Wow! It has been almost two weeks without Internet access and I feel as though I went through major withdrawal from my life support system! God continues to teach me patience as I learn that my need to access certain things to facilitate my work is not the same as the schedule others have prepared to install those things in my home. CAT finally installed Internet Access and a wireless router at the house and I can now get online whenever I desire (if the system is working). It will take me some time to get caught up with my blogging, but it WILL happen!
When we were in Bangkok, the primary purpose of the trip was to meet with the staff at the main office of the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT). I spent two days working in the office and had the chance to get to know a few people better than I had known them previously. Obviously, you have already been introduced to Mike Fucella who, as the Director of Ecumenical Relations, is the primary person who communicates with the mission partners of the CCT. While the Presbyterian Church (USA) heads the list, there are several other mission partners who contribute resources and mission personnel to help the CCT engage in a variety of ministries in every corner of this country.
Three other incredible people in the office of the CCT include Kuhn Panida, Kuhn Waraporn, and Kuhn Galaya. These lovely ladies deal with passport and visa issues, financial issues, and insure the smooth operation of a variety of CCT entities by working with their boards of directors. My lifeline – at the moment – is Kuhn Waraporn because she is the “go-to” person for visa matters and I need to convert my 90-day non-immigrant visa to a long-term religious affairs visa before the end of this month. (My current visa expires on July 2nd.) To do that, I need to leave the country and re-enter with the new visa that she has obtained for me. I will be making a trip to Penang in two weeks for that purpose.
Every day at the CCT begins with morning worship at 8:30 AM. Most of the time, folks gather in the chapel on the third floor to sing hymns, pray, listen to a passage from scripture and hear a brief proclamation of the Word prepared by a member of the staff. I have been pleasantly surprised by the strong lay leadership within the church. Elders and deacons, as well other members of the church, regularly proclaim the Word, read scripture and lead prayer.
When entering the building, which houses several of the ministries of the CCT as well as some related organizations such as the Union Language School, there are three elevators that take you up to the third floor where the Office of Ecumenical Relations resides. Here, you will be greeted by a receptionist, who always seems to be surrounded by stacks of incoming or outgoing mail. Kuhn Thuhm still manages to share a smile with every person she greets and direct them to the appropriate office.
Sitting at a desk in “cubicle-land” for two days, I also enjoyed sharing air with other members of the CCT staff – some of whom worked in the main office all day and others who came and went as their duties took them to other parts of the organization. Some of my questions required research that was done online by members of the staff. By the end of the day, we had shared some laughs about the ease of access (or not) to some statistics that might help the churches in the USA better understand the work of the CCT. Together, we will work to continually improve how we tell the story of the many ministries of the CCT.
Finally, there is one person in the CCT Office of Ecumenical Relations who has been a lifeline to so many mission co-workers (both active and retired) through the years. Harold Gross is a “fixture” at the CCT. He publishes a newsletter that keeps the mission community informed of the comings and goings of other mission personnel and their work. Included in that publication are snippets of the history of Christian activity in Thailand, brief explanations of political happenings in Thailand, and updates on CCT initiatives and personnel.
Other people at the CCT include: