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Observing and Learning in Thailand by Chloe Gossett

Within 24 hours of landing in Thailand, I attended a Lahu Christian church with Tui and his family. At the end of the service, I was introduced to the congregation and my internship with Upland Holistic Development Project was explained. After the service, a few people greeted me and said hello or welcome—when most people had already left, one woman made eye contact with me from across the room. I could see the hardships she had overcome in her many years, but she smiled at me and slowly made her way towards me. When she reached me, she held my hands in both of hers and looked at me very sincerely in the eyes. She spoke to me in Lahu and said, “thank you very much.” Of course, my eyes filled with tears—who am I to be thanked by this gracious woman? I couldn’t understand what she said to me, had not yet done anything to serve her community, nor did I feel deserving of her gratitude. Yet there she was—she smiled, squeezed my hands, and made her way out of the church. I had quite a few experiences like this in the coming weeks—there was never a shortage of gratitude and positivity, even when I felt undeserving of it. 

Being the “outsider” in a community is hard—I had never experienced truly feeling so different from every single person around me ever before. I could only really communicate with a few people, I looked different, and I didn’t fully understand their culture. Because of this, I quickly learned to be very observant. I noticed the generosity and love motivating everyone—it seemed nearly every small task was to help out someone else. I saw the love of Christ in these people and that brought me familiarity and comfort in a foreign and uncomfortable place. I saw a place full of life from the multitude of plants to the many critters under every leaf. And from all this, I realized that even though we may eat different food and speak different languages, we aren’t really all that different on the inside.

My job at UHDP was to conduct a bird survey, which also required me to be perceptive and attentive. I loved getting to learn about the biodiversity around me and experience the incredible abundance of life supported in the Thai forests. The luscious rainy-season habitat provided a home for everything from lizards, birds, and elephants to fruits, fungi, and algae. I treasured picking fresh fruit off the trees in my front yard to eat with nearly every meal and learning about Trichoderma fungi as a pesticide. My time in Thailand was challenging and full of growth. I am humbled to have served and learned from everyone at UHDP and so grateful for the experiences it gave me.

at Wednesday, August 15, 2018
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A Word of Gratitude from our friend Bunsak Thongdi (Tui), Director of The Upland Holistic Development Project

The Vision of the Upland Holistic Development Project (UHDP) is to help hill tribe people in the golden triangle area of Southeast Asia rise above serious threats and increase their capacity to respond to their challenges. UHDP seeks to provide an appropriate Christian response related to rural development among marginalized people by emphasizing four core areas: environmental restoration, economic empowerment, spiritual renewal, and human rights. Currently, we partner with 38 hill tribe villages in northern Thailand, a church group in Myanmar who is working with 300 Karen Baptist churches for holistic development, and we have started a work in northern Laos for ethnic minorities.

Here is one personal story from a Palaung woman with whom we are working now: 

My name is Mrs. Baan Mokngern. I am 58-years old and living with my niece. I separated from my husband many years ago. I am Paulaung, from the Pang Dang Kok village. I don’t have Thai citizenship but registered for a legal document so I can live here without being arrested. Sometimes I work as a day laborer, but most of the time people don’t hire me because I am old. I have no roles in my village. 

About eight months ago, I started partnering with UHDP. I assisted in the building of a family water tank. Before that my family did not have enough clean water because we had just small containers to store rainwater or collect deep well water. Having a family water tank helps us have more water and I can collect rainwater as well. I also use the water to grow vegetable in my backyard. Sometimes the staff of UHDP provides training for us. I know that they are Christians but I am a Buddhist.  I have no problem with them. Time to time, I also help with the activities in the village such as cleaning, planting trees, sometimes cooking while having a meeting. I have no problem with my neighbors or people in the village. I want to see people love each other.

Water is still a big problem in my village during the dry season, so I want to make sure we have enough water. This is my dream. Please pray for us to have good rain and for other solutions to our water problem.

UHDP would like to thank Second Baptist Church for your support and good partnership to strengthen the ministry here in Thailand, as well as with marginalized peoples in Myanmar, Laos and other countries of the golden triangle region. May God bless you all 

at Friday, August 10, 2018
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There are so many things to pay attention to this month. 

Some of you are fitting in final summer 2018 outings or trips, even as teachers, students and parents are running new-school-year errands. The church leans into this rhythm too. Children’s classes are promoting. SERVE Sunday is happening. New Community Groups are emerging, and a new contemporary worship service is starting. All just in this month. It’s a busy time, full of so many good things. In the midst of them, there’s one thing, in particular, I’d like to make sure you make time to do:

Offer gratitude. Specifically, to Mike, Debbie and the Lassiter family. 

Sunday, August 26, (appropriately, SERVE Sunday) will be Mike Lassiter’s final Sunday as our Associate Pastor of Missions and Community Care. Mike has served as one of our pastors for 29 years – the first 20 as our Youth and Family Minister. The imprint of Mike’s life and ministry is deep and wide, less like a stamp and more like a river that continues to flow through all the lives he’s touched as he and Debbie have given their lives for the sake of Christ and others through Second Baptist Church. 

They will never fully know or understand the breadth and depth of how their lives have impacted others here – that’s how ministry works. However, you can do something to help them know and understand. You can tell them. You can pull them aside and share your love through a warm hug and thoughtful affirmations. You can mail or email notes of encouragement. (There are note cards available at the welcome desk.) You can offer a gift to symbolize your love and appreciation. I do hope you’ll take time this month to bless Mike and Debbie by letting them know how much they have blessed you. 

As a pastor, Mike has blessed us in so many ways – shaping the lives of students, nurturing mission partnerships, offering compassionate pastoral care, crafting community fostering events, organizing Wednesday meals and serving in countless other seldom seen ways behind the scenes. Though, mostly, when I think of Mike, I think of how he ministers to me personally when I’m with him.

Mike is gracious, kind, warm-hearted, sensitive, and pastoral. Mike knows how to be in the moment. He knows how to be present to you and with you in ways that help you become more present to God and the moment too. God continues to use Mike to minister to me personally and to challenge me pastorally in this beautiful gospel work we get to do. I am grateful to God for Mike and his life and ministry among us.

Thank you, Mike. We know you don’t like the spotlight on you. We know you’d rather slip out quietly. This is part of what we love about you. However, this month this is one wish from you we’re choosing to ignore. Mike, this month we’re celebrating you – whether you like it or not. 

With love and gratitude,
Jason Edwards
Senior Pastor

Posted by Jason Edwards at Monday, July 30, 2018
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