It is always a delight to begin a new round of orientation for Christian Volunteers in Thailand. Each new volunteer is different and sees things differently. So, even if the orientation program is the same for all, the fruit that comes from it is different. Each person gives me a new perspective of Thailand – its treasures and its people. Thus, it is always a joy to greet new volunteers. This week, I took our two new volunteers to the headquarters of our partner church, the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT). This church is not affiliated with the Church of Christ in the USA in any way. I have explained the origin of the Church of Christ in Thailand in this way: Protestant missionaries arrived in Thailand in the early 1800’s. Each brought their own version of Christianity, depending upon the denomination they represented. By 1934, the Thai Protestant Christian population was so confused by the various denominations represented that they formed their own Thai Ecumenical Protestant Church which was an amalgam of all the Protestant groups working in Thailand at that time. Because the Presbyterian presence was so strong then, the polity (government) of the church is mostly Presbyterian. But the Christian practice of the CCT is a living, breathing thing that moves left, right, high or low depending upon who is elected to the offices of the church. I love it that the national headquarters in Bangkok are clearly visible from a distance due to the huge cross on the top of the building.
Our new volunteers, Ed Benner (77) and Ben Ewert (36) went with me to the CCT headquarters to be formally introduced to the officers of the church. Because so many groups were there and so many meetings were scheduled, we had barely 15 minutes with the officers, but it was an honor and a privilege to have that time with them. I introduced Ed and Ben to the four officers. I then explained that Ed would be working at Charoenrasdr School in Prae in Northern Thailand and Ben would be working at Sajja Pittaya School, one of our small schools in Bangkok. Many questions were asked about their families, their travel to Thailand, and so on. Dr. Boonrat emphasized to our volunteers that the officers would like to have the volunteers stay for a long, long time. We concluded this time with the officers in the traditional way: having an official photograph taken that will appear in the next issue of Kao Krischak, the official magazine of the national church.
The next day, we went to visit the Jim Thompson House. Tucked away on a little soi (lane) near the National Stadium elevated train stop, it is a wonderful oasis in the busy, bustling city of Bangkok. Jim Thompson is credited with taking the cottage industry of Thai silk and turning it into a world renown export business. The name Jim Thompson is synonymous with quality, originality and fashion. But, beyond the silk industry, the man himself was a preserver of Thai antiquity. His home is constructed entirely of teak, following ancient practices of design and materials. Inside his home, rooms are filled with his vast art and artifact collection. The mystery surrounding his disappearance in 1967 has never been resolved. While I did not enter the actual house this time, I did capture some photos of the tranquility of the grounds – a koi pond by the restaurant surrounded by tall green plants and shaded from the harsh equatorial sun. It was a blessing just to stop and rest and reflect for a time on the life of this man who was such a champion of the Thai people and their handiwork. Comments made by our new volunteers when they emerged from the house made similar observations of respect, awe, and admiration for this man.