An Amazing Artist

Lotus Madonna by Sawai

Lotus Madonna by Sawai

Ajarn Sawai Chinnawong came by my office today with some recent works of art.  We have been friends since he served as a judge for the Christian Volunteers in Thailand logo contest early last year.  This time, the works that took my breath away (I have already purchased some of his oil paintings.) were pen-and-ink drawings of such detail and beauty that the photographs (taken with my little Canon Power Shot) do not do them justice.  All have a Christian theme. So, with apologies for the poor photographs, let me share some of what I saw today. This beautiful Lotus Madonna (left) seems to glow.

Loaves and Fishes by Sawai

Loaves and Fishes by Sawai

For those of you who do not know Ajarn Sawai Chinnawong, he is a Thai Christian artist. He was the Paul T. Lauby Artist in Residence at Overseas Ministries Study Center in 2003-2004. His love for art began when he was a child in Thailand when he saw some old men painting on a Buddhist temple wall. He would watch them for hours each day. Sawai’s interest in art persisted into adulthood, and he studied art in a vocational school in Bangkok, Thailand. It was at this time that Sawai became a Christian. He says that a missionary was witnessing on the street one day, and soon after, he began to study the Bible every day after art class.

Holiness by Sawai

Holiness by Sawai

After completing his art studies, Sawai felt compelled to attend the McGilvary College of Theology at Payap University in Chiang Mai. He was deeply influenced by a series of lectures on the history of Christian Art given there in 1984 by artist and professor Nalini Jayasuriya. He began creating liturgical art while attending seminary, and designed the artwork for the chapel there. Today his art is appreciated in many places for its portrayal of Christian themes through a Thai graphic idiom that is inspired by Thai culture. Sawai’s artwork is published by the Tao Fong Shan Christian Centre of Hong Kong and by the Asian Christian Art Association of Indonesia.

Creation in Abstract by Sawai

Creation in Abstract by Sawai

Sawai Chinnawong’s work has been exhibited in Asia, Sweden and the United States, and he was one of five artists chosen for the Summer of 2007 exhibition “The Christian Story: Five Asian Artists Today,” held at the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) in New York City. The catalog for that exhibition, which includes reproductions and critical essays, is available from the Mobia Store. OMSC has also published an 80 page color monograph of Sawai’s drawings and paintings, with an appreciative critical essay by Dr. William Yoder. The book is available through the OMSC Bookstore.

Descending Dove by Sawai

Descending Dove by Sawai

Yes, he did bring some oil paintings along as well, but I could not take my eyes off of these pen-and-ink drawings. Each one has pictures hidden within the picture and a wealth of meaning that flows from his Christian faith. Once again, I asked him how soon the work on his website would be completed, so that his work could be displayed properly and those who were interested in purchasing some of his work could contact him. He assured me that work on the website continues and that, before the end of the year, everyone should be able to view his works and even make purchases online.  I am just a preacher.  How I wish my words were as eloquent as his art.  Amazing!

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My Mission Co-Worker

Ajarn Chonchineepan at Work

Ajarn Chonchineepan at Work

The Presbyterian Church (USA) talks a lot about mission co-workers but, when they do so, they are usually talking about their own missionaries who are serving overseas. The term ‘mission co-worker’ was adopted when the PC(USA) decided to abandon the old paternalistic style of mission endeavor in favor of a partnership approach – working with partner churches in other countries to share the good news of the gospel with those who have not heard. Yes, I am a mission co-worker, but I also have a mission co-worker who is my partner in ministry. Ajarn Chonchineepan Ajarayunkul is my mission co-worker. (‘Ajarn’ is an honorary title given to those who have a university education.) She is a Thai citizen who has a bachelor’s degree and has graduated from seminary.  She is married to a pastor who works at Payap University, the first Christian University to be established in Thailand. When I began work as Coordinator of Christian Volunteers in Thailand, I asked for a Thai staff person to work with me. I wanted a college-educated Thai person who was as fluent in English as I am in Thai (understanding about 80% of what goes on around me). I wanted someone who could help me understand the nuances of Thai customs and traditions, as well as someone who could help me communicate with all of the school administrators and other persons we might encounter as we worked to grow this program in Thailand. Ajarn Chonchineepan, or Tang as she is called by those who know her well, has been invaluable to this program. She has prevented me from making drastic errors, mostly by doing something very non-Thai like getting in my face and stopping me in my tracks when my German-American heritage threatens to derail communication and relationships in this decidedly non-German-non-American culture. She has spent hours describing Thai history, Thai traditions, Thai customs, Thai people and personalities.  On top of it all, she has a great sense of humor and shares her laughter with me and all of our volunteers. I don’t know where I would be at this point if she had not agreed to come and join me in this ministry.  I just thank God every day that she was available and willing to take on this challenge!

