A Stroke Patient, A Fortune Teller, and A Fishmonger

God chose the weak things… despised things… things considered foolish by the world to reveal the hope of the world (1 Cor. 1:27-28). In a climax of what appeared to be utmost defeat, the Cross revealed the power and unfathomable wisdom of God (v. 18, 25). This month I had the sweet privilege of vising the city and some of the surrounding villages of Ubon Ratchathani, located in the Isan region of northeastern Thailand. This is an area that is highly unreached with the Gospel, and has become a focus of future ministry for my school and the mission we are sent through.

There are many stories that I would like to share from this trip, as I gleaned many new experiences and insights; however, for now I will just share a glimpse. During my time, I visited several small house churches in some of the villages outside the city. Most of the people living in these villages are either elderly or are children because many of the young and middle-aged adults move to major cities to find work.

One of the missionaries I worked with shared the story of how they first developed a relationship within their target village, and thus developed an entry point for further connections. This is an important strategy because relationships are so highly regarded in this cultural context. Their connection was as stroke patient. This woman had previously lived in Bangkok, but was abandoned by her husband after her stroke, and out of necessity moved back to her village. The next two believers in that village were a fortune teller and a fishmonger. With them, a church was born.

The missionary shared some of the ways that they have seen the power of God at work in these women’s lives, such as how the Holy Spirit led the fortune teller to give up her only form of income and trust him for provision. Rather than tell her directly that she must not participate in fortune telling anymore, the missionary encouraged the woman to ask God what she should do. The woman returned the following week and said that God told her she needed to stop fortune telling and trust him. So she did!  Out of all those in that village, these were the first to come. These woman could easily be seen as weak vessels, yet God used them to establish a community of believers in a village that had previously been resistant to the Gospel.

This month we started studying the book of Ephesians, and I have been greatly encouraged by Paul’s exhortations to the believers at that time. One of the concepts that has particularly struck me is the picture of Christ being seated in victory over every form of authority, including every dominion, title, and age (Eph. 1:21). Paul later writes that we are seated with and in Christ (Eph. 2:6). I am struck by the truth that just as we have salvation through faith in Christ, we also have victory in him. Our position in Christ is dependent on Christ. I believe I’ve had the opportunity to see small glimpses of this being practically worked out in life here, particularly in the context of spiritual warfare. I’m renewed in gratefulness for Christ’s work on our behalf.

This month we also welcomed eight new interns to Thailand, which also marked our one year anniversary of living here. It has been a unique privilege to welcome these new interns into our life here, and to have a role in helping them adapt to their new home. The prospect of “passing the torch” to them is still bittersweet, but I’m expectant for what the Father has in store for them – and us.

Finally, I have continued to work alongside the ministry of Compass 31, to study the language and culture of Thailand, and to engage in my church fellowship here. I have greatly appreciated your support and covering as I have sought to be faithful and consistent in the roles and opportunities the Father has provided. I have had many encouraging, as well as many difficult, experiences that are invaluable to me. One victory that I was encouraged by this month is that I wrote a simple introduction about myself in Thai and shared it with three of my Thai friends for a homework assignment. It was a neat way to grow in my language abilities and build context for relationship.

I have written long, but I pray that you are blessed by the knowledge of what you are part of. Thank you for sowing into my life and enabling me to experience and participate in some of what the Holy Spirit is doing here; I pray that we are both changed by it.

In Christ,

Kristen

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Thank you for praying…

Your investment in prayer on my behalf, and on behalf of my team and the people I get to work alongside, is a precious gift to me. As you remember and have capacity, I would greatly appreciate continued prayer for the rest of my time here and the various relationships I am involved with, as well as wisdom and direction for future plans that the Father would have me step into. Thank you, too, for praying for my own wellbeing and growth in relationship with the Father. I am grateful that we serve a good and trustworthy Leader; the Shepherd of our souls.

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The Beginning of the End

Hi Friends,

I am excited to write to you for this month! I hope that you are well, and that this letter is more than just another email in your inbox, but serves as a blessing to you. As I’m sure you are feeling the effects of summer coming to a close and the transition into a new season, I too am beginning to internalize the reality that I am finally a senior in university, and that I will be returning to America in just four, seemingly short, months.

In some ways it is difficult for me to think about returning home; perhaps because now there are elements unique to Thailand that feel like home too. I was struck this month by some of the ways I have adapted to living in Chiang Mai, so that some of the practices that I have adopted are now easy to take for granted. I know that it is not unique to me to feel that it is hard to hold multiple places dear to one’s heart. It is surely intertwined with being a sweet privilege, as well.

I have been thinking about the Psalmist’s phrase that our God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10 NLT). I want to continue to cultivate the heart posture in which I am living out of an attitude of provision, rather than poverty, particularly as it relates to the resource of time. He is more than enough; he isn’t limited by any degree or dimension of lack, and it is He that is working on our behalf.

In addition to our continued work at the Direction for Life house, I am excited to share with you that this month our outreach team has continued to build relationships with some of the women working in prostitution in our “target district,” and has also begun making some new connections. Your support and covering are dear to me as we endeavor to partner with the Father in reaching those who are still held captive. Please pray for Faya, Star, and Isaac as we develop new relationships with them, and continue to intercede on behalf of Smile and Three. Thank you so much for being part of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. (To clarify, Isaac is a homosexual male, known as a “lady boy,” who lives and identifies as a woman.)

This month I have continued my language and culture studies, as well as finished working through a study on the book of Galatians and a course on evangelism, discipleship, and church planting as it relates to this context. In particular, I had the opportunity to have several thought-provoking and encouraging conversations with a few people in my life about their experiences serving in this context. I was also excited about the personal victory of a forty-five minute conversation almost exclusively in Thai with my tutor about her experiences living and working in a village in northern Thailand.

It’s amazing to hear about some of the ways God has and is working in Thailand, especially in light of its heritage of deep bondage. In my interviews, we talked a lot about the importance of building trust and credibility in the context of relationship, specifically within this context. At least in part, this can be done through serving, consistently being present, and effectively relating to the felt needs of a community. This is much of the heart of “incarnational ministry,” as we seek to demonstrate and effectively communicate who God truly is and how he relates to us. This principle also makes sense in light of the value placed on loyalty and community mindedness in Thai culture.

Friends, thank you so much for putting forth your time and resources to continue to be part of this journey. I’m expectant for what the Father has in store for my remaining time here, and have much in my heart to share with you when I return.

May you sense the Father’s smile over you,

Kristen

Recount

Hi There Team!

I pray that this month has been a blessing for you and your family. I keep reminding myself that it’s summer there! Living in the tropics is starting to feel pretty normal, though the heat is still a little much for me. Lately there have been some decent extremes in which it has gotten quite hot, but then there have been a few times where I have actually gotten cold!

There are several things on my heart to share with you from this month, and I am again renewed in gratefulness for you. I often feel that it is beyond my ability to adequately depict what you are part of, but I pray that by the Spirit of God, he continues to reveal to you the ways in which you are participating in his kingdom, as well as greater measures of his heart. Your willingness to benefit me in partnership with him is a precious gift to me.

As I’ve sought to intentionally partner with the Holy Spirit in my relationships, I have been encouraged to see him move and minister. This month I have had opportunities to continue to connect with one of my friends from church who has become a Thai sister to me; serve and develop relationships with other students at my church through English conversation practice; connect with a woman currently working in one of the red light districts here; and welcome a young woman and her son into our Compass 31 family.

 

I would like to take a moment to share with you a little bit about my experience in the Red Light. Nearly every week, my team and I go to a specific strip to prayer walk, be light and make connections, and exemplify healthy family-like relationships. Though I feel like I have been making significant improvements in my language ability, I have still struggled with being intimidated in the process of making connections with the women working in the bars. This has been something I have been praying about, and I have been asking that the Holy Spirit help me to be sensitive and responsive to his voice and leadership. In addition, this month we had several training sessions that were focused on equipping us to work effectively with young women who have been exploited and abused, and I was strengthened in vision and the desire to use the tools I’ve been given.

Last Tuesday night my teammate and I turned down the dark, narrow street that marks one of the most oppressive parts of this red light district. It’s cluttered with bars, loud music, and strings of lights. As we walked, a woman called out to us to come in and play some pool. We crossed the street to hear her better, and decided to take her invitation to go inside, hoping to make a connection. It was evident that this woman was under the influence of something, but she was friendly, expressive, and enthusiastic about the opportunity to connect with us. She was easily impressed by my limited Thai, and shyly stepped out in practicing her English. We drank soda, played pool, and laughed a lot, all the while getting small glimpses into the story of this beautiful woman. It was most definitely a bittersweet experience, but I am grateful for how the Father provided the opportunity to meet and engage with her. I would love to invite you to partner with me in prayer for her. I hope to continue to connect with her in the coming weeks, and want to actively trust the Father to accomplish his purposes.

I was struck by the connection between our celebration of freedom on July fourth, my connection with the woman in the Red Light, and the privilege we had of welcoming another woman into the process of restoration and freedom. It is such a gift to see the Father’s hand at work as we invest in prayer and seek to be faithful with what he has set before us. He is the God who heals. He is the God who makes outsiders, insiders. He is the God who sacrificially loves with profound willingness, unto immeasurable joy. I am still very much in the process of grasping and living by the truths of the Father’s love, provision, and capacity, but I am honored to be on the journey.

To continue, one of our key focuses with regard to culture has been on power and authority in Thailand. It has been really interesting to consider the distinctions between Thai and American culture, and the implications that they carry. Our team had an insightful and provoking conversation about how this relates to Thailand’s future, especially in light of recent events. We are in a uniquely significant time within Thailand’s history, and in the midst of the unknowns, I think that it is in the Father’s heart to move in profound and redemptive ways. Interesting to note is that Thai people tend to operate according to a high power distance and a communal mindset. They tend to highly value loyalty and to be content to fulfill the expectations of their role. They also value harmony and cohesiveness, and are likely to engage in confrontation indirectly as a way of facilitating this.

Thank you again for joining me in this journey. You are an integral part of my team and support system, and I pray the Father richly blesses you.

Held in the Father’s Hand,

Kristen

“Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” Psalm 103:1-2 NLT

 

Would you join me in prayer?

Please pray for Emotional Resilience: The work I get to be involved in is profoundly beautiful, but is often emotionally demanding.

Please pray for Relationship in the Red Light: Our team is currently connected with three women in our focus district. Please pray for grace, peace, and breakthrough.

Please pray for Our Incoming Interns: The juniors are working hard to be fully-funded, and we are excited to welcome them to their new home in about 6 weeks!

Please pray for Strategic Engagement: As we seek to continue to invest and finish our time here well, please pray that we be faithful to the roles the Holy Spirit is inviting us to fill, including in our studies, relationships within the community, and team.

Thank you.

 

 

T Minus 6 Months

Beloved Friends,

It’s a privilege to write you again, and I pray that you are well. This month has been uniquely marked by relationship. It has been such a gift to see the ways that the Father has faithfully and graciously worked, and particularly encouraging in light of some of the specific areas that we have invested in through prayer. Thank you for your continued partnership. I hope that you are encouraged with me that his purposes are being accomplished.

Within my team as a whole, we have also had it on our hearts to intentionally cultivate a culture that welcomes the Holy Spirit and to live lives that are defined by his leadership. We want to be intentional with this season, and believe that he is doing some specific and intentional things in our midst. I would love to have your continued partnership in prayer for trust, love, and unity to flourish among us, and that our relationships with one another would be a witness to those around us of the Gospel.

I have also been encouraged by the opportunities I’ve had this month to continue to develop relationships with the girls and staff at my ministry. This month I had the opportunity to engage in some special ways, including intentional conversations and a fun outing, and was encouraged by their acceptance and reciprocation. The women we work with are so precious. Thank you for your sacrificial faithfulness in investing in their journey of restoration and freedom. Please also pray for some upcoming developments that we are working toward for increased effectiveness and impact.

In addition, this month we had our mid-internship retreat. It’s hard to believe that we have just about six months left before heading back to the U.S.! For our retreat, we met up with a couple staff members from our school, as well as some of our classmates from another internship site, and had the opportunity to enjoy fellowship with one another, teaching and reflection, and plenty of fun. I posted lots of pictures on Facebook if you’re interested; you can also see them here.

Lastly, we are continuing our research of the social structures within Thailand, as well as our study of the Thai language and the book of Galatians. This month, we have specifically focused on hierarchy and status, which is significant within Thai culture. Up until this point, we had primarily focused more on ascribed status; however, it was interesting to learn more about achieved status and the ability for someone to advance in their position. Parents often place a high value on their children becoming well-educated and getting jobs that pay well and are respectable within society. For example, many children are encouraged to become doctors, and learning English tends to be highly valued.

I am continuing to grow in my capacity to engage in conversation in Thai. This has been an area that is consistently challenging and rewarding. A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend some time with a friend in a “language exchange.” We wanted to read the Bible together, so she practiced reading a passage in English, and then I practiced in Thai. There is something so neat about reading Scripture in another language. My comprehension is still greatly lacking for some of the vocabulary, but it was helpful to be able to recall the account in English as I attempted to understand what I was reading. Thank you for your continued support in this area; it has been such a blessing.

This week I was reminded of the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and the call to rely on faith. What a precious gift we have received, that “he who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion” (Phil. 1:6)! I pray that you are renewed in the knowledge of the Holy Spirit’s work on your behalf – within and through you, and that you are strengthened in faith through the Word and promises of God. I’m grateful for you!

In Christ,

Kristen

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He has anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Cor. 1:20-22).

 

Thank you for praying…

Vision Trip: In a few months, my teammates and I will have the opportunity to take a week to explore another context of ministry, including a different kind of ministry and/or location within the region. This is designed to give us opportunity to explore potential interests for the future, as well as to give us greater exposure to the work that is being done around us. Please pray for wisdom and sensitivity to the Spirit as we begin planning for this time.

Relationships: I’m so grateful for how the Father is leading and providing in this way. There are many things on my heart with regard to relationships, and I would appreciate continued partnership for depth and direction.

Renewal & Intimacy with Christ: I don’t at all want to negate the opportunities I have had for sweet rest and refreshment, but I do want to ask for continued prayer for my heart. There are several areas that I feel consistently stretched in, and also know that there are dynamics of spiritual warfare. I want to be faithful and abounding in love.

May Ministry Update

In this season of graduations, celebrating mothers, looking forward to summer, and the many other prominent features that are included for you, I pray for a renewal of the Father’s peace and grace over your hearts and families. I hope you have seen evidence of the Father’s hand of provision, goodness, and faithfulness in each circumstance. I am reminded of Jesus’ desire for us to live in the revelation of the Father’s love for us and to be united with him (Jn. 17:23, 26). I’m grateful that he has designed us for relationship – with him and one another – and that it is his delight to reveal himself to us in increasing measure.

This month we dove into a new semester, and as part of that, we have begun studying the book of Galatians. I am struck by the themes of Paul’s letter exhorting the Church to live in unswerving acknowledgement of the true Gospel of grace, of our adoption into the family of God, and of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I’m grateful for these precious gifts, and I have been challenged afresh to align my heart and life with these truths.

We have also had the opportunity to begin specifically learning about the relational structures within Thai society as part of our culture study. I discovered an interesting aspect of the Thai language that gives evidence of the importance of family and understanding one’s position within the whole: Thai has different titles for one’s grandparents depending on whether they are on one’s father’s or mother’s side. There are also different titles for one’s uncles and aunts depending on whether they are the older or younger sibling of one’s parent. Furthermore, it is common to refer to people within one’s community with familial terms, such as “brother” or “aunt,” to demonstrate respect and connectedness. These aspects of the language demonstrate the importance of community and family, as well as the hierarchical structure of Thai culture, which particularly emphasizes respect and honor for one’s elders or people of high status. As I have shared in the past, these values are expressed in many forms within Thai culture.

I also had the opportunity to have a couple of conversations regarding romance in Thai culture. I enjoyed learning from one of my friends about the progression in her relationship with the man that is now her husband. Specifically within the church, there are many aspects of dating, the wedding ceremony, and marriage that correlate with the West, but I also learned about several traditions that are unique from my own culture. For example, Thai weddings usually include a dowry. In addition, it is common for people to have an engagement ceremony the morning of their wedding day, and to then have the wedding ceremony that evening! There are many traditional rituals that hold great symbolism, most often involving the blessing of the newlyweds for a happy and prosperous marriage, particularly from elders who are considered to have had a successful marriage.

We also had the opportunity to learn from a veteran missionary couple who visited our area for a couple days. It was such a privilege to glean from their wisdom and to enjoy their many stories. We discussed multiple articles that served to further challenge and equip us, especially as we prepare for living on the missions field long-term. I’m really grateful for the unique ways in which Bethany seeks to train us. It can often feel overwhelming in the moment, but I am also consistently met with God’s grace and goodness in a variety of ways.

Thank you so much for taking the time and making the investment to share in this journey with me. I am grateful for you, and am privileged to serve alongside you in God’s kingdom purposes.

With love,

Kristen

Please Pray

Team: I seem to use the word, “Transition,” often, but it also seems to be the nature of this season of my life. However, this month has been unique, in that in addition to beginning a new semester as an incoming senior, our team dynamics have also changed. One of our teammates has returned home due to personal reasons. I am so grateful for how our leadership worked diligently to care for her and to walk alongside her in that process. I think she left well, and we are expectant for what the Father has in store for her. As a result of this change, I also gained a new roommate! I would greatly appreciate your partnership in prayer for myself and my teammates in this season, specifically that we would each walk closely with the Holy Spirit. I believe that the Father wants to continue to develop us as a team and to draw us into deeper relationship with him and one another. Please pray that trust, love, and unity would continue to flourish among us, and that our relationships with one another would be a witness to those around us of the Gospel.

Leadership & New Interns: In addition to our own transitions, one of our Bethany couples is in the process of moving to Ubon, another area of Thailand, to strategically advance the Gospel among the those who are unreached. We are sad to see them go, but excited for what God has in store. The incoming Juniors are also in the process of developing partnership teams that will support them as they begin their internships this fall. We are excited to welcome eight new interns to Thailand in just a few months, and would love your prayer covering for them in this process!

Priorities & Capacity: I know that I ask for prayer in these areas often, but I continue to ask because I am grateful for how God has answered, and I am aware of my constant need for these things. As I seek to steward what the Father has entrusted to me, I want to do it according to his expectations for me and through his grace. Please pray that I would have wisdom and discipline to live according to what he deems is best through partnership with the Holy Spirit.

Safety: Rainy season is officially upon us. We are grateful for the coming coolness, though recently it has felt hotter than hot season due to the humidity; however, there has also been a significant amount of flooding due to unusually heavy rains for prolonged amounts of time. Please pray for safety and wisdom for the people of Thailand.

Rejoice!: There is so much to be grateful for! I’m grateful for glimpses of God’s work and the opportunity to experience even simple victories, and I am confident that you are a strategic part of them. After coming off of my break, it was such a gift to see areas in which I had progressed in language study, specifically in conversation. Thank you for praying with me in this! There is so much more that I hope to learn, but that is not to discount what I already have. I am also grateful for areas that I have seen personal growth, and am blessed by the role you have had in that process. He has also answered some of our prayers with regard to the project my ministry is taking on to empower woman to earn a healthy, safe living. There is certainly more that I could share, but I didn’t want to go without at least sharing a bit. Thank you again for your continued partnership!

Water Fights & Waves – April Update

While you may very well still be getting snow, hot season has been in full swing here (along with some smoke pollution)! I have been relieved to discover that what we are experiencing is significantly less severe than last year, and am grateful to have conveniences like air conditioning, swimming pools, and ice cream to take the edge off. 😊

As our Father has graciously and consistently granted, this month has been such a gift. April has been especially unique compared to my time in Thailand thus far, and I am excited to share with you about some of my experiences, including the Songkran Festival and my vacation in Phuket. In this season, I also pray that you are experiencing the grace and provision of our Father, that you know his nearness, and that you sense his strength at work on your behalf. I pray that you are built up in Christ through communion with him and his body, the Church. I have been especially encouraged recently by Paul’s depiction of Jesus in Colossians one. What a beautiful truth that we have been brought into his kingdom and are held and sustained by his hand.

In anticipation of Easter week, I was unsure about what to expect as the time-frame overlapped with Songkran, famously known as the Water Festival, which is a favorite holiday celebrated throughout Thailand. I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy rich times with my team, people from my ministry, and Thai friends in observance of both. I also had the privilege of hosting one of my dear friends and partners for a time as she explored Southeast Asia for a few weeks. This time resulted in a sweet combination of depth in reflection, worship, and conversation, and lots of fun and laughter.

Songkran has cultural and religious components that involve anticipation and preparation for a new year. It corresponds with the Thai New Year, Family Day, and a day dedicated to honoring one’s elders. The dominate focus is on blessing, including the symbolism of washing away the old and/or bad, and welcoming in the new; hence the water fights! It was such a fun experience to interact with complete strangers in a massive water fight over three days. There was an overarching sense of joy as people took time off to be with their families and to celebrate. In addition to being a great cultural experience, I think there are also some potentially power overlaps between Songkran and the Gospel, namely our redemption through the washing of Jesus’ blood, which is encouraging as I continue to invest in studying Thai culture and language.

