IVP - Online Pulpit - To Siam With Love

June 1, 2006

To Siam With Love

In the early 1950s little was known about Thailand except that the small country in Southeast Asia had been formerly known as Siam. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein put the small kingdom into the awareness of people with their visual and musical masterpiece The King and I. It tells the story of an Englishwoman, Anna Leonowens, who comes to Siam as schoolteacher to the royal court in the 1860s. Though she soon finds herself at odds with the kingdom’s monarch, over time Anna and the king stop trying to change each other and begin to understand each other.

My personal experience with Thailand began in December 1969 when I arrived at Ubon Ratchathani Royal Thai Air Force Base as an airborne missile specialist. Even in December, the tropical Thai air was thick with humidity, topping out in the nineties every day. We worked two twelve-hour shifts, with the desired shift being from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. The day shift, working through the heat of a Thai summer, was nearly unbearable. But being new, I was providentially given the opening on the day shift. I began to work in an area that included a Thai liaison. He and I were friendly from the first. We became good friends. Little did I know that we would wind up being family.

One day, when we were going to have a long weekend, he invited me to his family’s home for a meal. I arrived at the house in a sahm lar, a bicycle-powered carriage similar to a rickshaw. When I passed through the front gate, I was met by several of my friend’s brothers and sisters, but one sister caught my eye. Her smile nearly melted me! I had heard Thai women were beautiful, but she took my breath away. As Paul Harvey says, “Now for the rest of the story.” We talked long into the night. I asked if I could see her again. For our first “date,” we were accompanied by, as I remember it, nearly the entire family. To make a long story short, after we dated for six or seven months, we decided to get married. That happened on January 19, 1971.

Now, thirty years later, Aunchalee and I have returned to Thailand, together, for mission work. Neither one of us, if asked in 1970 what our lives would be like in thirty years, would have ever, in our wildest dreams, thought we would one day return as mission workers. But all we can say is that we serve an awesome God.

We are serving in Chiang Mai, Thailand, a city in the northern mountains of the country. Our mission is to minister to physicians, dentists, and other health care missionaries who have come from all over Southeast Asia for a time of clinical training and spiritual refreshment. These medical missionaries are affiliated with the Christian Medical and Dental Association. Aunchalee and I are teaching each morning, are available to counsel and minister to the missionaries throughout the day, lead worship on Sunday, and lead a communion service at the conclusion of the experience. We have prayed about—and God led us to—two themes: “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” was our opening theme, followed by the series, “Just Give Me Jesus!” Because of the generosity of the members of Immanuel Baptist Church, who donated 165 copies of Jim Cymbala’s book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, the missionaries have been able to read firsthand the story of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. God’s Holy Spirit has blessed the missionaries through hearing and reading about His work among other people around the world.

As a pastor of a local church in North America, and as a preacher, I think this experience has taught me some things. I’d like to share a couple of these things with you. First, we’ve discovered that God really is doing an awesome work around the world. Medical and dental missionaries at this conference come from 27 different countries, and about as many denominations or sponsoring organizations. Too often, we presume God works in prescribed ways according to our traditions’ formulas or paradigms. Getting outside of Lexington, Kentucky, and getting away from North America has reminded me that God is bigger than the small worlds we inhabit and from which we do our kingdom work.

Second, many Christians around the world literally face life and death decisions for their faith in Christ—an experience which we in North America find hard to comprehend. We found out yesterday that missionaries in a certain country are now under a death threat if they attempt to share the gospel with anyone under the age of eighteen years. That kind of thing puts into fresh perspective the religious freedom we have in the United States.

Third, the missionaries we send often feel isolated and alone from their fellow believers at home. Certainly we provide financial support through a variety of avenues. And that financial support is crucial. But more than financial support, they treasure and hunger for our presence support. By presence support, I don’t necessarily mean getting on an airplane and visiting missionaries or volunteering with them, though that is an option many of us should consider. No, by presence support I mean keeping their work alive and in front of, in the presence of, the folk back home.

Finally, we must remember that missionaries are not super-Christians who leap tall buildings in a single bound. They too are wrestling against “principalities and powers” that would rob them of faith and discourage them at every turn. And so they also hunger for our prayer support. The stories we are hearing of how God has answered the prayers of these medical and dental missionaries have powerfully renewed my prayer life and have reminded me of the awesome incarnational partnership God offers us through prayer. My prayer life in general, and my prayers for missionaries in particular, will be ever changed.

I trust this experience will change my pulpit practice. Only time will tell. From Chiang Mai, “Sawadee krop!

Posted by Craig Loscalzo at June 1, 2006 10:47 AM Bookmark and Share

Comments

This is just what i need! Thanks!

Comment by: BigJohn at May 31, 2011 1:09 AM

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