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Helpful Friends

Special Transportation in Bangkok

Special Transportation in Bangkok

While I was in Bangkok, I had an appointment to see the doctor at 9 AM. My doctor practices at Bangkok Christian Hospital, which is within walking distance of the Bangkok Christian Guest House. Unfortunately, the only way to cross Silom Road at rush hour is to climb the stairs to the BTS Skytrain platform, cross the street and come down on the other side. For someone with a knee recovering from a minor surgical procedure, this was not a good option. Taking a taxi is another option, but during the morning rush, all automobile traffic is directed away from the hospital and the taxi must go “around Robin Hood’s barn” to get to the hospital, through some of the worst traffic in Bangkok. While describing my dilemma to the staff at the Guest House, a staff member volunteered to take me on the back of his motorcycle. While I was not certain of this mode of transportation in Bangkok traffic, it was the best option available. It was not until we were halfway to the hospital that this staff member asked how often I had done this – ridden on the back of a motorcycle in Bangkok traffic. The answer: Never before this day! The photo was taken by an orderly when we arrived at the hospital – obviously with God’s blessing!

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Love Affair with a Mountain

Doi Suthep at Sunset

Doi Suthep at Sunset

For as long as I can remember (and even longer, I’m sure), the city of Chiang Mai has nestled in the shadows at the foot of Doi Suthep (doh-ee soo-taep). The sun always sets behind the mountain… and yet it is never quite finished. Daylight lingers into dusk long after the sun has disappeared over the top of the mountain until, at last, the sun finally sets in some far distant place. As it slides slowly into that place, the sun paints the skies with incredible colors. Now, as the rainy season approaches, those colors are muted and magnified into a wonderful spectrum of blues and purples and pinks – like a beautiful impressionist painting. And, from the place where I am now living, I can see it all.

Rain Clouds Gather Over the Mountain

Rain Clouds Gather Over the Mountain

During the rainy season, clouds billow into the sky like huge white puffy sails, shifting and changing constantly with the wandering winds. Sometimes, the clouds sit below the mountain top, obscuring the mountain, but not the peak (as in the first thumbnail below). Sometimes, the clouds gather over the mountains and turn the skies dark and gloomy in mid-afternoon. (I usually appreciate this, because my windows face west and the afternoon sun can be very, very hot.)

The Rain Lets Loose

The Rain Lets Loose

On this particular afternoon, I witnessed the clouds gathering and decided to watch for a time. It did not take long for the clouds to let loose their treasure-trove of rain – first on the mountain itself (left) and later on the city near the mountain (see second thumbnail), totally obscuring the mountain from view. Despite the power of that rainstorm in the distance, those of us on the east side of the river did not receive very much that day – just a gentle shower. And, after a time, the mountain re-appeared. A quiet, clear and yet still beautiful sunset followed (see thumbnail below).

The Heavens Open Over Doi Suthep

The Heavens Open Over Chiang Mai

But my favorite photo of the mountain that I have taken from my apartment this year is this one. This one reminds me of the Greek New Testament passage (Matthew 3:16) where God tears open the heavens and allows His glory to shine down on His beloved Son after Jesus was baptized by John. It was just a whisper of time and the image was gone, but somehow I was able to capture it on film. It remains my favorite photo of clouds… of the mountain… of God’s enduring glory.