This month has also been especially significant because my team and I had the opportunity to take two weeks to rest, reflect, explore, laugh and enjoy one another’s company, and refocus for the remainder of our time here. It is because of that this letter comes to you in the middle of May, rather than the end of April. 😉 It is hard to believe that we have just passed the half-way point of our time here! As part of my break, I had the opportunity to visit a large island adjacent to southern Thailand called Phuket with two of my teammates. We had a great time enjoying the beach, fellowship, and some extended times with the Lord. I especially enjoyed getting up for sunrise to take pictures and catching some powerful waves, as well as watching the sunset in the ocean’s swells. Our break has also marked a transition into a new semester. This is an especially significant milestone, as it marks the beginning of our senior year.

As we dive back into our regular commitments and routines, I greatly appreciate your consistent support and faithfulness to renew your concern for us in prayer. I believe our Father has some specific things on his heart for this coming season, and it is in my heart to invest well. As I have reflected specifically on this last semester, I have found myself deeply grateful for the victories and growth that the Father has provided, and for his continued grace to and over me. It is in my heart that you know the value you have enriched my life with. Thank you for continuing to walk by the Spirit in the grace of Jesus and for investing in the coming kingdom. It’s a privilege to be a child of God alongside you.

Love and Blessings,

Kristen

“The Son is the image of the invisible God… all things have been created through him and for him… and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17

Melodies in March

Beloved Friends,

As I’m thinking about and praying for you, my heart is renewed with gratefulness for you and the privilege that I have to partner with you. As I face difficulties and victories, I am often reminded of your partnership and the gift that it is. There are many things that I would love for you to enjoy with me, and though it seems insufficient, I hope this month’s glimpse is a blessing to you. I also wanted to make a note with regard to my ministry work, as I am sorry that I am not able to share more in detail of what I get to participate in. Due to the nature of my work, it is best that I use discretion. I would love to show you pictures and share specific names and stories with you, but I hope you will gladly sacrifice this opportunity, knowing that it is for the benefit of the women that I serve that I do not share them. However, I did want to share that God’s leadership and grace have been beautifully evident in unique ways within my ministry this month. Thank you for your continued investment as we seek to partner with him in his work of restoration and freedom.

I would specifically love for your partnership in prayer for one of the girls in our home to gain her citizenship. Citizenship here, or the lack thereof, has significant implications for one’s ability to effectively live within society. Due to the specific time-frame in which she was born, it is nearly impossible for her to be granted this status; we need a significant breakthrough. In addition, there are many within Compass’s influence that do not yet know Jesus. Please pray for him to use each of us as we engage in relationships, intercession, and outreach. Lastly, we are in the process of developing an entrepreneurial project in which young women have the opportunity to gain skills training and to healthfully earn an income. Please pray for wisdom as we seek to develop this opportunity well, and for connections with women who are currently being exploited, so that we can walk alongside them toward holistic freedom.

This month my teammates and I have been focusing on the fundamental aspects of Theravada Buddhism, and how they are specifically seen within a Thai context. Though Thailand is a Buddhist country, it really doesn’t represent a pure form of Buddhism; instead, it is deeply intertwined with Animism, Hinduism, and cultural values, which has developed into a unique worldview and way of life for most Thai people. On top of that, there is a generational shift in which people are beginning to question their traditional beliefs and way of life, particularly among the educated and wealthy, so that they are more open to outside influences. We believe this is a unique opportunity for the Gospel, and are praying to effectively engage with what the Holy Spirit is doing.

This month I have specifically been stuck by the beliefs regarding goodness. It seems that man is believed to be basically good and capable of doing good in and of oneself. According to Buddhist thought, man is responsible for his own fate and is thus ultimately considered self-sufficient. A common emphasis is on “being a good person,” and “if you do good, good will be returned to you.” Though this is not completely wrong, it is distorted, and there is a sense in which man is his own god. At the same time, I see a dynamic at work in which man is made to worship, and though the traditional teachings of Buddha do not include the worship of a god, people have developed a system of worship that is now inseparably tied to Thai Buddhism. Our team is wrestling with identifying some of the key underlying questions of Thai people, and how we can effectively communicate the Gospel in this context. Please continue to join us in praying for the people of Thailand.

Fun Facts of the Month:

  • I got a Thai nickname! It’s ยิ้ม, meaning “smile,” and I received it from my Thai teacher, which is special for me.
  • One of our lunch meals last week included red ant eggs – definitely a first! I also tried sushi (that actually had raw fish) for the first time in celebration of one of our girls’ birthdays.
  • I have so enjoyed having opportunities to laugh and enjoy relationship with some of the women I get to work with at my ministry. While I have had some particularly difficult moments this month, I have also had specific opportunities to be refreshed by the community our Father has provided for me here.
  • One of the missionary couples from our community is back in the U.S. for their home assignment before returning to work in another area of Thailand. We are excited for what God has in store for them, even as we are sad to see them go.
  • I found out some more good news about my back and neck injury from last summer, and am continuing to work toward complete recovery!

As I have been growing in my understanding of Thai culture and worldview, I have also been brought to consider my own from a different perspective. This month we have been working through chapters three and four of James, and there have been many aspects that have stood out to me, and that the Holy Spirit has used to refine and direct me. I am particularly struck by the emphasis on wisdom, and the choice we have regarding whether we will be shaped by the wisdom of the world or by the wisdom that comes from God. I want my life to be marked by humility and grace, and I have been challenged to cultivate this personally before the Lord, as well as to seek to live it out. We are invited into a reality that is greater than what is “right in front of us,” and I pray that we continue to grow in trusting faith as we follow the Shepherd of our souls.

I am grateful for you and blessed by you.

With love and thanks,

Kristen

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture….” Psalm 100:1-3

Prayer Points:

  • Ministry: In addition to what I’ve already shared, please pray for persistent hope and joy as we seek to partner with our King’s purposes.
  • Grace: Please pray for a deeper and renewed revelation of grace, for a willing and steadfast spirit, and for a commitment to truth – that me and my team would see according to reality in light of eternity, with our minds renewed according to the mind of Christ – and that we would be submitted to the Father’s expectations for us. I’m so grateful for the privilege that it is to be here and in this season, and I want to live into all that he has for me.
  • Relationships: Please continue to pray for health within our team, for vibrancy and intimacy within our relationships with the LORD, and for Spirit-led opportunities and eyes to see as we develop and deepen relationships with the local people.

 

For pictures, please use this link: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0BzGN9i-zsrqreDRMVlNiM1VOY00?usp=sharing

Also, there have been many songs that have been a blessing to me, but the following is one of them. If you’re interested in checking it out, please use this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1yom3XjeQA&list=PLLJv4LbrRE28FTWA4aRIcj5D1yPt0vkrb&index=15

 

 

 

Six Months In!

That’s right, March 11th will mark our sixth month in Thailand… time flies! As per usual, this month has been full, and I believe that God is at work. Furthermore, though I try to be faithful to express it, I cannot overcommunicate how blessed I am by your partnership, encouragement, and support. As I have been confronted with and processed through many things this month, I have been struck afresh by the truth that I am not alone, and that I don’t have to be self-sufficient. Though this reality is rooted in Christ, it often finds expression in his body, the Church. With all its inadequacies, I’m grateful to be part of this family as we move toward the fullness of unity and restoration in and under Christ (Eph. 1:10, 5:25-27).

A Few Highlights of the Month:

  • I had the opportunity to visit a government school in a village outside of Chiang Mai and participate in some activities with the kids.
  • We had four full days of seminars regarding intercultural communication, the history of Southeast Asia, and contextualization of the Gospel, which provided great insight for my team and me as we continue to seek to engage as learners in this culture.
  • I got to visit a 3D art museum with my team and our guest instructors – we had a lot of fun!
  • We completed over 150 dolls since I began to work with Compass31 as part of the entrepreneurial project our girls participate in.
  • I had the opportunity to try chicken organs! It was difficult for me to enjoy since I’m not used to considering organs as food, but it was a good experience, and I can add it to my “list” of things I’ve tried.
  • I began my 25th year on earth this month! I’m officially a quarter of a century old.
  • I had the opportunity to go to the “Grand Canyon,” a water park here in Thailand, and had a great time.

Please continue to pray for me and my team as we study Thai, specifically for opportunities to effectively practice in the context of relationship. It is such a gift when our friends are willing to slow down and allow themselves to be inconvenienced so that we can better understand and learn. I hope and believe that this will ultimately result in blessing them, as I have gotten glimpses of this being true, but it can be hard to work through the barriers upfront. This month I particularly focused on days of the week, times of day and telling time, and basic conversation, such as asking questions, ordering food, giving directions, and telling someone about a friend. My progress has felt slow, but I can definitely say that I am learning!

 

This month we have been studying the relationship between the government and religion in Thailand. We have also been preparing and learning about how to better engage in informal interviews with local Thai people. My goal is to attempt to gain an “insider perspective” of some of the core values of the Thai people and how that practically influences their lives. We are seeking to continue to uncover deeper “layers” of the culture and beliefs that make up and are a product of the fundamental worldview of the people of Thailand. Something I have been struck by is the holistic nature of religion in Thailand. It is meant to pervade every aspect of life. My Thai teacher used the phrase, “it’s in the blood,” to describe the influence of Buddhism in Thailand. She shared with me and a teammate that from a young age, children are taught a love for their nation, religion, and the royal family. This is perpetuated and reinforced in families, schools, the government, and by society at large.

At the same time, there is a form of religious tolerance so that though Buddhism is heavily dominant, it is generally accepted and even assumed that people will adopt practices from other religions. For example, as I have mentioned before, Buddhism in Thailand is heavily influenced by and intertwined with Animism and Hinduism. Furthermore, people generally do not have a problem with a Thai person becoming a Christian, but the expectation is that they will still be Buddhist. At a governmental level, the king is expected and declared by law to be Buddhist, but government officials do not have to be Buddhist, and historically have not always been. These dynamics present a challenge, but also an opportunity for the effective spread of the Gospel. For example, as believers, we are invited into a new Kingdom in which the way we live is shaped by and reflects the values and culture of that kingdom, and the character and nature of the King. Historically, the Gospel has not been successfully rooted here, but God’s hand is at work and transformation is happening. My prayer is that some of these values that I am discovering in Thai culture will be transformed and redeemed to represent Kingdom values as the people of Thailand turn to God as their ultimate King.

