Young Volunteers are an Important Part of Our Team

Our Lutheran Hour Ministries Thailand (LHMT) director and staff are very grateful for the work that so many volunteers do to assist us in our ministry activities.

One special group of volunteers is high school and university students who do special recordings for us.  During their school breaks they come to our studios and record Bible verses and special information spots that we use during our radio programs.  Listeners enjoy hearing their young voices and they provide variety during our broadcasts.

We thank God for these young people who are so generous with their time and who are very helpful to us.  Please pray that God will bless them and use them as His faithful servants.

New Eyeglasses Bring Joy to More Than 800 People

Below is a video showing the responses of some people who received new eyeglasses during our recent eyeglass clinic in northern Thailand.

LHMT is very grateful to the volunteer team from The Church at Creston – Lutheran in Creston, Montana for their partnership in the eyeglass clinic. In addition to providing all of the eyeglasses, the 9-member team provided assistance and some musical entertainment during the clinic.

The eyeglass clinic was an outreach project that Lutheran Hour Ministsries Thailand (LHMT) did in cooperation with Pastor Sompong Hanpradit and members of his Gennesaret Church in Nongkhai Province.  None of the 813 people were Christians.  Virtually all of them are Buddhists.  For most of them this was the first time that they had ever personally talked with a Westerner and the first time that they had heard any presentation of the Gospel.  You will notice their Buddhist beliefs being expressed in the comments that they make in the video.

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For a number of people, the first thing they read using their new glasses was a pocket edition of Luther’s Small Catechism in the Thai language, a free gift to everyone from The Lutheran Heritage Foundation.

Some of the people who received eyeglasses asked to begin receiving the encouraging Gospel text messages on their mobile phones and others have contacted LHMT for more Christian materials.  LHMT is working with Pastor Sompong to do follow-up visits with a number of people in the coming weeks.

Please pray for the Holy Spirit to open the minds and soften the hearts of those who participated in the eyeglass clinic, so that they will begin to understand who Jesus is and what He has done for them.

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Creston Team in Thailand – Days 10-13

Today started early as the Lutheran Hour Ministries Thailand (LHMT) team and the Creston team loaded everything into the 2 vans and started their 90-minute trip to the Udon Thani airport.  In addition to checking in at the airport by 10:00 a.m. the teams planned to stop at a market where they could buy some souvenirs and Thai-style clothing.  All of the Creston team members found good bargains on beautiful clothing that will be good memories of their time serving in Thailand.

After arriving back at TK Palace Hotel in Bangkok in the middle of the afternoon, the team had free time.  Some took advantage of the time to catch up on some much needed rest.  A few of the team members walked to the Into Light Center to help with the afternoon English classes.  It was great to see them continue to have energy and interest in doing ministry activities in addition to those on the schedule.

DAY 11

The Creston team during worship

The Creston team during worship

Creston team with Concordia Into Light Lutheran Church members

Creston team with Concordia Into Light Lutheran Church members

The members of Concordia Into Light Lutheran Church enjoyed having the Creston team join them for worship this morning.  Vicar Kyle preached the sermon and shared an encouraging message about what his team learned about serving during their time in Thailand.  During the lunch that was provided by the congregation following the worship, the Creston team had a chance to talk personally with some of the church members and to share some of their experiences at the eyeglass clinic and schools in Nong Khai Province during the previous week.

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At 4:00 p.m. the LHMT director and her husband met the Creston team at their hotel to take them to the Siam Niramit culture show.  The evening began with an opportunity to feed 2 elephants and several team members took a short ride on one of the elephants.  After walking through an area designed to give visitors an idea of what life is like in traditional villages in the different regions of Thailand, they sat down to an extensive international buffet.

After the dinner and a short program of Thai traditional dancing outside, the team joined several thousand other visitors in viewing the 80-minute cultural program in a large auditorium.  All of the team members appreciated the high quality of the program that demonstrated many cultural aspects of Thai society and gave a brief review of Thailand’s history.  As the team arrive back at TK Palace Hotel about 10:30 p.m. they were tired, but excited about all that they had seen and learned during the culture program and all that they had experienced during their time in northern Thailand.