More photos of the mountain (double-click to enlarge):

Low Clouds with the Mountain Behind

Low Clouds with the Mountain Behind

Rain Obscures the Moutain

Rain Obscures the Mountain

The End of the Day

A Look at the Mountain at the End of the Day

Doi Suthep in Late Afternoon

Doi Suthep Late Afternoon

Doi Suthep in the Morning

Doi Suthep in the Morning

Another Doi Suthep Photo

Another Doi Suthep Photo

Cloud Bank on the Mountain

Cloud Bank on the Mountain

The Mountain at Sunset

The Mountain at Sunset

More Clouds on the Mountain

More Clouds on the Mountain

On a Clear Day at Sunset

On a Clear Day at Sunset

 

More Rain Clouds

More Rain Clouds

 

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Settling In

Ed in the CVT House

Ed in the CVT House in Prae

With the end of orientation, it was time for our new volunteers to go to their schools, move into their new living quarters and  settle into their new duties at their schools.  I traveled with Ed by 12-passenger van to his school in Prae (about three hours south of Chiang Mai). The school has an old wooden house that was built for CVT volunteers many years ago and they cleaned it up for Ed to use. It is a two-story house with one room (living room, dining room and kitchen combined) down below and four rooms (bedroom, bathroom, all-purpose room and storage room) upstairs.  Only the bedroom is air-conditioned, but the school thoughtfully provided two fans to help move air in other parts of the house. They also provided a refrigerator, two burner propane cooktop, toaster, and electric hot-pot, along with dishes and silverware. A simple bed, two tables (one down, one up) and some chairs complete his home furnishings.

Teachers Ed and Udom at Charoenrasdr School

Teachers Ed and Udom at Charoenrasdr School

On Monday, we met with the other English teachers and the director of the school so that they could meet Ed and allow him to demonstrate the computer program that has helped him to teach English in other countries. After the demonstration, the teachers discussed how it might be used and made plans to incorporate Ed and his language learning software into their program. One of the teachers who was very helpful in this discussion was Teacher Udom, who is pictured here with Ed after the meeting.  Teacher Udom is the son of missionaries to Thailand who are still serving there. He grew up in Thailand and is bilingual and he has been very helpful to Ed during this settling-in period.

Teachers Ben and Jimmy at Sajja Pittaya School

Teachers Ben and Jimmy at Sajja Pittaya School

I then traveled to see Ben at his school in Bangkok. Ben had already survived a week of school by the time I arrived.  Since he does not have a teaching background, the school has decided to have him serve as a Teacher’s Aide for the first few weeks. This way, he can observe other more experienced teachers and learn from them. Teacher Jimmy, shown here with Ben, is one of the teachers that he will work with in the coming weeks. Ben has an apartment on campus – actually, on the top floor of a classroom building. His school is barely a block from a large shopping center and just over a block from the nearest BTS Skytrain station. Sajja Pittaya School is a historically Chinese-Thai School and is currently one of only two schools that teach all three languages (Chinese, Thai and English) to the students.  Ben is eager to play his guitar and has already been assigned a date to prepare morning devotions.

Director Prattana and her New Baby

Director Prattana and her New Baby

Director Prattana has been out on maternity leave for two months. Her daughter came to church with her today for the first time and I was able to snap a photo of the two of them after morning worship. I have been amazed at all that Director Prattana has been able to do in the short time that she has been Director of the school. Two years ago, the school built a new playground under roof for the children to enjoy – even in the hot season and the rainy season! Last year, every classroom was retrofitted with air-conditioning and the school received and installed a new security system. Bathrooms were also upgraded and repaired. This year, the entire school received a fresh coat of paint – and what a difference all this has made!! Also, the teachers were relocated into a new spacious office that is also air-conditioned. A new computer lab was completed over the summer and is now ready for use. I can hardly wait to see what Director Prattana and her board of directors will do this year!