A Few of My Favorite Things:

  • Getting to worship with the Body of Christ in Thai! My ability to do so is limited, but using the little that I know in song is such a special gift to me.
  • Practicing Thai and encouraging others in their English in the context of building relationships and working together.
  • Getting to laugh with little kids – I get to interact with some cute kids!
  • Enjoying walks in the mornings or evenings around my neighborhood.
  • Being shaped by the Word of God – slowly, but beautifully.

Thank you for allowing me to share some of what I have been learning and experiencing this month. I pray that you are reminded afresh of the Father’s delight over you and the reality that he is our refuge and strength. May he refresh you with his living water and minister his hope to you anew. I pray that his Word would fuel you in worship and vision, so that you may persevere in faithfulness and truth. I’m grateful for you!

With love,

Kristen

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

 

PLEASE PRAY:

  • Relationships: I have been struck afresh this month, particularly in light of our seminars, of the importance of developing a context of trust that is “strong enough to bear the weight of the Gospel.” Learning the language is a vital part of this as it communicates care and develops my understanding of the culture of the people I get to engage with. Please pray for wisdom and capacity to invest and engage in the ways God would have me as I continue to seek to be intentional with this season.
  • Health: Please continue to pray for health and healing as some in my community face difficult challenges in this area.
  • Ministry: Please continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to move powerfully in our midst, particularly within the girls seeking to live in restoration and freedom and those directly involved in walking with them. Please pray for protection, wisdom, truth, and restoration for everyone involved in the work. Our desire is that God’s perfect will is accomplished in Jesus’ name.
  • Personal Vitality: Please continue to pray for spiritual vitality and grace, for a deepening relationship with God, and for continued revelation of his character and purposes. Please pray for discernment and discipline as I seek to live into and out of the expectations our Father has for me and to invest myself according to his priorities and design for me. Please pray for a renewed revelation of the Father’s love and my identity in Christ.

Thank you so much for saying yes to this journey! I’m so grateful for your investment in my life and the kingdom. Bless you in Jesus’ name.

To New Beginnings!

I’m sure I’m not the only one who would look back and think, “What a month!” I’m excited to share several highlights with you about some of the opportunities I have had and things I have learned. At the same time, I don’t want to overload you with information, so if you have questions or are interested in hearing more about anything specific, please feel free to reach out to me! I can’t guarantee that I will respond immediately, but I so enjoy hearing from you. It really is such a gift to be in partnership with you. Thank you for spurring me on in who I am designed to be as you walk out God’s design for you. Even with its messy challenges, it is such a privilege to be part of the body of Christ.

This month has specifically been marked by starting formal ministry with Compass31, a Christ-centered ministry that works to disciple young women who have been exploited by human trafficking by walking with them through the process of restoration and empowering them to live in freedom, as well as to prevent the cycle of exploitation through education and outreach. It is such a privilege to have the opportunity to serve in this context; I’m excited to learn from the people I get to work with and to contribute in a small way to the furtherance of God’s work through this ministry. My primary role involves building relationships and assisting in the administration of an entrepreneurial project that gives girls who are currently in the Red Light District and those who are now learning to walk in freedom an opportunity to develop skills and earn money in a healthy way.


SOME NEW EXPERIENCES I HAD THIS MONTH:

  • Taught Sunday School for a small group of Thai and English speaking kids for the first time!
  • At a frog leg for the first time!
  • Went to a Thai wedding!
  • Participated in Children’s Day – a national holiday dedicated to celebrating children – and visited a friend’s village!
  • Passed all the necessary tests, received the proper paperwork, etcetera, so that I am now able to officially drive a motorbike on the roads! (It has been really helpful to be able to drive myself and my teammate to ministry, outreach, and church, specifically, as well as to have the freedom to connect with friends more easily.)

One of our primarily focuses this semester is to research the religious dynamics of Thailand. This process involves a lot of personal study, but I am also working to be intentional to engage with the Thai people in my community to hear and learn from them. Though it can be a slow process to “dig deep” and gain understanding of the underlying elements of worldview, it has been fascinating to consider aspects that would be easy to take for granted. Studying religion in this context becomes much more personal, and thus, in many ways, more complex. My desire is to gain further insight into the value system and belief structure of the people of Thailand so as to more effectively understand and engage with them. My ultimate hope is that this will lead to opportunities to love them better, develop deeper relationships, and to effectively communicate the Gospel.

 One aspect that I was struck by this month is the importance of modelling within a family context. One of my friends shared that this is one of the primary ways that children learn to practically participate in their religious beliefs. So, for instance, a child will go with their mom to make offerings to monks in the morning. In a tangible way, the dominate beliefs of the people of Thailand are intertwined into daily life. Religious symbols and expressions are so prevalent that I can at almost any given time see something of religious significance. There are also several elaborate events and ceremonies throughout the year.

Especially having been here longer, I am learning how much Buddhism is intertwined with Animism, forming a kind of “Folk Buddhism,” including spirit worship and appeasement, as well as being a “good person,” going to the temple to pray, make offerings, and meditate, etcetera. It has also been interesting so start to develop ideas of “cultural bridges” to the Gospel, as well as potential hindrances to it. As I have studied this month, I have realized in a new way how foundational family is in this culture in a way that is distinct from Western culture. There are some beautiful expressions of the Kingdom here that have been corrupted or distorted, but I believe that God would transform them through the Gospel so that whole families are reached, discipled, and equipped to influence their communities.

