We returned to Bangkok Sunday afternoon. The visit south was encouraging. It was good to see the new housing for the tsunami refugees and see the area rebuilt and slowly attracting more tourists. Saturday, I sat in on the council meeting for Takuapa Sahatay Lutheran Church. I couldn’t understand anything, but the agenda showed me they were going through the same kinds of discussions Lutheran Church–Canada’s Board of Directors will encounter next weekend, like budgets!
One of the reasons I came to Thailand was to help the board with some strategic planning. I knew coming into the exercise there would be some cultural differences.
In stilted conversation and translation we managed to talk about the church’s strengths and weaknesses, and from there we identified three areas upon which the church can concentrate some of its efforts.
The first was the need to identify future pastors and deaconesses. This is something every congregation needs to do. I posed the question “What if your pastors were not there to do all the things they do now?” Fortunately, everyone understood the question, especially the two pastors. We set a goal that by the next meeting of the council, each congregation will bring the name of someone they believe God may be calling to serve as a pastor or church worker. In the meantime, I also encouraged the pastors to train and equip lay people to help them in some of their responsibilities.
An issue that came up a couple of times was that Thais do not understand Christianity, or what they do know is not correct. (I think this is a worldwide issue!) Again, I suggested a two-pronged approach: pastors need to make sure members of their congregations know about their faith and the members need to be ready to talk about it and correct any misconceptions.
The third direction involved visibility. Make sure people know there is a vibrant Christian community of faith in their neighbourhood. Earlier in the day, the board discussed the annual joint Easter Service, where the two congregations and three preaching stations gather as a single community to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection. The board discussed the service, the began making arrangements for a church picnic on the beach afterward. There could easily be 75-100 people gathered. I suggested that once they are at the beach, that they have a brief resurrection hymn sing and an explanation of what Easter is about. It was wonderful to see faces light up with excitement as they saw how the church could be visible on such an important day. I wish I could come back to see how it works out!
I find visiting mission fields so encouraging. There is passion and excitement for sharing the Gospel. They want to see their family, friends and neighbours come to faith in Christ. The tyranny of works-righteousness found in Buddhism and animism is only broken by God’s grace. Here in southern Thailand, the message is proclaimed every Sunday by enthusiastic pastors and eagerly received by equally enthusiastic people of God.