More Photos (double-click to enlarge):

CVT House Bedroom in Prae

CVT House Bedroom in Prae

CVT House Kitchen in Prae

CVT House Kitchen in Prae

Sajja Pittaya School Building

Sajja Pittaya School Building

Sajja Pittaya Playground

Sajja Pittaya School’s New Playground

 

Students Waiting for Extracurricular Activities

Students Waiting for Extracurricular Activities

 

 

 

 

Teacher Encouraging Students to Do Well

Teacher Encouraging Students to Do Well

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Homestay in Heaven

First Church of Fang in Worship

Congregation of First Church of Fang in Worship

The highlight of orientation for our volunteers is a three-day homestay in Fang in the far north of Thailand. This comes after two weeks of orientation to Thailand, Thai food, Thai customs and culture, and at least 20 hours of basic Thai language. The Fang homestay experience always begins with worship on Sunday morning. Our CVT volunteers join the congregation (see thumbnail below) in a traditional Christian worship service during which they are introduced to the congregation. This congregation has offered this homestay experience to our volunteers on four different occasions.  The church sees it as a ministry to new missionaries and our volunteers see it as a valuable learning experience of Thai family life and culture.

Ben and an Admirer

CVT Volunteer Ben and an Admirer

After worship and a wonderful noon meal with the congregation, our volunteers met their homestay families (see thumbnail below) and were taken to their homes.  The afternoon was spent getting to know the families.  Then, we gathered in the evening for a great feast of smoked and roasted meats, fish, mixed vegetables and rice. All of it was cooked (see thumbnails below) as we sat on the family porch overlooking the fish pond, talking about life in Thailand and its unique quirks. Ben, one of our volunteers, found a guitar to play and a ready audience in the three little dogs that were running around looking for those who would stop to pet them. When the food was ready, we dug in and ate. The young people of the church ate and then went inside to sing songs, talk about life in Christ and play games together.

Ed, Ben and New Friends in Fang After Bible Study

Ed, Ben and New Friends in Fang After Bible Study

The next day was a holiday for most Thai people. Ed and Ben spent the day with their host families: Ben helping to paint the remodeled home of the teachers he was living with and Ed working in the nursery and flower shop of his host family.  Acharn Chonchineepan and I had a rare day off, so we went to the beauty salon of one of the church members. There we indulged in a manicure, pedicure and facial massage. Acharn Chonchineepan also had her hair done while I spent time reading a new book on the Kindle Fire that my son gave me for Christmas. That evening after dinner, Ed and Ben joined members of the church at a Bible study in the home of one of the members.

Acharn Chonchineepan at the Petroleum Museum

Acharn Chonchineepan at the Petroleum Museum

The next day was packed with interesting stuff! We began by going to the Fang Petroleum Museum. I did not even know that Thailand had petroleum, but the very first oil field was discovered in Fang back in the 1950’s. At this time, there are 59 productive wells in the Northern (Fang) District and there is a little museum that tells the story of how it was discovered and how petroleum is refined and used in Thailand. There are, of course, many more oil fields in Thailand and the most productive fields are in the center of the country.

Ed Wandering Through the Hinoka House

CVT Volunteer Ed Wandering Through the Hinoka House

From the petroleum museum, we went to the Hinoka House, a grand home built by the owner of Thailand’s most successful cedar oil business. We learned that cedar oil is extracted from cedar imported from Laos. It sells for 80,000 THB per liter (about $2,500 a quart) and is used in the production of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. The entire Hinoka House is built of cedar and teak and is fit for royalty. I counted three bedrooms and three bathrooms, a living room, dining room (with cedar bar), and other multipurpose rooms. While Laos has halted the export of cedar, the owner of the Hinoka House has been given an exemption and he continues to import cedar and extract the oil. In addition, the House itself has spawned a new business. People want to purchase furniture made of cedar and mattresses and pillows with cedar shavings inside. I bought the smallest pillow I could find and the smell of the cedar shavings is still so strong that I doubt I could sleep on it all night.

All of Us in Front of the Geyser

All of Us in Front of the Geyser

After a wonderful lunch at a restaurant on the main street in Fang, we drove out of town and into the rural areas. We entered a National Park where there are hot springs that bubble up through the rocks. Some of the pools of water are too hot to touch, but we went to a place where we could boil eggs in the water.  Once we put our eggs in the water, we sat down nearby to watch a geyser.  Every 25 minutes, this geyser makes an appearance and sends a stream of boiling water straight up into the air.  It was a spectacular show. After about 20 minutes, we rescued our eggs from the nearby hot spring and had a great snack of hard boiled eggs and soy sauce.