This month I have been reminded of God’s character and mercy in a new way. We have a generous and good Father who desires to use everything in our lives for our betterment. He’s near, faithful to walk with us, and he works mightily on our behalf as he accomplishes his purposes for good, glory, and restoration. Praise the Lord! I pray that you be encouraged and strengthened in spirit as you continue to faithfully invest in the Kingdom Story; may his Word sustain and refresh you, and may your faith flourish in this season. I am so grateful for you and the glimpses I get to see of God’s work in and through you; I’m grateful that he sees it all, and that all will be revealed in the coming age.

Love and Blessings,

Kristen

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’” Psalm 92:12-15

PRAYER POINTS:

  • Please pray for intimacy with Christ and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit as I seek to live out of the reality that God is the source of my sustenance and satisfaction, that fruit is produced by the work of the Holy Spirit as I abide in him, and that I am invited to be motivated by the Father’s love, approval, and pleasure.
  • Please pray for truth, restoration, freedom, and protection for the girls that have found a home at Compass31 and for those who are still being exploited. Please pray for spiritual breakthrough and opportunities to build relationships, and to share the love of Christ and truth of the Gospel, specifically as we prayer walk in the Red Light District each week.
  • Please continue to pray for health, wisdom, and protection for me and my team.
  • Please continue to pray for me as I study Thai, and that I would continue to cultivate a teachable heart and attitude as a learner in every capacity I am involved in.

Thank you so much for partnering with me and those I am surrounded by in prayer. I am so grateful for and encouraged by your investment.

That’s a Wrap for 2016…

สุขสับต์วันคริสต์มาส – Merry Christmas! It’s hard to believe another year has come and gone – what a gift! And what a year! If you want to see some snapshots of this semester, please click here. I pray that this season has been a blessing to you, that you have had space to be refreshed and enjoy the community God has given you, and that you will have the opportunity to reflect over this year and look forward to the next with gratefulness and expectation. At the same time, I also recognize that some have also been met by heartache and difficulty. I pray that you would experience the tangible presence of the Father’s nearness, and that his presence would reassure and comfort you in the depths of your being.

This month has been marked by transitions and preparation for coming ones. The BGU seniors flew back to the States to finish their last term, a couple on our leadership team is moving homes, our team spent our first Christmas away from home, we finish up our formal language classes and our first semester of online classes this week, and we start formal ministry next week! As life so often seems to do, there’s so much that would pull for our attention and investment. I’m still learning about how to navigate these dynamics well, and I’m grateful that I have a support system and the leadership of the Holy Spirit in the midst of it.

As I have given particular attention to Advent this month, I was struck in a new way by the reality that I am here because of Christmas – because Jesus came and will come again. Jesus came as Emmanuel – God with us – and his name means, “God Saves.” The head of the organization we partner with here shared with us that his names indicate his mission, and we are now ambassadors of that mission. I was also greatly encouraged by Deuteronomy 31:7-8, which says, “Be strong and courageous… The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Jesus wants to replace our fear and discouragement with strength and courage. What powerful revelations!

Now as far as this beautiful country I get to call home for the next year, this month I have primarily been studying the history of Thailand and how it affects the present, norms of nonverbal communication in Thai society, and how Thai people view their homes and the symbols they carry. I have particularly enjoyed my study of Thai history. We were assigned a project in which we developed a timeline over six weeks that outlined key events, people, movements, etcetera. I feel like I barely scratched the surface, but also gained significant insight. I discovered that much like the Unites States, Thailand’s cultural context is composed of a unique compilation of multiple influences, yet a unique value system has been forged that is distinctly Thai.

Thailand has also been and is currently home to masses of displaced peoples. Though the country has long been a safe haven for these people, in more recent history Thailand has lacked the infrastructure to continue supporting them and has also faced other challenges that has caused these people to be oppressed and discriminated against. The most recently deceased king played a significant role in seeking to break down those barriers by developing and promoting a variety of projects meant to empower and restore these people.

Lastly, Thai people tend to use forms of nonverbal communication that can easily be missed because of their subtlety. Thai people value maintaining composure as they do not want to be swayed by fleeting emotions. From my observations, it seems that the use of their eyes and a variety of smiles are dominant in how they communicate nonverbally.

Thank you so much for taking the time to join me on the journey, and for your investment in the kingdom.

Grace and Peace,

Kristen

– PRAYER POINTS –

  • Spiritual Vitality: Please pray that my focus would be in alignment with God’s purposes, particularly as I transition into this next semester. I want my reality to be shaped by his, in faith, and for his kingdom to reign in my heart. Please pray for grace, capacity, and wisdom in stewardship.
  • Spiritual Breakthrough: Isaiah prophesied of a Light that would bring joy, wholeness, hope, and freedom to a people in darkness and bondage (Is. 9:1-7). As I have begun to develop friendships with some of the Thai people in my community, I have witnessed the need of this revelation and breakthrough. Thank you for investing in the spiritual heritage of Thailand; the Lord is at work! Please continue to partner with the Holy Spirit to prepare people’s hearts for the Gospel and its full implications.
  • Team: Lastly, please pray for one another. It may be easy to assume that your common ground is me, but it’s Jesus and his mission. You are participating in the body of Christ at work! I’m so grateful for team, for the support and covering you provide, for the way you encourage me, for your faithful sacrifice…. Thank you, and God bless!