2 Months at Chiang Mai BEC
We arrived alone at the BEC, but were quickly joined by Terry and Karen and a Burmese brother, Silas. We were made to feel very welcome, and soon invited out to dine at one of the BEC students houses. A lot of the preaching we are doing is involved with creating and sustaining good relationships with our contacts – many of them rely on their church communities for this sense of fellowship, which can be a barrier to their understanding and acceptance of the truth.
We had a fairly quiet start to the month; the number of students had unfortunately dropped off but this gave us plenty of time to acclimatise and focus on the few we had. Despite the low numbers, we began developing some good relationships with those who come to the BEC to learn about the Bible. We have been running the 40 lesson course with the the majority of the students, some with a heavier focus on improving their English. Many are from a Burmese and Christian background, and have expressed a desire to learn more about what the Bible says.
As the month progressed, we were joined by other fieldworkers: Tom (USA), Sam and Jordan (Australia). This means our Friday evening meals shared at the BEC were often very multicultural with representatives from Europe, America, Australia, Burma, Thailand attending. This lead to a good sense of fellowship and helped support our small community of contacts.
Late January we spent a good deal of time planning a visit to Mae Sot, where we spent the last week with Karen, Sam and Jordan. We traveled down on the bus then spent three days at a school for displaced children. These are children of Burmese immigrants who are looking for work elsewhere in Thailand. We did Bible stories, crafts, songs and games with the group of roughly 25 children, mostly through a translator. The children are a lovely group of affectionate, friendly children despite their difficult circumstances and we all got quite attached to them over the camp. The school has very little funding and has very few resources, so simple things such as the colouring pencils and paper we took were greatly appreciated, and they really enjoyed making things such as big drawings of rainbows during our Noah lesson or lion masks during our Daniel session.
We were able to donate some money to Pooneh, who runs the school, who bought all the children a new t-shirt and some trousers each. We were sad to say goodbye and really touched by their gifts of traditional Karen bags and skirts and the songs they sang us to say goodbye, including ‘Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart’ which was particularly moving. We hope to be able to find ways to stay in touch with and help Pooneh and the children whilst we are still in Thailand and once we go home. All of these things have continued sustaining the developing relationship we have with Pooneh and his staff – who were given a copy of the 40 lesson course.
Whilst in Mae Sot we also found a few minutes to visit the friendship bridge at the Thai-Myanmar (Burma) border crossing. This is the reason for the the many migrant schools in the Mae Sot area – a huge number of refugees and economic migrants cross the border out of Myanmar each year.
Back at the BEC
The end of the month was busy with moving home – the BEC building is being knocked down, so we had to move to a virtually identical house two doors down. This wasn’t too disruptive in terms of our contacts fortunately.
At the end of January, Terry and Karen left, followed shortly after by Sam and Jordan, leaving only Tom, Anna and me to man the BEC. Student numbers had increased almost as soon as our man-power was decreased, so a little frustrating, but we were kept busy. By mid-February, we had a fairly full timetable, with students arriving morning and afternoon 6 days a week. We were pleased to have some of our younger contacts invite their friends from the school they attend, showing that they value what we are teaching them here. So the second month has been a lot of teaching and learning together in lessons. Three students have now completed the 40 lesson course, so are starting to look for deeper study and understanding – and it is our hope they are thinking about baptism.
Our relationships have really started developing, especially with the younger students, and we were quite sad to tell them that we would be leaving them for a month to visit the BECs in Cambodia. So as I write, we’re in the BEC in Cambodia (Phnom Penh), and will shortly be taking the 5 hour bus journey down to the new Sihanoukville BEC, where we will join to support two Australian sisters. This seems like a similar set up to the Chiang Mai BEC, as it is fairly fresh, with no established ecclesia, not yet.
We ask for God bless the work we are called to do.
Simon and Anna James