on the hearts of these old friends and draw them to Himself. One friend, Va, who my friend Jordan shared the gospel with several times, told me within the first 10 minutes of seeing him that he was no longer Buddhist – he doesn’t know what to believe – but he wants to hang out and talk more about Christ. Would you pray for him and others such as: Nu, Dit, Gaan, Put, Boon, Tak, Noy, Note, and Net?

Thanks so much!

Here’s a few pics from some reunions with student friends – Feb. ’06

Lower left is Hack. The first guy that I got to see first-hand become a Christian in Thailand. I was one of the many who discipled him, (we had trouble for a while until I learned some Thai, because his English was non-existent at the time), so many other Thai CCC staff also discipled him. Anyway, he’s doing great and is leading the music ministry at church now and has “”younger brothers in the faith”” of his own that he has seen become Christians and now he is helping them through their walks with our Lord. I hope to get to meet some of them soon – as they are part of our spiritual “”family tree.”” Hack is about to graduate and is praying to know whether to join CCC staff or to go on staff at a local church.
Here’s Va – he changed his major and thus will be at KU for another year or two. Withing minutes of meeting me again, he said that he has quit being a Buddhist now because it was made up by a man, and it’s not true. He’s searching – he doesn’t really know what for – but said he wants to talk more about Christ.
Here I am with Nu (left) and Dit (right) – two guys who heard the gospel many times but never trusted Christ. They’ve already graduated and they both told me that they were searching for their purpose just a little bit now – (I was shocked because these guys hardly ever uttered a serious word with me before – just lots of fun stuff. Now they’re own their own a little more and trying to find their way.  Again, maybe a little bit.) It’s been great to get to hang out with them again.  They are good friends.  I’m giving Nu Josh McDowell’s “”More Than a Carpenter.”” May God use it in his life.

More Pics – Feb. ’06

How about a few more pics from our time on Payaam Island –

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