Pastoral Trip - SE Asia
Pastoral Trip April 2014
The spiritual health and care of our partners in mission on the field are a priority at Cherrydale. We look forward to the cross-cultural workers that we support coming to visit our church when they are Stateside, but we also send Pastor Ed and Kathy Grudier out each year to visit several workers while they are on the field in the midst of their ministry and challenges. This year the Grudiers will be visiting three families in SE Asia. Please read their daily entries and pray for these cross-cultural workers and the people that they live among.
This last day of our trip before returning to Virginia we spent with the third family that Cherrydale is in partnership with in their work among the unreached. Rob and May have dedicated the last 30 years of their lives to living with Jesus and pursuing effective means of being a witness among some of the most resistant people in the 10/40 window. The unique niche that they are continuing to develop for the Kingdom of God is the area of business. Mentoring leadership couples who are fully committed to being witnesses for Christ and excellent in business within the 10/40 window takes about 50% of their time, travel and energy. The other 50% of their experience and gifting is spent training, casting the vision for doing missions differently and then developing and practicing new directions for the advance of the gospel through business. The words of Jesus kept coming to our minds as we heard story after story of advances in difficult places, "Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. They pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved." Matthew 9:17 Business in Missions needs new wineskins and Rob and May are on the cutting edge.
Today let's ask the Lord to bring His perfect knowledge and direction to Rob and May as they mentor leaders and develop 'new wineskins' in
the effort to see the nations reached with the love and power of the gospel.
In this part of the world relationships come with a different set of expectations and requirements. Getting to know those expectations and then altering personal patterns to fit into those can sometimes mean significant alterations. Randy and Martha have exhibited a gift in adapting culturally in order to really connect with people. Here, as anywhere, relationship building takes a lot of time. And governments don’t usually give visas so that foreigners can build relationships.
This means that one main challenge faced by those seeking to work among the UPGs of the world is finding a viable way to get a visa that will allow them to stay in the country. Randy is entering his third business venture since arriving in 2000. We went today to visit Randy's office and heard about some of the challenges and opportunities: ever changing laws governing visas and/or businesses, finding reliable and trustworthy employees, navigating a complex maze of cultural ways of conducting business - many of which come into conflict with our faith, developing a good business model/plan, finding suitable funding for a start-up business, etc. Both in their relationships and business efforts you can imagine all the ways they need us as their church family to pray for them.
Today pray for perseverance, hope in the Lord, divine appointments with people at all levels of society, joy in adaptation, and encouragement that runs deeper than circumstances in this land.
Thank you to everyone who has been praying for Ed’s recovery. He is doing so much better and is able to participate fully again. The heat
is very draining, but we are adapting and so grateful for your prayers.
Every parent spends significant energy thinking about and managing their children's educational needs and environment. Today we would like to share with you a little about the wonderful provision of the Lord for many cross-cultural worker families through International Schools. In key locations throughout the world God's people have grasped the need for quality education as an important piece of the whole picture for the health and longevity of cross-cultural workers. In Chaing Mai, Thailand we visited Grace International School, where two of the Cochran children attended and where Rhonda taught special needs children for 2 years. The campus which houses K-12 classes is beautiful and staffed with teachers from all over. Some teachers, administrators, and staff commit to just one year, while others have been involved for decades. The International School that Randy and Martha's children attend in City P is also in a lovely setting with a campus that has K-12 with classrooms, a chapel and cafeteria right down on the beach, and wonderful outdoor spaces for the children to play and exercise. These schools are continually recruiting teachers, administrators, dorm parents, and other support staff. Have you ever considered that this could be a way you could serve overseas for a year or two as a single, a family, or retired couple?
Pray today for the network of International Schools that serve an important function in the overall picture of reaching the nations for Christ. Ask the Lord to bring qualified, willing teachers to serve and to make these schools beacons of light and love for worker families and the communities they are in.
