The Christian Volunteers in Thailand (CVT) Program is a specific, short-term ministry that is a partnership ministry between the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT). After more than 50 years of bringing volunteers to serve in ministry in Thailand, the CVT Program has successfully placed hundreds of volunteers in Thai Christian schools and supported them throughout their term of service. It does this by working in close partnership with the many ministries of the CCT and its leaders. The CVT Program staff works to bridge the chasm between the environment, customs and culture of the volunteers’ native countries and the environment, customs and culture of Thailand – translating each for improved mutual understanding and negotiating working relationship for strong partnership ministries.
The orientation of new Christian Volunteers in Thailand seeks to introduce Thai customs and culture to those who plan to stay in Thailand and serve in the Church of Christ in Thailand through one of its many ministries. It also seeks to build survival skills for those who have never been abroad or attempted to live in a culture vastly different from their own. Since research has shown that learners differ in their preferred learning styles and that classroom learning is not always the best approach, this orientation uses a variety of teaching methods and practical experience to accomplish its goals. We don’t just talk about it: We do it! By the conclusion of the program, the volunteers know who, what, when, where, why and how to do it themselves.
The Country of Thailand
The orientation of CVTs always includes a variety of activities that help new CVTs understand the history of Thailand, its monarchy, its current political climate, its climate, its food, its natural resources, its economic strengths, and important things to remember. This includes such things as:
- Religion (percentage of the population that is Buddhist, major beliefs in Buddhism, a visit to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha – appropriate dress, respect for those worshipping, appropriate behavior around Buddhist monks, the relationship between Christians and Buddhists in Thailand, religious freedom in Thailand, and so on)
- Monarchy and Politics (a brief history of the Chakri Dynasty, a visit to the Rattanakosin Museum, the royal family, the Thai lèse majesté law, the current political realities, a warning about social media, and so on)
- Imports and Exports (domination of Thai rice exports, sugar cane exports, fruits, gem stones, a visit to BH Jewelry, Thai silk, a visit to Anita Silk and Jim Thompson House, a visit to MBK Mall, Thai textiles, a visit to the Queen Sirikit Gallery, Bo Sang, Umbrella Village, Thai cotton, and so on.
Climate (an introduction to the seasons and how they differ in various parts of Thailand, temperature, humidity, appropriate dress, survival hints and so on.)
- Food (staples of the Thai diet, utensils used to eat Thai food, family-style service, an introduction to basic foods available, how to order food and beverages, specialty foods in various parts of Thailand, and so on)
- Transportation (an introduction to various modes of transportation, including the Bangkok Skytrain, taxis, river taxis, red songtaews, the State Railway, domestic airlines, etc., maps of Chiang Mai and Bangkok and how to use them, Thai money, ATMs and how to purchase tickets, and so on)
The Church of Christ in Thailand
Since every Christian Volunteer in Thailand (CVT) will serve in a ministry of the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT), it is important that all CVTs understand the history of Christian mission in Thailand, the establishment of the CCT, its structure, its offices, ministries and partnerships, current leadership, expectations of supervisors, co-workers and others affiliated with the CCT. This includes such things as:
- History of Christian Mission (the arrival of Roman Catholics, the arrival of Protestants, early mission work, the establishment of the Church of Christ in Thailand, indigenous leadership, ecumenical relations, a visit to the headquarters, a tour of the building and the history room, and so on.)
- Structure of the CCT (the structure of the CCT, the General Assembly, Constitution and By-Laws, ministries and CVT placement sites, a CCT school and hospital, and so on)
- Current Leadership (meeting the current leaders, photo opportunity with the officers, respecting CCT partnerships and MOUs, standards of ethical conduct, and so on.)
- Placement Sites (what they are, where they are located, what type of ministries sponsored by the CCT, placement site supervisors, resources of CVTs, personnel and telephone numbers, expectations of behavior, entering into the community, and so on.)
- Worship in CCT Churches (experiencing Sunday morning worship in English in Bangkok, Sunday morning worship in Thai outside of Bangkok, worship in three languages, International Churches, entering into the Christian community, expectations for worship and so on.)
Basic Language Skills
The orientation of new CVTs always includes 20 hours of basic Thai language. The focus of this learning is on helping the volunteers to adapt, survive and navigate through basic conversation. Normally, this is divided into five days of four-hour language study sessions given in the second week of orientation. The instructor is someone who has familiarity in working with foreigners and understands the difficulty foreigners have when first learning Thai. Since most CVTs will be placed in schools of the Education Ministry of the Church of Christ in Thailand, one day is devoted to classroom management vocabulary. This includes such things as:
- Introductions (how to greet Thai people, how to introduce oneself, how to ‘wai,’ how to show respect to others in conversation, respect for the elderly, and so on.)
- Shopping (Thai numbers, asking the price, bartering politely, giving money and receiving change, how to order food and beverages, drinking water, and 7-11 shopping, and so on.)
- Directions (Asking for directions, clarifying responses, giving directions, asking for assistance, asking for translation, and so on.)
Clothing (items of clothing, an introduction to colors, length and style, appropriateness for the occasion, colors of the days of the week, uniforms used in CCT schools, and so on)
- Classroom Management (instructions to use with students, such as sit, stand, get out your notebook, open your book to page, please listen, pay close attention, please sit quietly, come to the front of the classroom, and so on)
The CVT Program
Experience has demonstrated that volunteers with strong personal faith and spiritual disciplines, excellent interpersonal relationships in their placement sites, and close relationships with other volunteers serving in Thailand have greater resilience throughout their tenure in Thailand. CVT Program staff works to strengthen relationships among and
between themselves and the volunteers in the program, to introduce resources for faith development and spiritual practice, as well as to visit CVT placement sites for the purpose of orienting Placement Site Supervisors and Care Teams, and mediating challenges volunteers face in their assignments. During orientation, the CVTs learn such things as:
- Spiritual Growth (worship and devotional resources and practices, worship leadership, study of a variety of Christian authors and speakers, journaling, meditation and so on.)
- Team Building (small group discussions, team building exercises, paired dialog, reports and presentations, free time for interpersonal relationship development and activities, field trips, and structured interaction between new CVTs and Senior CVTs and so on.)
- Cross-Cultural Understanding (“Foreign to Familiar” by Sarah Lanier, “More Than a Native Speaker” by Don Snow, Cultural Case Studies and discussions, “Where I’m From” exercise, and presentations by a variety of Thai and foreign presenters and so on.)
- Managing Expectations (expectations of the Church of Christ in Thailand, of its schools and other ministries, Standards of Ethical Conduct discussion, social media, blogging and other “public” spaces, attendance at retreats and Sunday worship, and so on.)
The CVT Program compresses a wealth of knowledge of Thailand, its people, culture and religion, into barely 100 contact hours with new CVT volunteers. Every aspect of orientation, from the places that are visited, the wisdom that is shared, the time that is spent on each topic, the transportation that is used and the food that is eaten, is deliberately designed to teach those who are unfamiliar with Thailand about its fundamental beliefs, its way of life, its people and the various ministry environments of the CCT.