Feature

Points of Light

A short-term team teaches in Thailand

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“Where the Dannekers live, there are half a million people and only 12 churches,” says Pastor Steve Cutter of Fairlawn Community Church. “Comparing that to our city of Williamsport [Pa.], which has 45,000 residents, it would be equal to having only one church with 50 Christians for the entire city—and everyone else lost in the dark!”

Pastor Cutter was among seven people who traveled to the Mahachai area of Thailand in August to minister with Alliance international workers Ed and Sue Danneker and the Mahapawn Living Water Church. The idea of sending a team to Thailand was conceived when the Dannekers spoke at Fairlawn’s Missions Conference in May 2011.

According to the Dannekers, many Thai desire to learn English, the global language of business. In 2015, the countries of Southeast Asia will open their borders to each other to facilitate trade and travel. People proficient in the English language will be at a great advantage in this new business environment.

The Dannekers, Joel and Milcah Gerada (Alliance international workers from the Philippines) and their national colleagues decided to take advantage of having a team of native English speakers by hosting an English outreach at a local school. The school director enthusiastically extended an invitation for the outreach. “He said that when he was a child more than 40 years ago, an American missionary had taught him some English and told him about Jesus,” Sue wrote in her prayer letter. “He never became a Christian but was impressed with this worker. He said we would be free to share our faith and distribute Christian literature to all 500 students, grades 7–12. As far as he knew, there was only one Christian student at his school. What an open door!” 

The two-day camp began with a program filled with games and songs. The Fairlawn team performed a mime depicting the forgiveness available through Jesus, and then Pastor Sukprasan shared the gospel with more than 400 students.

Next, fun-filled “English through Action” classes began. The student body was divided into 11 groups. Every 25 minutes, the students rotated to a new teacher. The second day ended with a closing assembly, which included another gospel presentation by A.J. Griffin, one of the Fairlawn team members, translated by Ed. After explaining the steps to peace with God, A.J. gave the students and teachers an opportunity to pray to receive Jesus. Many heads were bowed.

Each student received a certificate of attendance featuring the school logo and the C&MA symbol. The international workers presented the school with a Thai-English Bible and a children’s Bible for the library, and each teacher and student received a copy of the New Testament and a JESUS film DVD. During the lunch that followed, one of the teachers invited the Dannekers and their national colleagues to return at Christmastime to explain the true meaning of the holiday to the students.

“We would not have been able to organize such an extensive English camp for the entire high school without the short-term team members, who made it possible for the teens and teachers to hear the good news, many for the first time,” wrote Sue.

The next Sunday, the Fairlawn team helped launch Living Water’s first service entirely in English. Most of the guests, including four expatriates and eight Thai, were not Christians. The team led worship and Pastor Cutter gave the message, challenging attendees to begin their “faith adventure” with Jesus. “It takes guts to follow Jesus,” he said, “because of the opposition any true disciple will face.” 

The trip made a lasting impression on the team members. One evening they stood with Ed atop the Baiyoke Sky Tower, the tallest building in Bangkok, and prayed for the city, which was spread out for miles in every direction. “I was moved for the millions of lost people and prayed for God to reveal Himself to them,” says teammate Ann Judd.

“I will always remember Ed standing on top of the tower, saying that his heart’s deepest desire is that one day there are as many Thai Christians as there are lights in the city, to shine their light in the darkness,” says Liz Griffin, A.J.’s mother, who was also on the trip. “If it is in God’s plan, I will go back to Thailand. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever.”

A prayer walk through a Bangkok neighborhood was especially meaningful. While Pastor Sukprasan and Ed shared the gospel with several people, including two teens, the short-term team members prayed for the message to be received with open hearts. Being significantly younger than the other team members, A.J. was able to connect with the Thai youths in ways that his teammates couldn’t. Later, the Dannekers followed up with those who had expressed interest in hearing more. “A few days after we had arrived back in Pennsylvania, we received word from the Dannekers that multiple people with whom we had [interacted] had just prayed with them to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior,” says A.J., who is studying to be a youth minister and Christian counselor. “And that, I believe, is what made the whole trip worthwhile.”

Participating in short-term ministry was a powerful reminder to the team of the urgency of missions. “It connected us to the reality of the need for the Light of the world in the Buddhist culture, where spirits and demonic powers have established a strong presence and are woven into the DNA of the Thai culture,” says Pastor Cutter. “I was heartbroken for their bondage and so appreciative of our Alliance efforts to push back that darkness and establish points of light there. Our international workers, the Thai pastors and their churches need our support and intercession!”

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