Pastor Sawan, Sharon, Ben and Ed at Fang Church

Pastor Sawan, Sharon, Ben and Ed at Fang Church

We returned to Fang and were hosted for dinner at another member’s house.  It was, again, a fabulous spread with chicken curry, fried vegetables, and local favorites with rice. When we crawled into bed that night, we were exhausted. But the next morning, we were up with the sun and met together at the church at 9 AM to say farewell to our host families and travel back to Chiang Mai. On the trip home, we discussed the experience and how it might be improved.  Once again, despite their initial reservations, our CVT volunteers agreed that it was a great experience and that they would recommend it for future CVTs.

More photos (double-click to enlarge):

Sunday Worship in Fang

Sunday Worship in Fang

Homestay Hosts and CVTs

Homestay Hosts and CVTs

Dinner in Fang

Dinner in Fang with a Host Family

Cooking Meat for Dinner

Cooking Meat for Dinner

Ben at Bible Study

Ben at Bible Study

Ed Shooting Photos

Ed Shooting Photos

Lots of Help in the Kitchen

Lots of Help in the Kitchen

At the Petroleum Museum

At the Petroleum Museum

Old and New Sanctuaries

Old and New Sanctuaries

The Main Geyser

The Main Geyser at the National Park

Mr. Makoo and Ed

Mr. Makoo and Ed

Tang and Pink Tree

Tang and Pink Tree

The Show Begins

The Big Geyser Show Begins

Tree of Bees

Tree of Bees at the National Park

Hinoka House Bedroom

Hinoka House Bedroom

Hinoka House Reception

Hinoka House Reception

A Dinner in Fang

A Dinner in Fang

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Shade Created from Nature

Creating the Handle for the New Umbrella

Creating the Handle for an Umbrella

One of the places that I like to take our new volunteers to see is the Umbrella Village in Bo Sang, outside of Chiang Mai. It is a place where craftsmen have continued the fine tradition of making umbrellas from natural organic materials. Everything used in the creation of these beautiful umbrellas comes from nature, beginning with the handles that are carved from the branches of trees.  It is a rather primitive lathe, but if the craftsman is skilled, he can produce a beautiful product to be used in the new umbrellas.  While he is creating the handle, the women sitting beside him are creating the framework for the umbrella itself (see thumbnail below) and threading the frame together (see thumbnail below).  Again, everything is made from natural wood and wood products and there is very little waste, for what is not used in an umbrella can be used for fuel in the wood-burning stoves of the village.

Making Paper for Umbrellas

Making Paper for Umbrellas

One fascinating part of the process is watching one of the women make the paper that is later glued to the frame of the umbrella.  This paper comes in all colors, with dyes made from natural products. On this particular day, the color was a deep wine color.  The woman was drawing paper fibers from the water with a screen.  Many layers are drawn from the water and then allowed to dry in the sun to make a sturdy paper that is then glued to the frame of the umbrella. It did disturb me that she did not seem happy in her work, though she gave me permission to take her picture.  Of course, she does this every day, all day long, for tourists to see and I can imagine that it is boring work.  The woman who was gluing the paper to the umbrella frame (See thumbnail below) and the ones who were cutting the paper to fit the frame (See thumbnails below), were much happier and more talkative.  Some actually looked up and smiled when I took their pictures.

Umbrellaed Motorcycle Vendor

Umbrella-ed Motorcycle Vendor

After the umbrellas look complete, there are still two more steps: covering the post that is at the top of the umbrella with black paper (see thumbnail below) and painting the umbrellas in designs that are attractive to tourists or others who might use them (see thumbnail below).  Paper umbrellas are widely used year-round in Thailand for they are attractive, light-weight, and give shelter from both sun and rain. As you might imagine, tiny little paper umbrellas are used in fancy cocktails in major hotels around the world.  Small umbrellas are used by school children going to and from school. Regular umbrellas are used by men and women (more women than men, as is true around the world, I think) for shelter from the elements. Large paper umbrellas are used on patios and in businesses by hotels, street vendors, and this man, selling drinks from his motorcycle. Having seen the umbrellas being made, it has made me much more aware of how many uses they have in this culture.  (By the way, if you look in the thumbnails below, you will also see that hats can be painted by these talented umbrella artists, who will also paint purses and cellphones, if asked.  Ben had a dragon painted on his hat as we toured this facility!)

