We have had an action packed week! The evening of Sunday 7 October we headed off from Hua Lamphong, Bangkok by train to Vientiane, Laos, to extend our visas. It was a long 14 hour journey over night on a sleeper train with an even longer journey back of 16 hours! We didn’t have much time to do any sight seeing since most of the time was taken up with actually getting to Laos, leaving us with only one full day in the country, to hand in our paperwork at the Thai consulate on Tuesday 9 October. Then returning back to the consulate to collect our completed visas and begin the journey back to Bangkok on Wednesday, arriving back in Bangkok on Thursday. Thank God we have our extended visas and can now can begin the process of getting 1 year work permits with NightLight.
Over 4 weeks has passed since our last post! We have just recently completed level 2 in our language learning… Are we any better!!! Well some of the frowns and perplexed looks on the locals faces are becoming less, so maybe there must be a break through happening, this is good news and we thank God.
Rainy season in Thailand is in full swing and over the last few weeks it has rained everyday, with the average temperature of about 28 – 34 degrees been broken with; wind, heavy down pours and mighty thunder storms (something Sarah doesn’t like much!). There is flooding in parts of Thailand and were the drainage is not good some of the side roads in Bangkok have been prone to flooding, however they do drain through within a few hours. The flooding this year have not been as bad as the flooding Thailand experienced last year. We have been looking at the news in the UK and see that parts of England, Wales and Scotland have experienced some of the worst flooding that it has seen in decades.
We have been taking the time to learn more about Thailand’s customs, beliefs and rituals. Every day we see people taking new offerings of fruits, sweet fizzy drinks with straws! (red drinks in particular) and flowers adoring the many shrines in and around the Bangkok area.
Nearly every home and business property has small, ornately-decorated ‘spirit houses’ which are raised on plinths, which houses either a statue of Buddha or other revered gods in front of the buildings. The spirit houses are set up in order to place offerings, generally to appease the spirit(s), to keep them happy, or so they will be protected by the spirit(s), or that the spirit(s) will provide them with good health, business and prosperity etc. We have even seen trees adorned with offerings!
The spirit(s) (Phi – pronounced Phee) are common beliefs especially in ‘Anamistic Buddhism’ and are also included in Buddhist prayers. Thai people, are very superstitious, wearing armlets acquired from revered temples, miniture Buddha’s, or their respectable monk charms around their necks. We have asked some of the local Thai’s on many occasions which spirit they are offering to and still not received a straight answer. The best reply we’ve received “phi aray ko daay! – whatever spirit!”, which implies they are not sure which spirit(s) they are either, however they do know that most of the spirits like sweet foods and drinks! We have heard stories of grown men and women frightened to stay at home by themselves gripped by fear of these spirit(s).
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We would love to tell them, that there is no need to live in this fear… ‘fear of the unknown’. That God did not send His Son to die for us, so we would live a life bound by fear of ‘spirits’. It has reminded us of 2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. As we continue to take the time to build relationships and friendship, we are praying that God will use us and provide us with the words and of cause the language, to teach His truth. About 95% -97% of the Thai population is Buddhist. There is a small Muslim presence and a Christian community of just about 1% of the population. Around 75% of the country’s Christians are from the north of Thailand. There are a lot of Thai people here who have not yet heard!
We have had some break through with the staff that work within the grounds where we live (none of them speak English or are Christian). With perseverance and weeks of everyday in Thai, asking the security guard ‘How are you today?”, with his replies of “I am fine!!!” and nothing else. To eventually a few weeks ago we went through the same motions of asking how he was and receiving a reply “Actually I am not so well and haven’t been for a while!!!”. We told him we would pray for him, his reply “When you go to Church on Sunday”, our reply “We will be praying for you everyday, we have been praying for you already!”. Sarah hopes to do a little workshop with the housekeeper teaching her how to make jewellery. We don’t know what it will lead to, but we know that the Lord is capable of moving things in ways we can’t imagine.
We will be taking some time from language during the month of October. We have quite a busy schedule lined up and would miss to much of language lessons for the month. We have to do a visa run again (we did one back in July to Malaysia), but hopefully this should be our last one out of the country, since NightLight are planning to get us permanent work permits. We will be heading to Laos this time to arrange our visas. Then the following week we will be going on a retreat with NightLight/Song Sawng Church to Kanchanaburi, west Thailand, this will be a great opportunity to continuing building relationships and friendships with the staff, ladies and the men that also attend the church. Then the 3rd week in October we will heading up to Chiang Mai first then Chiang Rai, north Thailand for The TBMF (Thailand Baptist Missionary Fellowship) conference. This will be a wonderful time to meet all the mission workers linked to TBMF from across Thailand including BMS workers Pete & Lizz Maycock (who work in Chiang Mai) and the lovely Bob & Charmaine Trendell (who work in Mae Sot).
* Please keep us in your prayers as we travel out of Thailand and around Thailand for the month of October.
* The relationships and friendships that we are forming.
* Continued work with NightLight including the nights we go out on outreach.
We thank you greatly for your continued prayers, support and encouragement.