The country we are in this week is a complex one spiritually, ethnically, and politically. It is comprised of three main people groups, which adhere to various religions: Islam (the dominant religion), Chinese religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, and a small but growing Christian population (though not among the majority people group). We traveled today to an area outside of the city passing through rice fields and palm tree (for palm oil) plantations. The countryside was beautiful, but this area and its people are resistant to an extreme degree. In their minds there is no option besides Islam. The majority people group has a population of about 13 million people with only 100-200 followers of Christ. Randy and Martha and their team are committed to a holistic approach to ministry by speaking the language well, seeking to understand the culture and its complexities, and sharing both the message of hope and their lives with the people.
Today let’s pray for the neighbors, local merchants, restaurant workers, auto mechanics, and friends that Randy and Martha encounter regularly that their hearts would be opened to the Good News of Jesus. Let's pray that all the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus that we celebrated yesterday will come in power in this place and bring life and blessing.
Happy Easter Cherrydale Family! And Easter greetings come to you from the church here in P city (see the picture of the International Church). Ed has been sick since yesterday so he missed the Easter morning service and instead stayed home to sleep after taking a few home remedies that Randy and Martha find effective. Please pray for Ed's recovery. The early afternoon was spent in preparation for the afternoon and evening Easter celebration with Randy and Martha's ministry team. Their team consists of 10 adults and 8 children. R & M's daughter, Rachel, made a lovely 'empty tomb' cake for the crowd to enjoy and their son, Joel, helped set up the outdoor space with a canopy and tables for the food. We had a few extra people join in so there were actually 12 children plus some extra adults. Once the families arrived we enjoyed a wonderful Easter feast and fellowship together. Holidays can be especially lonely for overseas workers so it was a special privilege to be with this team of workers to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Praise the Lord with us for the joy of walking in both the reality of the cross and the resurrection.
Pray also for Randy and Martha and their team to pursue every opening to share the hope of Christ who lives within them with the Muslim people group that they live among and seek to serve.
Today was a day of preparation for Easter. More on that tomorrow. We were also adjusting to the second country on our trip which means -- different food, different dress, different culture. Our travel day yesterday went smoothly and the thunderstorm last night brought a fresh scent to the air. First on the agenda for Martha and Kathy was the weekly meeting of the women on Randy and Martha's ministry team. We traveled about one hour to the meeting and spent time sharing, praying and discussing 1 Corinthians chapter 1. The challenges of living, raising children, learning the local language, trying not to be anxious for sick relatives back in the States, dealing with a potentially caustic neighborhood situation and travel issues were all topics we prayed through. With these women Martha has varied shepherding responsibilities for which she needs daily help and direction from the Lord.
Please pray today for wisdom, love, insight, and grace for Martha as she cares for these teammates and leads them to the Lord Jesus as their source of strength and rest. Pray that each woman will walk by faith and put her whole trust in our faithful and true God so that her light may shine in this dry and needy land.
Here are a few impressions as we leave Chaing Mai, Thailand.
- Green and lush, tropical, hot.
- Calm, polite, unhurried.
- Buddha, temples, rituals, many rituals, seeking.
- Great care with flowers, food, people.
- Rich history, modern growth, tentative about the future.
- Needy for the truth, redemption, and love of Christ.
Pray today for the Lord's abundant grace to flood in through every open door here and to transform lives and communities with His power that the whole world will know that our God reigns.
"The best part of my job is evaluating user community needs, then determining when the timing is right as God orchestrates resourcing, ideas coming from different sectors, new technologies, etc., moving the ideas into the development of the product, promoting it, and coming through with a product that is truly useful for getting language development products like dictionaries and translations into the hands of the people we serve." Mike is the Director of Language Technology Development for all of SIL. His office here in Thailand is a part a larger linguistic work that specifically serves minority people groups in Asia. Mike and his group of colleagues are all computer experts dealing with software, or dealing with complicated scripts, or various IT issues. Each one uses his gifts in the incredible vision of getting translations into the hands of the people who have previously had no access in their own language. We have a renewed appreciation for all the workers who are unsung heroes doing these critical jobs. Please pray for the 11 men that Mike directly works with here in Thailand as well as the workers in the other four software development locations across the globe that he is responsible for supervising.
