We are aware that Thai schools are quite different from the schools we know in the Netherlands. But even after three years, we can still be surprised at how different. One morning a teenage boy that lives next door came to visit us. We noticed he had a weird bald spot on his head. First we did not dare to ask him about it. As far as we knew, it could be anything: religious, medical, whatever. But finally we couldn’t hold it any longer and we asked him about it. It was actually the head teacher who deprived this boy from the hair on the back of his head, to set an example for the right hair length allowed at this school. Despite this quite rigorous measure our neighbor boy seems not very much impressed. He just leaves the hair like it is and waits
She is a short woman in her fifties who got recently acquainted with the Gospel. Here name is Wat. She is waiting for my husband Marten to pick her up. Today two people will be baptized and Wat wants to attend the service. But when Marten pulls up, it becomes clear that just attending is not enough. Wat wants to be baptized as well! So Marten swaps his place behind the steerwheel for a seat in the back of the car where he and Wat work through baptism preparation lessons together. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Yes! She is ready to make the commitment. Nothing stands in the way of her being baptised. They get out of the car and a little later they go down
Sometimes I’m wondering whether something of God’s love enters the hearts and minds of the children who attend the church service. Some weeks the children are happily clapping and singing, but some weeks it’s not like that at all. Do they understand the message? Do they hear God’s voice somewhere in the stories? Do they see God’s love?
Three neighbors girls surrounded me while I was
“The haunting specter of the smoke of a thousand villages in the morning sun has burned within my heart”, David Livingstone once wrote in his journal. A while ago I had an experience like that. I sat in a small plane over Isaan. I looked out of the window, and enjoyed the view. Green paddy fields stretched out in irregular patterns. The darker green of trees provided a beautiful contrast.
Then dusk set in. Nature disappeared. The faint white lights shining from houses became an undertone to the bright orange light of street lanterns. As it got darker, more and more lights
Paul as church planter 19
“Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said...” Acts 17:22
In Thessalonica a fairly large church came into existence within three months. After that Paul had to flee because the Jews organised a mob against him. After that he planted a church in nearby Berea, but he had to flee from there as well. Then he went by boat to Athens. After a short time he was invited to speak to the Athenians on the Areopagus. This was the center of Athes where all important public discussions were held.
The church mainly grows through social networks, most of all through relatives. The reason for that is that most people only start to take the Gospel seriously when they see
Paul as church planter 18
‘And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures’, Acts 17:2.
After Paul was released in Philippi and was asked to leave the city, he walked the 150 kilometers to Thessalonica. There he spoke in the synagogues and ‘reasoned with tem from the Scriptures’.
Paul had a deep conviction: God speaks to us through his Word. In every place he went he fearlessly entered the synagogue. He dialogued about what the Old Testament teaches about the Messiah, and explained how these promises were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
However much resistance Paul encountered, he did not
I’m in the Birmese church in Khon Kaen again. The number of members is always changing. Because of the bad labour conditions, people are leaving all the time. And quite regularly, new people are coming to the Lord. Right now, we have about twenty people in the church.
Building up leadership is a challenge with a shifting population. For me it is hard to contribute much. None of the Birmese Christians can speak English or Thai, so often
Paul as church planter 17
“And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house”, Actss 16:32.
Paul continues his journey through the area of what is now Turkey, but was then largely a Greek-speaking environment. He wanted to proclaim the Gospel in some provinces, but the Holy Spirit led him elsewhere. Finally, after having walked another 800 kilometers, he arrived in Troas on the coast. There he received a vision in which he was called to cross the see to Macedonia. In this way his missionary work in Europe started.
Philippi was the first city in Europe where Paul preached. The reception was not much different from Asia, and
Paul as church planter 16
“So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily”, Acts 16:5.
Paul was visiting the churches he planted earlier. What he saw made him glad. The churches were growing, both in quality (strengthened in the faith) and quality (in numbers).
These are two things a church planter wants to see. It is a danger to be focused on reaching new people so much, that you are not giving enough attention to building up the existing members in the faith. It is no less a danger to be so busy teaching the believers that there is little evangelism going on.
Personally I tend to make the first mistake. I have a strong