Keeping Up With The Joneses – September 2018
Being an active part of global missions is one of the most humbling and awesome adventures any person could imagine. Over the past eleven years here in Thailand, we have watched the Word of God work to bring about heart-changes in the lives of so many people here in the province of Surin. Seeing our local friends turn from a life of bowing before monks and stone idols to bowing before the Creator fills out hearts with joy and energizes us to push through the challenges of living abroad.
For more than two years now, our family has rented a small house in the rural district of Prasat in Surin province. After eight years of living in the developed provincial capital city, the move to Prasat has brought a unique set of challenges and changes that the Lord has used to broaden our perspective on missions and strengthen our family as we serve together here. So, grab a cup of coffee, put your phone on “silent” and spend a few minutes with me as we compare some of the differences between life in the “city” and life in the “country” in Thailand.
1) Interactions with foreigners is a novelty for Thai people in small towns.
Just recently, I went to a local meat store and picked up some bacon and bologna. No big deal, right? Well, I forgot that Courtney had told me that she planned to pick up the bacon and bologna, so she showed up at the same store about 30 minutes after I left. The workers immediately recognized her as the “white guy’s wife” and said, “Your husband was just here and bought some bacon” thus saving us from an unnecessary pork purchase.
Since there is only a small handful of foreign teachers and retirees here in Prasat district, the presence of our “tall-white-skinned-American family” stands in stark contrast to our Thai friends and neighbors. Even after two years here, people standing on the side of the road will stop and offer wide-eyed stares or yell out a funny greeting as we pass by on our way into town. We’ve been the recipients of this constant attention ever since we arrived in Thailand, but the novelty of a foreign family here in Prasat doesn’t seem to wear off. The flip-side for us is that we have endless opportunities to explain to people why we’re here, what we’re doing, and where our church is located. We truly do live in the proverbial fish bowl!
2) Living in a small Thai town requires a high level of cultural immersion for us.
Since Prasat doesn’t have a big shopping mall or McDonalds or Starbucks, our family spends more time in local markets and stores shopping for our supplies. A trip to the local market to buy some mangos and veggies for supper means that we will squeeze our way through the narrow market passages where little Thai grandmas sit with their buckets of frogs, turtles, eels and other critters for sale. (No, we don’t regularly eat amphibians, but we have bought cute turtles at the market just to take them home and release them in rice fields around our house.) This type of immersion lifestyle means that we are constantly pushed to communicate in Thai or the local Northern Khmer dialect. We’ve also watched as our kids’ language abilities have grown in leaps and bounds since moving to Prasat.
3) Small rural districts have virtually no Gospel presence.
In our district of 90,000 people, we know of two, maybe three, other groups that meet on Sundays. If you combine all our churches together, there would still be less than 120 Thai men and women worshipping the Creator God on any given Sunday morning in Prasat. Paul was burdened to preach in this type of spiritually barren area and said, “so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named….”
With these three facts in mind, I urge you to continue in your labor of love for our family as you pray for the Joneses and the thousands here in Thailand who will live and die without ever hearing a clear Gospel explanation.
Spiritual Reinforcements are Arriving Soon!
-We’re thrilled that the Lord is leading another missionary family to move to this region of Thailand next month. After several years in Bangkok, the Lowery family will be relocating to the provincial capital of Buriram. Buriram city has more than 220,000 people and is Surin’s next door neighbor to the west. There are currently no foreign missionaries (that we have found) in Buriram city.
-Missionaries Wat and Amanda Dasantad have tickets purchased to return to Thailand in January of 2019. The Dasantads plan to spend a few months with our family in Prasat before moving to Sisaket, the province to the immediate east of Surin. The Dasantads are hovering around 87% support and would appreciate your prayers for the remaining 13% they need to raise. We look forward to our time with Wat and Amanda and their three children in 2019.
MK Camps Around the World!
-I’ve written on several occasions about the necessity of establishing and operating an annual week of camp here in Thailand for our Southeast Asian MK’s. The SEA MK camp takes place every May and has met an incredible number of needs in the lives of more than 50 MK’s from Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar over the past three years. A recent series of events has opened the door for me (Matt) and Trevor to travel to Peru to join a team of missionaries in organizing a first-ever MK Camp in Peru in January of 2019. Join us in praying for this new opportunity!
Church Ministry Update
-When we announced to our church here in Prasat that we will be participating in a family camp next month, one of the men in our church raised his hand and said “I’d like to volunteer to pay for everyone to go to the camp!” This was a huge blessing to our people and the man has already followed through with his commitment and given me the camper fees.
-Over the past 4 months, our group has continued to slowly grow. We have two Filipina teachers who now attend church each week. We also have a growing group of boys from the village who come each week (Tyler and Trevor’s friends) and we’ve had visitors for the past couple weeks as well. We’ve had to buy more chairs and songbooks over the past few months as a result of all the new faces!
1) Pray for the Jones family as we continue to minister and serve the Lord here in Prasat. Pray for vision for ministry and a strong burden for people.
2) Pray for the Jones family as we begin making preparations for our oldest daughter, Lindsey, to transition back to the U.S. next April to begin college next fall.
3) Pray that Trevor and I can find plane tickets to Peru for less than $1400 each.
4) Pray for our overnight family camp with Surin Baptist Church, Korat Baptist Church and Prasat Baptist Church that’s taking place on Sunday night, October 14.
5) Pray for the Dasantads to find their remaining 13% of support they need to return to Thailand as church planting missionaries in January.
For Christ in Thailand,
Matt and Courtney Jones
Lindsey, Erica, Trevor, Tyler
Baptist World Missions