Creston Team in Thailand – Days 8 and 9

DAY 8

IMG_4456With the eyeglass clinic completed the team of 9 volunteers from The Church at Creston – Lutheran turned its attention to doing programs at 2 schools.  Both of the schools are elementary schools in Fao Rai District in Nongkhai Province in northeastern Thailand.

On Day 8 the Creston team and Lutheran Hour Ministries Thailand (LHMT) director and staff visited a school with 196 students in grades 1-6.  The teams arrived just as the teachers and students were doing their daily flag raising ceremony, which included announcements for the day and their morning prayers to the Buddha.  One of the top schools in that area, Pracharat Bumrung School recently was selected to receive a special honor from the Thailand royal family.  Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya recently named the school as the one in Nongkhai Province that she will support through a special education project.  Only one school from each province was chosen for this program.  As a result of this honor, the school’s name was changed to Pieng Luang 13 School.  They started using the new name the same day of our visit.

The school focuses on helping students to understand and follow the Thai king’s philosophy of sufficiency living.  Through information and practical experience the school teaches the students how to raise chickens, pigs and fish and how to grow vegetables.  Not only does this prepare the children for helping their families, but it also provides some eggs and vegetables for the students through the school’s lunch program.

After spending an hour meeting and talking with the school director and staff, the Creston and LHMT teams divided into 3 groups and spent 2 hours interacting with the students.  Three Creston team members and 1 LHMT team member worked with grades 1 & 2, grades 3 & 4 and grades 5 & 6.  Singing, laughter and even some cheering could be heard from the various rooms as the visitors led the students in a variety of activities.  Although the children were somewhat shy at first, they soon relaxed as they experienced the warm smiles and friendly laughter of the strangers from Bangkok and the United States.

With great help from the LHMT team members the Creston team was able to communicate with the children.  For many of the students this was the first time that they had personal contact with a foreigner.  The children discovered that it could be fun to practice speaking English and they appreciated the encouragement and compliments they received.  The Creston team did a good job of choosing songs and activities that the students were able to do and of creating a positive atmosphere.

In the midst of the fun time that everyone was having, friendships were beginning to develop and the Gospel was shared with each group.  The love of Christ was very evident in the faces and actions of the visitors and was heard through the lyrics of some of the songs.  The Creston team explained the words and sign language that the children were taught for songs like “Jesus Loves Me” and “Peace Like a River.”  For most of the students this also was the first time that they had heard about Jesus.  Other songs and activities like dancing the Hokey Pokey or the Chicken Dance or teaching the children how to play “Duck, Duck, Goose” were great ways to simply have fun together in order to begin building relationships.

For the visitors and students alike, the 2 hours flew by quickly and soon it was time for lunch.  Some members of the Creston team commented that the lunch provided by the school was more like a banquet than a school lunch.  

After lunch the LHMT team, led by Mr. Tak and Mr. Waan, spent another 2 hours doing a special program for the students.  With the help of the Creston team, they led the students in singing more songs and participating in other fun activities.

At the end of the day all of the students were given gift bags from LHMT, which contained a Christian animation VCD, a pencil box, a notebook, a comic book about different Christian stories and Lesson 1 of the Children’s Bible Correspondence Course.  The children also received a copy of “A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories” donated by the Lutheran Heritage Foundation.

It was a tiring day for the Creston and LHMT teams, but everyone was happy about the time spent with the students, teachers and school director.  They also were happy to have dinner at their favorite little local restaurant that served great noodle dishes in addition to the usual rice dishes.

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DAY 9

IMG_4888The school for this day was Nong Wua Chum School.  There were only 99 students in the school with 5 teachers and it was obvious that this was a much poorer school.  The facilities were quite simple, but the students seemed very happy to be there.  After the flag raising ceremony, announcements and Buddhist prayers the visitors and students met together to begin the morning activities.  It was apparent very quickly that these students had a great amount of energy and enthusiasm.

The Creston team led the same songs and activities that they used at the other school and the morning passed by quickly.  After another wonderful lunch the LHMT led the afternoon program.  Just before the program began the LHMT team played a recording of a popular Thai song.  Immediately many of the students began dancing and singing with the music.  Their enthusiasm was quite contagious.

At the end of the day these students received the gift bags and children’s Bible story book.  The sub-district leader, who had coordinated the eyeglass clinic, visited both schools with the teams and appeared with a group of local residents.  She and the residents gave each of the Creston team members and LHMT team members a special gift of thanks.  The gifts were lengths of cloth that were woven locally called Pah Kao Ma.  Traditionally these are considered gifts of friendship.

When it was time to say goodbye, the children didn’t leave the school.  They all surrounded the various Creston team members to say goodbye and to have their pictures taken with them.  Everyone seemed sad for the day to end.  It took quite a long time to get all of the pictures, autographs and hugs, but no one was in a hurry.  The students kept asking if the team could come back again next week.  It was a very special ending to a good week.

Seeing the great reception and sad goodbyes was a vivid reminder of the purpose for the Creston team coming to Thailand.  They were able to provide an eyeglass clinic and school visits that could not have been done by Pastor Sompong and the local church members alone.  This week was a significant step forward for the local Christians in building relationships with sub-district government leaders and school teachers and directors.  These relationships will give them more opportunities to spend time with these people in the future and will open natural ways for them to share the Gospel.

LHMT also was able to build more relationships in Fao Rai and to deepen relationships with the sub-district leaders.  The schools and the government leaders all expressed a desire to have the LHMT team return to Fao Rai to conduct more programs in the future.  The head of the sub-district even announced to people attending the eyeglass clinic that they should carefully read the information that LHMT gave them in their gift packs, because it is very good and useful.

As the LHMT and Creston teams return to Bangkok they do so with joy in their hearts as they reflect on the various ways in which God used them during their week in Nongkhai.  His blessing on their activities and interactions with local people was very evident and they have the assurance that God will continue to work in the hearts and minds of their new friends in Nongkhai Province.

 

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