By Shanna Lim
One year ago, our team of six went on a short-term mission trip to Chiang Rai, Thailand. Our team visited a primary school located amongst the tribal groups of Chiang Rai to carry out a 3-day English camp for the children. We also visited the Bisu tribe near the school, living in the northern region of Thailand.
Thailand is a nation located in the heart of South-East Asia. With a population of approximately 69 million people, around 94.50% of the population follow Theravada Buddhism. Upon arrival at Mae Fah Luang (Chiang Rai International Airport), the influence of Buddhism was visually evident. Buddhist motifs such as temples, sculptures and spirit houses were a common sight in the city.
On the trip, our encounters with the Thai people have taught me much about our God’s business with us on this earth.
God of redemption
Throughout the trip, our team has witnessed the hand of God working among the rural tribes of northern Thailand. Our God raised up Joy, a local from the Bisu tribe, to bring the gospel to her hometown and to engage with the school attended by students from various other tribes as well. Through Wycliffe Thailand, our God raised up people to translate the Bible and to reach out to the countless tribal groups living in the inaccessible areas of northern Thailand. Neither language nor geographical location can stand between humanity and God’s redemptive plan. Our God has never and will never halt his work of redemption, “and this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). And we, as His children, get to share a part in this redemption story by witnessing the goodness of God wherever God has placed us in. God will “equip you with everything good for doing his will” (Hebrews 13:21). All we need to do is have faith and obey His call.
God of grace
On the third day of teaching, we screened a short animation of David and Goliath for the children to watch. After that, we asked the children what their greatest fear was, and most of them answered that they were most afraid of ghosts. Joy also shared that the Bisu people practice folk religion, appeasing spirits in exchange for blessings and protection. These instances have struck me with this truth: how great and how wide is God’s grace towards us. God doesn’t bless us because we do good things, but He blesses us because He wants to. “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from ourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 9:8). The greatest display of God’s grace is that He would send His beloved son to be mocked and scorned, and to be crucified by the very ones He came to save. We now have the honour of approaching His throne with joyful praise and worship because of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross for us. The fear that drives us to worship our God is not a fear of retribution, but a reverent fear towards a gracious God that would gift us new robes and a new life by His grace alone. We worship not to be blessed, but because we are blessed.
God of love
This was my first experience on a mission trip and so, upon learning about the slew of activities going on in parts of Chiang Rai to bring the gospel to the unreached, I felt immensely overwhelmed. None of it would be possible without God moving to start and provide for these activities out of His love for us. Joy may feel alienated from her Bisu tribe because of her faith in Jesus, but God’s love will sustain her and empower her to reflect His love to those around her. My prayer for the people in Thailand is that they may come to know this love that is above all others. And I believe God’s love will reach out to bring each and every person out of the darkness into His light. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us form the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39) God’s love will triumph over all spiritual bondages and darkness that abounds in this world, and we can profess this truth with confidence in God’s unchanging love for each one of us. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
Returning from the trip, I also reflected on the many opportunities I had to share the gospel of Jesus to those around me at home, and yet I chose to keep quiet or leave it to someone else. However, as followers of Christ, we are tasked to be “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). I urge us to speak the gospel in love and truth whenever we can. For the LORD says: “so My words that proceeds from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and it will prosper where I send it” (Isaiah 55:11). Be it a prayer or a simple word of encouragement, I pray that God will equip each one of us to be courageous stewards of His love, to love and care for those around us.