Here are some shots inside and outside our new house! Enjoy seeing God at work preparing a place for us to stay. Thanks for your ongoing prayers that it will be completed in a timely manner.
-Ric and Sharon
Ric and Sharon Bruce On a journey with you to Thailand
News flash to me: We’re moving in just a couple weeks. I’m hyperventilating as I think about it. Paper bag. Okay.
11 hours, 48 minutes. That’s the time, according to Google Maps, without potty breaks.* No potty breaks! No, we can have potty breaks but there will be no service plazas with Cinnabon and Starbucks. Just for “fun” I did some comparison travel times. That’s like moving from Lansing, Michigan to Boston, Massachusetts (driving through Canada). It takes 11 hours, 45 minutes to drive from Lansing to Montgomery, Alabama. If you’re headed west you’ll get to Lincoln, Nebraska in 11 hours and 45 minutes.
Let’s sum up: we’re about to make a really big change. I’m not even sure we’re aware of how big it will be and the profound impact it will have on our lives and ministry.
*not our exact ministry location
Embedded below and on YouTube you’ll find a video of a bus trip we took last week while on our way out to the village where we’ll be working. Hopefully it gives you a glimpse of what public transportation is like! Enjoy.
We took two trips to visit churches during the last few days of December. Both were very different experiences. Turtle Mountain Church is about 3 hours away up past Hot (pronounced with a high and falling tone) in the hills around Turtle Mountain Lake. This church needs encouragement. They’ve lost nearly 80% of their members just in the last year. We went up to visit them and just spent time talking with them and encouraging them in the Lord. They were blown away by the progress we’ve made in language in the year we haven’t seen them and we were blown away by how their congregation had shrunk (though we tried not to show it). Check out more pictures here.
Goat Village Church, on the other hand, saw 1,500 Lawa people gathered to fellowship, celebrate their history and to show their cultural pride. Rather than feel as though we needed to encourage these believers we ourselves felt blessed and honored to be there. It was fun to watch them act out their history including the arrival of missionaries from New Tribes Mission to tell their people the Good News about Jesus. I have created a folder of the 28 best pictures from the experience with extensive captions that tell an interesting story. Check them out here.
We’re back home in sunny Chiang Mai enjoying time with our friends, unpacking, fixing things that broke and getting settled in. Thank-you for your thoughts and prayers for safety as we traveled and as we continue to adjust back to the time, food and pace of life. We will spend next week just getting re-acquainted with things here: retraining our tongues how to speak, our minds how to think and our bodies how to act in this culture. Being back this time has reminded us what an adjustment it was the first time we came over and how far we’ve come. God bless you richly today. Thanks for keeping up with us right here. -Ric and Sharon
Tomorrow we head back to Thailand. We leave at 6:30 AM Monday and will be on a plane or in airports for about 30 hours. We’re heading back fully aware of what we’re getting ourselves into. We know how it will feel, we know what we will struggle with and we know God will go before us. We know many of you are praying and giving so we can do our job. Thank-you. We will update you again at wheels down.
Sharon and I went down to the consulate in Chicago on Friday of last week and then again yesterday to get our visas to Thailand. A visa is basically a just stamp in a passport that gives the holder permission to enter and live in a country for a specific period of time. The reason it’s important that we were able to get our 90 day non-immigrant visas to Thailand has to do with logistics on the ground. It saves us from having to make a trip outside of the country for a few days when we get to Thailand to come back in under a non-immigrant visa. We’re excited and thankful to have them and are looking forward to our trip in a few days.
This past weekend Sharon and I had the honor of doing the “missions moment” at Trinity Church. We had a lot of fun updating everyone about the Phu Thai work. We had five minutes in the service and reached 2,000+ people total in all three services. You can watch it for yourself on Vimeo. The actions starts at 22 minutes.
Our latest video shows some of the things we did with our Thai friends during this year’s traditional Thai New Year, Songkran.
