June 8, 2010

Warm Air, Warm Food, Warm Friends

                 Yesterday was the first full day of programming, so our team has been quite busy teaching, leading in worship, and engaging youth and adults in thinking about what it means to live in the Spirit. It is a privilege to be in the midst of lively conversations and probing questions.  The key question seems to be: "What is God doing in Thailand?" In a land where traditional faith is a daily "manipulation of spirits" thinking about the Spirit of God helps answer this question. In a land of sexual promiscuity and diminishment of women, what does the Spirit want to accomplish?  We will reflect together on these and seek wisdom for the living of these days.

                It is very warm here—even the ocean feels like a warm bath.  Usually we can count on a thunderstorm at some point during the day, a drenching rain that keeps vegetation lush and mosquitoes active. Day time temperatures exceed 100 degrees, so those of us not acclimated to this near-tropic location, Cha-am, Thailand, are paying attention to sunscreen and lots of water. The bugs find the visitors interesting, also.

                Thai food is more than warm—it is hot!  Peppers of various hues are the regular accompaniment of many dishes. You are given fair warning as you arrive at the Bangkok airport as posters of searing peppers meet you on the jetway.  If one is not already sweating from the weather, one only needs to sample some of these little gems! [I am doing research on a Thai form of chili that will surpass in firepower my "Make Your Bed in Sheol" variety usually served at Central.] Suffice it to say, the food agrees with me.

                Even warmer are the friendships forged over years of serving together across the country.  The parents are treasured colleagues, and the children find their extended family in these missionary families. There is an ease and trust as the Thai Baptist Missionary Fellowship goes about its business. Issues of doctrine or polity that might divide at home are seen as "adiaphora"—things of secondary importance—when seeking the welfare of the cities, towns, and villages where these faithful friends serve. They are involved in interfaith dialogue with Muslims, church planting with Karen in the hill country, leadership education among trafficked women, agricultural projects, and peace-making initiatives--just to mention a few of the significant missional pursuits transpiring in this land of spiritual need.

                I am extremely proud of the work Kate and Dave are doing as they lead the youth. Recognizing each by name already, they are lavishing attention on these "third culture" kids who wonder exactly where they fit in. John Gravley is doing his usual good work of making significant connections for Central in extending our mission. Thank you for your continuing prayers as we offer our lives for a brief time shoulder to shoulder with these warm friends whose ministry of reconciliation can be described as "making friends for Jesus sake" as TEV paraphrases 2 Cor. 5:18. They have joyfully included us as we share in this time of renewal.

    Molly T. Marshall, Ph. D.



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