Ask the Lord to give them unity of mind, clarity of purpose, wisdom in choosing projects, and perseverance in seeing the projects through to completion.
History brings a perspective that can ignite both thanksgiving and grief at the same time. Today we went into the city of Chaing Mai and took a historical look at this nation, its people and its religion.
Our tour guide, Noot, who is a neighbor of Mike and Rhonda and is a Thai Christian who grew up with a devout Buddhist Father shared great insights with us. She took us to some of the most significant temples and to a museum that was located in the part of the city where the first foreigners settled about 160 years ago. She also helped us unravel the complex nature of the Buddhism that exists in Thailand with its very intricate system of symbolism and meaning attached to all they do. Each structure, each ritual at the temples is in place to help humans in their search for enlightenment. While we were riding in a horse drawn carriage to see a 700 year old temple we asked Noot, “If there is something you could share with the church in America, what message would it be?” She said, “I wish they could see how lost our people are and how hard they are searching for truth and goodness.
They spend so much effort seeking to reach heaven, but they are deceived. I would ask Christians in America to consider how much effort they are putting forward, since they live in the truth of the gospel, to give out the light and the love of Christ to those like the Thai people who are in darkness.”
As you think about her words today, pray for the Lord to send laborers into the harvest and empower His children here (only about .5 % of the Thai are evangelical Christian) to share their lives in such a way that many will realize the deception they live under and turn to Christ alone in their search for heaven.
Mike and Rhonda have been members of SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) for 18 years now. They are enjoying their fifth year in Thailand. We will highlight Mike's job in a few days after we visit his offices, but today we would like to share some of the ways that Rhonda is serving the Lord and the worker community. Rhonda recently took on a new role which is turning out to be bigger than described or imagined. She is the Children's Education Coordinator for the five countries of the SE Asia region for SIL workers. The Lord has given her rich experiences raising her four boys, teaching special needs children, and meeting various member care needs in the worker community. Her current responsibilities provide many opportunities to minister to children and their families by actively working to see that their educational and personal needs are correctly addressed and attended to. Talk about the need for daily wisdom and insight!
Please pray for Rhonda to let the love of Christ flow through her to each child she works with and for the Father to clearly direct the advice and decisions made in each unique case.
Arriving in Thailand during the hottest month of the year, and during the annual Songkran Festival has some advantages. People are off of work and school so there is that unmistakable atmosphere of celebration. Crowds of people are everywhere and the sights and sounds of the culture are brilliantly displayed before us. Songkran Festival is most famous for the water-soaking events. We joined the crowd and drove around the moat to the city while people of all ages throw buckets of water on passing cars and walkers. This Thai New Year Festival has religious meaning as well as cultural significance.
People take the time to perform their annual rites of showing respect to their ancestors, and the act of throwing water on each other symbolizes the washing away of all the ‘bad’ of the previous year and becoming clean for the year ahead which brings good luck. Beyond all the water fights and fun in city mote, Songkran Festival is about worshiping Buddha. The people visit temples and pour water on the Buddha as well as on other people.
As you pray today, ask the Lord to open the eyes of the Thai people to the truth that only the Living God through Jesus Christ can wash away the ‘bad’ and bring wholeness and life.
We have about 24 hours of travel time before we meet up with the Cochrans in Chaing Mai. Please pray that we will achieve the right blend of sleep, reading, conversation, prayer, and exercise (on an airplane?? yes, we hope to prevent blood clots and stiff backs). We want to keep in the forefront of our minds and in the center of our hearts to glorify God at all times . . . thank you for praying for us.