Is Jesus just a religious idea? A philosophy? A good luck charm? Or is He a real person; a being who desires a relationship with mankind on a personal level? This question came up over and over on our trip to the Philippines. Though photos, images, amulets, posters, and statues of Jesus abounded we learned from the missionaries on the ground working in the Philippines that few people really know who Jesus is. It was certainly a shock going from Chiang Mai surrounded by the images of Buddhism to Manila surrounded by the images of Christianity… and on the other hand it wasn’t.
We met at least one family, however, for whom Jesus is more than an empty image. Kenneth Pablina and his family are obeying Jesus’ command to “go into all the world” and are trusting God to provide for their needs as they seek to serve Him in… Thailand! God is good. Kenneth and his family do not typically attend the church we attended on Palm Sunday in Manila but they were there this week. It was an incredible blessing to spend time getting to know his family and we are praying we will see them here in Chiang Mai soon.
Please join us in praying for the Pablina family and for fellow missionaries working in the Philippines. -Ric and Sharon
Pope has been my friend since the day I met him a year ago. When we first met he flung an arm around my waist, patted my stomach and told me I was fat. That’s true love. He’s always bursting with energy and bubbling with joy so I was shocked when I heard his life story last week. Here’s a rough translation from Thai:
“I grew up in Na Fon village, the youngest of my family. My parents were farmers. Dad only graduated third grade so Mom and Dad can’t read or write. Now Dad can read the Bible because God gave him the wisdom to do it. Mom still doesn’t read well. My family is Lawa and ever since I was a kid my parents planted rice.
I only graduated sixth grade. After sixth grade I became a monk to learn in another village but didn’t make it too far because I was already addicted to drugs. Everyone chased me out of the village because of my habits. I went home and things got worse. I huffed glue, gasoline, anything that would make me high. I drank. I overdosed a few times and had to go to rehab. I would see strange visions and felt like I had a fever all the time in rehab. After I got out of rehab I would go back home and get right back to it. I was crazy. I didn’t know what I was saying. I had problems and fights all the time. Sometimes people beat me up because when I drank I didn’t know myself. (more…)
Every night just before sunset I can be found out walking with the uncles and aunties in our neighborhood. During this time I build relationships, learn about Thai customs, listen to stories about the way things used to be and experience life with the “villagers” (people in our neighborhood). Last night Uncle Somboon rattled off John 3:16 in perfect Thai. I stared at him with my mouth open. Without pausing for a breath he went on to say he’d gone to a Christian school when he was a kid but he never understood why he was forced to memorize verses all the time. Who, he wondered, was God? Why did he have to send his son to die? What good would believing that do?
Ultimately, Uncle Somboon concluded, all religions teach the same principles. They provide social controls, keep people in line and prevent chaos. Insights like those Uncle Somboon provides here can help us present the gospel more clearly. We need to start at the beginning and patiently teach through the foundational elements first, building on a firm foundation of truth before presenting a truth nugget like John 3:16. If we fail to do this the meaning will be lost and presenting an unclear gospel will reinforce misconceptions and cement preconceived ideas.
This week’s photo essay was snapped as I at in the back of a tour van followed by the Google Streetview car doing rounds in Chiang Dao, Thailand. Many villagers wore open stares of surprise and curiosity as it passed by. Here’s my favorite shot:
This is a video we made for kids from our home church. It’s meant to present our work in a simple, easy to understand way.
This past weekend Sharon and I took a trip with some good friends of ours. The experience was basically this: we’d stop somewhere for five minutes, rush out of the car, furiously snap pictures and jump back in the tiny pickup truck to speed off at 100 miles an hour down the road. We left at 4:00 AM on a Friday, drove 7 hours to Ayutthaya, another couple hours to the heart of Bangkok, 3 hours to Pattaya and finally turned around 12 hours from our home here. The whole trip was 58 hours long. Embedded below (maybe) are a few of the pictures. Click here to see them on Picasa. There are dozens more on Facebook.