While riding for three hours in the van from Bangkok to Saiyoke District in Kanchanaburi Province on March 20, the JIL team wondered what the day would be like. They had never met the members of the Baan Hang Phra Khun worship group or any of the people from the two churches and four cell groups who would be attending the ETS seminar that day. After having some problems finding the right location out in the countryside, the JIL team was very pleasantly surprised when they finally arrived.
As the JIL team got out of the van, they were greeted by 41 enthusiastic, smiling people. Some of them had arrived one day earlier to prepare the shelter for the seminar and slept outside during the night. Most of the people traveled 7-45 kilometers by motorbike to attend the seminar. A few people even came from as far away as Bangkok and Samut Sakorn. It didn’t take long for the JIL team to begin to enjoy getting to know these happy, friendly people.
Although the weather was very hot, everyone listened carefully to the presentations and gave their energy as they participated in the activities led by the JIL team. From 9:00 am until 5:00 pm the JIL team presented seven training modules that provided training in evangelism and how to welcome visitors into their churches and worship group. The local Christians are the most important people in bringing people into the church. Through various media and special events, JIL can give basic information to people about who Jesus is and what Christianity is about. But, it’s the local Christians who can make the personal connections and relationships with seekers. It’s because of these personal relationships with Christians that seekers will return to church, begin to feel part of the church group, and want to continue being involved in the church.
The JIL team used Module 1 to introduce themselves, the background and ministry of JIL, and the purpose of the ETS program. During Module 2 they learned why Christians evangelize. Because many people are shy about talking with others about Jesus, it’s important to consider what the Bible says about the reasons why we evangelize. Module 3 connects with Module 2. During this module the seminar participants came to understand how to choose the people they reach out to, because some people are more open and ready to hear the Gospel than others. In spite of the very hot weather during the middle of the day, all of the participants were happy to join in the activities during Module 4. This was when they heard five different strategies or recipes on how to share the Gospel.
Knowing how to share our faith with others isn’t enough. We also need to know how to make visitors to our churches feel welcome. Sometimes people visit a church for the first time and don’t feel like the church members are happy that they’re there. When that happens, they usually don’t come back. So, learning about hospitality and how to help visitors feel appreciated and welcome during Module 5 was very important for the Christians from Saiyoke District. Once again they practiced what they learned and did skits to show examples of good ways and bad ways to treat visitors. Everyone forgot about the hot weather as they enjoyed the very funny, but very helpful, skits.
In Module 6 the participants were able to learn about and to see many of the media that are produced by JIL. These media are very helpful in growing in faith and reaching out to non-believers with the Gospel. Everyone appreciated learning about so many good media and outreach materials that are available through JIL. As the activities came near the end, the JIL staff wanted to highlight the partnership that JIL likes to have with local Christians in churches, cell groups, and worship groups in many parts of Thailand. During Module 7 the participants heard about the ways in which they could actively join JIL in sharing the Gospel and bringing people into the churches. At the end of the module seventeen people agreed to become commissioned JIL volunteers. In the coming months and years these volunteers will work together with JIL staff to reach out to non-believers in their area, get them connected with other Christians, and encourage them to learn more through the BCC and other books and materials.
As the JIL team packed their equipment and materials into the van, they were sad to leave the wonderful new friends they had made. Everyone was smiling and felt very grateful for the ETS seminar. Many times the JIL staff hear comments like, “Thank you very much for coming.” “We had a great time.” “Please come back again soon and we’ll arrange a program for you for 2-3 days and invite many more people.” During the trip back to Bangkok the JIL team were very thankful to God for His blessing on their day in Saiyoke District. The JIL team were happy to know that they were leaving behind a group of Christians who were so very eager to share their faith and joy with others and that the group now had a much better understanding how to do that well.