More photos (double-click to enlarge):

Making the Frame

Making the Frame

Threading the Frame

Threading Frame

Gluing the Paper to the Frame

Gluing the Paper to the Umbrella Frame

 

 

 

 

 

Cutting the Paper to Fit the Frame

Cutting the Paper to Fit the Frame

Covering the Post

Covering the Post

Painting a Patio Umbrella

Painting a Patio Umbrella

Hats Can Also Be Painted

Hats Can Also Be Painted

Selling the Final Product

Selling the Final Product

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Ministry to Diverse Peoples

Senior Pastor and Preacher Share the Pulpit

Senior Pastor and Preacher Share the Pulpit Equally

One of the very first things that our new Christian volunteers experience during orientation is worship at Sapan Luang Church in Bangkok.  From my first visit to this church several years ago, I have been amazed at the church’s ability to reach out to diverse peoples to share the good news of the gospel.  That magic was re-created for our new volunteers when they went to worship at Sapan Luang Church during this orientation.  At Sapan Luang Church, which is an historically Chinese church in Bangkok, everything is communicated in three languages: Chinese, Thai and English. Chinese and Thai are spoken from the pulpit and lectern, while headsets provide English translation for visitors. Both lectern and pulpit have two microphones and two people are given equal time and equal status to communicate the word of God to the congregation.  On some Sundays (like this one), the primary speaker used the Thai language, while the Senior Pastor translated into Chinese.  I have also seen the reverse done on other Sundays.

The Choir - with Lyrics Provided in Two Languages

The Choir – with Lyrics Provided in Two Languages for the Congregation

To provide even more of a sense of the true Pentecost experience, all hymns are sung in Chinese, Thai and English simultaneously. Hymnals in all three languages are provided to worshipers when they arrive for worship and, when the time comes to sing, everyone sings the great hymns of the church in their own language. Sapan Luang also has a great choir that sings every Sunday (and provides a marvelous performance of Handel’s “Messiah” each year at Christmastime, if you are in town). The lyrics of the choral piece are provided in multiple languages on a hidden screen that magically appears in time for the anthem.  It allows everyone who is worshiping to understand the glory of the words, as well as the music, provided by the choir.

Young Missionaries from Sapan Luang Church

Young Missionaries from Sapan Luang Church

We were privileged to be a part of the congregation on the Sunday that they welcomed some of their missionaries home for an annual conference – a time of learning, retreat and renewal. Some of these missionaries are serving and planting new churches in Thailand.  Others are in neighboring countries and some as far away as Taiwan and the USA.  Sapan Luang has many daughter churches.  What a treat it was for us to see that the church’s mission work continues and carries on the fine tradition begun by the original missionaries!  After worship, we were invited to share the noon meal and break bread with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We returned to our guest house refreshed and renewed by an uplifting service of worship and a new circle of Christian friends who have promised to pray for our volunteers as they begin their work here in Thailand.

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Only Beach Photos

A Beach Photo

A Beach Photo

Fishermen at Work

Fishermen at Work

Waves at Dawn

Waves at Dawn

Sunrise on the Beach

Sunrise on the Beach

A Morning Cloud

A Morning Cloud

Sunset on the Beach

Sunset on the Beach

Nong Khae Beach

Nong Khae Beach

Nong Khae Beach Again

Nong Khae Beach Again

Dolphin Bay

Dolphin Bay

Kanom Beach

Kanom Beach in the Rain

Southern Beach

Southern Beach

 

 

Sandbars

Sandbars

Beach Farewell

Beach Farewell

 

 

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Through Someone Else’s Eyes

The CCT Headquarters as Seen from an Elevated Train Stop

The CCT Headquarters as Seen from an Elevated Train Stop

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.

The Officers of the CCT with Ed (left) and Ben (right) and Me

The Officers of the CCT with Ed (left) and Ben (right)

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.

One of the Koi Ponds at the Jim Thompson House

One of the Koi Ponds at the Jim Thompson House

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.

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