The people we rub shoulders with here in Chiang Mai are both ordinary and extraordinary. Unassuming and humble in manner, every meek facade seems to mask a dauntless resolve and an incredible testimony. This term we have had the privilege of hearing more of the life stories of those I teach and those we worship with.
Some of the staff and students, including the present principal, fled here after the terrorist attack on Murree Christian School in Pakistan in August 2002. Recently a number of Christian Pakistani families have narrowly escaped death, fleeing here for their lives, leaving everything behind. Sam and I play cricket with several of them on Saturday mornings.
Last weekend, Bob ( name changed), one of our fellow Elders in the house church we attend, shared, along with his wife, the testimony of their experience of terrorism. During a church service in Islamabad in 2002, an Islamist terrorist targeted the congregation with grenades. Eight were killed and many including Bob’s son were seriously injured.
I teach several students whose parents have received a call from God to love and serve Muslims. Some are still in highly dangerous situations, others are here for respite and re-evaluation, others are preparing to return knowing they could pay the ultimate cost in an increasingly radicalized environment.
The School exists so that 575 students from 344 families who are serving in 24 nations can be educated, cherished and nurtured. Many parents have told me that they could not be in mission if it were not for this school. The school is extraordinary.
Having said this, this term is extraordinarily long. We do not have a half term break at Grace so we plough on for fourteen weeks from New year to Songkhran (Buddhist water festival) with each day slightly hotter and slightly more polluted than the last. At the moment the temperature is only in the mid thirties. It still has another 10 degrees to rise before the rains are expected at the end of April. We are not looking forward to this extraordinary heat blast. Gladly this year has been cooler than others so far.
One example of the extraordinary uniqueness and initiative of the students here, is their efforts during ‘Spiritual Emphasis’ week which has just passed. Each year, the school gives a week for the students to focus more on their spiritual journey with God. There are assemblies each morning, workshops each lunch break and further sessions each evening. The week culminates in a ‘ ministry day’ where the students go out to local Thai schools to serve by running lessons for a day. The grade 10 class I accompanied organised themselves into Factions (inspired by the book and Movie Divergent). They made and printed colour co-ordinated T-shirts and ran games, English lessons, art and craft and drama workshops for excited and appreciative Thai elementary pupils.
I am constantly reminded what an extraordinary blessing it is to be here and serve here, supported by extremely generous family and friends who make this all viable. The needs here are great. The number of staff vacancies for next year seems daunting. Each person and family that comes needs to raise financial and prayer support, pack away all their earthly belongings and enter into the unknown. Yet due to the ripple effects in God’s kingdom, every member of staff is supporting outreach to millions. Could God be calling you?
One of the things God has called us to here, is to help lead a house church. Two weeks ago the church multiplied but already both new groups are almost too big to meet in a normal sized house. I preached the first sermon in our new church on Sunday to nearly 50 people. Next week Ann is leading worship. We would value your prayers for guidance as we serve in this ministry as well as in the school.
The Webb family need to come back to the UK after term finishes at the beginning of June until term starts again 3 August. We need to reconnect with friends and family and we need to raise more support. Just as we started to fret about being able to purchase flights, we were given the exact amount through various one off donations. Once again we are bowled over by God’s extraordinary provision for us and so thankful for faithful, generous friends and family and for their prayers and support.