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DAY 12

From mid-morning until early afternoon the Creston team had an opportunity to do some final shopping for souvenirs and gifts to carry back to their family and friends in Montana.  The shopping mall they visited is filled with small shops that mostly carry handicrafts, clothing and other items made in Thailand and that reflect Thai culture.

During the afternoon the team members rested and began the process of packing their suitcases in preparation for their trip back to Montana.

At the end of the farewell dinner

At the end of the farewell dinner

At 6:00 p.m. the Creston team and LHMT team met together at the LHM Thailand building to share in a farewell dinner.  During the meal and the conversations it was easy to see the close bond that has developed between the Thai hosts and their visitors from the United States.  In spite of some language barriers they enjoyed lots of laughs together and even shed some tears together as they expressed their appreciation for each other and the love that has grown between them.  Many fond memories were shared from the time the Creston team arrived in Bangkok, through their time in Nong Khai Province, until this final activity together.

The connection of Christian love and the personal relationships that God had blessed them with were very evident throughout the evening and saying goodbye was very difficult.  As the Creston team and LHMT team looked back on the ministry activities of the previous 2 weeks, it was easy to identify many ways in which the Lord had blessed their time together, had used them to be a blessing to the people in Nong Khai and had worked through them to proclaim God’s love.  Many of them also expressed how they had been blessed, how much they had learned and how much their faith had been strengthened through their time of service in Thailand.  Everyone was unanimous in their agreement that they hoped they would have a chance to see each other again someday.

 

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DAY 13

At the Bangkok airport

At the Bangkok airport

As the vans were packed at 6:00 a.m. for the trip to the Bangkok airport, it was easy to see that they were bulging, but surprising that none of them was over the weight limit of 50 pounds.  Everything went smoothly as the Creston team checked in and received their boarding passes.  All of the LHMT team members were there to say their final farewells and to receive hugs from their new friends from Montana.  Many laughs and humorous antics were mixed with the sadness of separation as the Creston team disappeared from sight.

As our Creston friends endure the long, tiring trip back to their homes, our prayers go with them.  We very much appreciate their time in Thailand and thank God for all that He accomplished through them.  We look forward to seeing how God will use the connections that were made through the eyeglass clinic and school visits in the future.  We already have received contacts from students and adults in Nong Khai with some asking to study the Bible Correspondence Course and to receive additional Gospel tracts and booklets.

We pray for God’s blessing on the Creston team and on their pastor and fellow members at The Church at Creston – Lutheran, as they continue to serve God there.

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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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Creston Team in Thailand – Days 5, 6 and 7

Opening ceremony for the eyeglass clinic.

Opening ceremony for the eyeglass clinic.

DAYS 5-6

The 30-minute ride in the vans from the hotel in Phon Pisai to the sub-district office in Fao Rai District early in the morning was a pleasant way to start the day.  The scenery along the rural roads was relaxing and interesting.  It was a very nice change from the traffic congestion in Bangkok.The plan was for 150 people to come to the eyeglass clinic each morning and afternoon to have their eyes tested and to receive a free pair of new glasses.  Three teams helped conduct the eyeglass clinic.  One team was a group of 5 people from an optical company in Kanchanaburi Province. They have helped with a number of eyeglass clinics in the past and brought their computer equipment for checking the eyes and determining each person’s exact prescription.

The second team was the 9 members of the Creston team.  They assisted the Kanchanaburi team at each station and ensured that the people moved smoothly from one station to the next.   Two of them helped with the entertainment.

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Wang Luang Sub-district, Mrs. Maliwan Ponrat

The director and 4 LHMT staff formed the third team.  They led songs and did some very simple activities with the people who were waiting to get their eyes checked.  Because the people enjoyed the singing and activities so much, the time passed quickly for them.  The sub-district staff told us that they received many comments about how the people enjoyed the entertainment and meeting the Creston and LHMT team members and how excited they were to receive their new glasses.  Some people said that they had not laughed so much for a very long time.

Through the first 2 days we managed to process 50 people every hour, so that we were able to provide examinations and glasses for 300 people each day.  Mr. Siam from the LHMT team made sure that everyone got registered quickly and moved to the first station smoothly.  It was very rewarding for us to see the big smiles on their faces as they put on their new glasses and saw things clearly again.LHMT staff member Mr. Tak did an excellent job of leading the singing and other activities.  Vicar Kyle Winter and Luke Cosgrove from the Creston team assisted him and led additional songs, as did Mr. Waan from the LHMT team.  They included several Christian songs and short Gospel messages.  Pastor Sompong prayed at the beginning of the eyeglass clinic each morning and shared the Gospel.

Monday evening there was a night market that set up just outside our hotel.  The Creston team members enjoyed walking through the market and finding things that they could eat for dinner.  Although they saw lots of things they had never seen before, they were able to find enough familiar food for their dinners.

The second night after the eyeglass clinic the Creston team and LHMT team found a good noodle shop not far from the hotel.  Some of the team members had been hoping to have noodles for several days, so they were very happy to find this shop.  The food was excellent and everyone agreed that they would like to eat there again this week.

 

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DAY 7

Laughing together helps build relationships

Laughing together helps build relationships

The third day of the eyeglass clinic was somewhat different from the first 2 days.  Since only 200 people were scheduled for this day, it was decided that the teams would continue working until all 200 people had been served, even though they would have to work through their normal lunch hour.As usual, the people arrived early and a large crowd had gathered before the 9:00 a.m. start time.  Everything went smoothly again and all 200 people had received their glasses by 1:30 p.m.  A total of 808 people had had their eyes professionally examined, had received a pair of new eyeglasses, had taken home Gospel CDs, booklets and Catechisms and had heard the Gospel through songs and testimonies.  Everyone who came to receive glasses and the sub-district staff had met Pastor Sompong and his wife and had learned about Gennesaret Church.  From every perspective the eyeglass clinic was considered to be a great success.We are very grateful to the Creston team for traveling so far to participate in this project and for providing the funds to cover the cost of the the glasses, the lunches, travel and lodging expenses for the Kanchanaburi team and for the LHMT team.  We thank the Lutheran Heritage Foundation for donating 800 Catechisms and the sub-district leaders for their support.  Most of all, we thank God for his great blessings on this project.

Now the Creston team and the LHMT team will turn their attention to the program they’ll be doing at 2 local schools the next 2 days.

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Creston Team in Thailand – Days 3 and 4

Visiting the deepest part of the Mekong River

Visiting the deepest part of the Mekong River

DAY 3

Today was mainly a travel day for the Creston team. As they were checking out of the TK Palace Hotel, Boom and Dennis met them in the lobby. After a short trip to the old airport in Bangkok they boarded a domestic flight to the town of Udon Thani in northeastern Thailand. The 55-minute flight went smoothly and 2 vans plus the Lutheran Hour Ministries Thailand (LHMT) staff were waiting to pick them up at the airport.

Lunch in Udon Thani included the best Pad Thai noodle dish that most of the team members had ever eaten. Making the food even more special was the relaxing garden atmosphere of the small restaurant.

After a 90-minute drive, the vans arrived at the Racha Hotel in the town of Phon Pisai in Nong Khai Province, adjacent to the border with Laos. The team was immediately struck by the big difference between life in Bangkok and life in Phon Pisai. Everyone in this small town moved slowly and not many people or vehicles could be seen.

When the Creston team was settled in their hotel rooms they went with the LHMT team for a short tour of Phon Pisai. This small town has some significant temples, especially one along the Mekong River, which serves as the border with Laos. The variety of images and idols in the temple compound were a vivid reminder to the Creston team of the main reason they were here. Thai people need to hear the Good News about salvation through faith in Jesus.

A variety of local food was available at the simple restaurant where the teams went for dinner. It was a good chance for the Creston team to sample several different Thai dishes. Everyone seemed happy with the one they chose.

The day ended with a stop at a local grocery store which contained a very good variety of items and the Creston team was able to find drinks, snacks and food for breakfast that were familiar to them.

DAY 4

After eating breakfast in their rooms the Creston team and the LHMT team rode in the vans for about 30 minutes to Fao Rai sub-district. They arrived at Gennesaret Church in the middle of a very rural area. Pastor Sompong Hanpradit, a Lutheran pastor who is a member of the LHMT

Team members and church members taking picture together

Team members and church members posing for a group picture.

Advocacy Board, was there to greet them. After a short time the church members began to arrive for worship. In spite of the language barrier, the Creston team felt warmly welcomed.With Pastor Sompong interpreting, Vicar Kyle Winter from the Creston team gave the sermon based on the story in Mark chapter 1 about Jesus healing the mother-in-law of Peter. Vicar Kyle shared a good message about healing touches and healing words.

Although the congregation is very small and most of the people in that area are quite poor, the church members provided a delicious meal after the worship service. Several Creston team members said that this simple meal was their favorite meal since arriving in Thailand.

After lunch the teams visited the site of the Fao Rai Sub-District office, which is less than a mile from Gennesaret Church. This is where the eyeglass clinic will be held the next 3 days.

The vans then took the teams to a well-known temple, which is located next to the Mekong River at the deepest point in the river. It was easy to see that that place had special meaning to many Thai Buddhists and the teams were able to observe a number of people coming to pray there.

Before dinner the members of the LHMT team and the Creston team met together to pack the gift bags for the people who participated in the eyeglass clinic.  In the bags the teams placed a CD with a reading of the book of Genesis, a Christian music CD, a Gospel booklet and a soft cover pocket version of Luther’s Small Catechism.

The day ended with another visit to the same restaurant where the teams ate dinner Saturday evening. Worshiping with local Thai Christians, the beautiful scenery and wonderful weather made this a special day. But, everyone is eager to start the eyeglass clinic tomorrow.

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Vicar Kyle preaching with Pastor Sompong interpreting

Vicar Kyle preaching with Pastor Sompong interpreting

Creston team being introduced to Gennesaret Church members

Creston team being introduced to Gennesaret Church members

Creston team receiving welcome gifts from Gennesaret Church

Creston team receiving welcome gifts from Gennesaret Church

Eating delicious lunch provided by the church members

Eating delicious lunch provided by the church members

Church members relaxing after lunch

Church members relaxing after lunch

Enjoying some time along the Mekong River across from Laos

Enjoying some time along the Mekong River across from Laos

Taking a team picture in a beautiful setting

Taking a team picture in a beautiful setting

Filling the gift pack bags for the people participating in the eyeglass clinic

Filling the gift pack bags for the people participating in the eyeglass clinic

Team from Creston, Montana Arrives Thailand

The Creston team was met at the Bangkok airport by the LHMT director and staff.

The Creston team was met at the Bangkok airport by the LHMT director and staff.

A team of nine volunteers from The Church at Creston – Lutheran in Creston, Montana has come to Thailand to help Lutheran Hour Ministries Thailand (LHMT) conduct two outreach programs in northeastern Thailand.  The team will spend 13 days in Thailand.Team members include team leader VicarKyle Winter, Lynn Sundelius, Stacy Isch, Katie Marsonette, Linda Ertel, Joyce Wegner, Mark and Carol Schreibeis and Luke Comstock.During their two days in Bangkok they received orientation, dealt with jet lag and prepared for their trip to Nong Khai Province along the border with Laos.

DAY ONE

The Creston team’s first day in Bangkok was spent resting, meeting with the LHMT director and reviewing the plans for their week in Nong Khai.  Throughout the afternoon the team learned about the various ministry programs of LHMT, was briefed on Thai culture and learned how their ministry activities will enhance the work that LHMT is doing in cooperation with Pastor Sompong Hanpradit and Gennesaret Church in Nong Khai Province.  In the evening they had a good time talking with the LHMT team and eating a welcome dinner hosted by the LHMT director and staff.

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DAY TWO

The Creston team at the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

The Creston team at the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

On the second day they visited the Grand Palace in the morning.  Although the weather was hot and the palace grounds were very crowded with tourists, the team enjoyed the sparkling beauty of the brightly decorated buildings and learning more about Thai culture.In the evening some of the team members visited the English classes at Into Light Center.  In addition to talking with the two volunteer teachers they went into the classes and helped the students practice speaking English.  The Creston team heard about the ministry being done through the English classes, the many opportunities for sharing the Gospel with the students and the need for more volunteers to join the program.  After the rest of the Creston team returned to the hotel for the evening, the youngest team member, Luke, spent extra time practicing English with one of the teachers and several students.

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