Heed the Call

In 2010, 13 people from Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church (PSPC) heeded God’s call to reach out to the people of Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand. This is our story.

During the previous mission trip to Chiang Rai in 2009, the team established contact with Pastor Michael Johnson, founder of Baan Athitaan Church and the Northern Thailand Impact Ministry (NTIM). During the first meeting, he highlighted several areas in which PSPC could help out NTIM. Thus, in the middle of 2010, Justin YC Lee assembled a team to go back to Chiang Rai and assist the NTIM in their outreach programme.

Preparation for the trip started soon after, with team members attending the Kairos missions training course in during the August/September period and the EP Missions Conference shortly later. Through the course, we learnt about various facets of missions and were equipped with valuable practical skills which would serve us well in Thailand.

We also established a network of prayer partners who would keep us in prayer and offer support in various ways before and during the trip. Closer to the departure date, we prepared several items to be put up during NTIM’s outreach activities.

The Team

The team departed Singapore on 13 December. After a 4 hour layover in Bangkok, we arrived in Chiang Rai that evening at 9pm and checked into our accommodation. The real work began the next day.

Early the next morning, we were whisked off to Baan Oon Rak Orphanage in Mae Chan. While the children of the orphanage were away at school, we were tasked with painting several murals. Though many of us were not artistically inclined, we all put in our best effort and the murals came out pretty good.

When the children came home from school, Shawn led the team and some of the team members in a time of games. Later that evening, we celebrated Christmas with the orphans. Ek Ping whipped up a storm in the kitchen with corn soup, hamburgers and hot dogs. The staff from NTIM also joined us for the party and everyone had a good time fellowshipping and enjoying the dinner.

Day 3 was spent in preparation for the English Fun Day. For this event, we were basically going to a school in Chiang Rai to teach the students English using a Christmas theme and at the same time introduce them to the origins of Christmas. We did this through the introduction of the person of Jesus Christ, a presentation of some common Christmas decorations and the teaching of a couple of popular Christmas carols.

The programme was carried out the next day at Sahasat School. Almost 120 Grade 7 (Sec 1) students spent half a day with us, learning about Christmas and English through games, song and craft. That evening, the team fellowshipped with the NTIM staff over Moo Katah, a Thai-style table barbecue. It was a great time for the staff to get to know the team and vice versa.

Grace Language School (GLS) is an English language school set up by NTIM and BAC and is used as an inroad to reach out to the Thai people through the teaching of English. During the festive period, the school shuts down for a few weeks to give the staff a break as well as enable renovation works to be carried out. Thus, we were tasked with repainting the classrooms. With the help of the GLS staff, we managed to repaint 7 classrooms in a day and a half.

18 December was a very important day for the church. For the past 4 years, it has held a massive Christmas outreach annually, attracting more than 600 members of the nearby community each time. This year, we were involved with the programme. A performing team consisting of Kara, Esther, Thaddaeus, Christopher and Rebecca had prepared to deliver a mime item during the concert portion of the event. The rest of us were assigned to man the various game and food booths at the carnival section.

Unfortunately, in her excitement to perform, Esther accidentally ran into a glass door and suffered several cuts to her face and body. But thankfully, her injuries were superficial. However, due to the accident, the mime had to be cancelled. The team was slightly shaken but the incident but managed to carry on with the manning of the stalls for the evening.

That Sunday, the team headed to BAC early to interact with some of the Chinese students in BAC’s congregation. The task before us was to build a bridge between these PRC students and BAC. Grace and Ek Ping took the lead for this activity. Both spoke in Putonghua (普通). They explained about discovering God in Chinese characters (汉字中探寻上帝). With the help of some paper cuttings they also showed that there is eternal life (永生) with Christ and only death (死亡) if one does not have Christ as Lord and Saviour. The activity and interaction was appropriate closed with a prayer and a Putonghua gospel song (恩典之路).

We then attended the church’s regular Sunday service and had lunch there. In the afternoon, the team visited Elim Home which was the half-way house where the team from last year built a track for. The children of the home were excited to see the familiar faces of those who were there last year and made new friends with those who were new. We spent the afternoon there fellowshipping with them over song and games. That evening, the team gave the children a treat by bringing them out for Moo Katah. All of us really had a lot of fun that day.

On Monday, the team along with the NTIM staff proceeded on a 3 hour-long ride into the mountains of eastern Chiang Rai. We were headed to a Hmong village in the mountains called Huay Khu and were to put up a small Christmas outreach party for the villagers there. Using songs and games, the team told of the Christmas story to the many villagers who were gathered in the village’s small chapel. That night, the team spent the night camped out at the nearby campsite.

At 4.30am the next morning, the team made a short trek up to the peak of Pu Chi Faa and witnessed a majestic sunrise from what was probably the best vantage point in the region. With mission work done for the trip, the team spent the rest of the day at the home of a Singaporean friend who moved to Chiang Rai several years ago.

The next day, the team prepared to leave Chiang Rai for home. During the debriefing session with NTIM, the mime team presented a mime to the tune of “Thank You for Giving to the Lord” to thank them for their hospitality over the past week and a half. With hugs and handshakes, the team departed Chiang Rai that afternoon and arrived in Singapore early in the morning of the 23rd.

Personal Reflectons

This was the second time I joined a mission trip to Thailand so I had an inkling of what to expect. Compared to the previous trip, this one was definitely more packed in terms of the scheduling and we did more “direct” outreach work than last year.

During the debrief, there was something which Pastor Michael Johnson said that struck a chord within me. He said that although it is always wonderful to see the rewards of harvesting, we must remember that there is always a time of sowing. I guess that sowing was our main mission there. We helped to sow the seeds of the Gospel and NTIM and BAC are there to help reap the harvest. This is in line with something I learnt during the Kairos course. Mission work does not always necessarily mean going out in the field to directly minister to the people. Rather, it can also involve assisting those already in the field with day-to-day work so that they can concentrate on the ministering work.

I thoroughly enjoyed the work done during the trip and am looking forward to joining any subsequent trip back to Chiang Rai.

To find out more about NTIM and the work being done in Chiang Rai, please visit http://gontim.org/main/who-we-are/our-history/.

Author: Mark Chen