We are back in Chiang Mai for year 4, supporting missionaries and their children here in Chiang Mai. Rainy season means the route to school is often flooded but the temperatures are not as brutal as the spring. We are still sharing a building with a Thai school that has doubled in size and we are still trying to raise funds to build a new school as we are only allowed to stay here another 24 months.
The challenges, teaching in an international environment, are unique. Korean students (30% of school population) are very very different from American students (49% of the school population). Some Korean students begin each day at 4.30am with a compulsory morning prayer meeting. Korean students tend to be very driven and get all the top grades. Yet they struggle in class discussion or in producing creative work. Some Korean students related this morning how they spent their summer in a test preparation boot camp. The day began at 6.30am and ended at 6pm.
All students spend a lot of time on the internet in-front of a screen. Here at Grace, students are given a chrome book which they bring to all classes. They submit their assignments via google classroom. This enables schooling to proceed if the building has to be shut due to political upheaval or if the student has a period of prolonged absence. Students spending long periods of time in front of a screen get drowsy, struggle with concentration and can become addicted to pornography.
Some students feel abandoned by their parents who are often members of undermanned pioneering teams and who spend long periods of time away from home doing ministry.
Being asked “Where are you from?” can be a stressful experience for an MK. The longing to belong and the feeling of not belonging are ever present.
In addition to missionary kids, the school has a population of Thai students (now up to 20%) many of whom come from Buddhist homes and who have not encountered Christianity before.
My role at Grace as head of RE is to help all students to give logical and genuine reasons for their own personal beliefs even as we explore the beliefs of those from other religions. I also want each student to pursue a relationship with God.
In my bible study methods class, many are opening it for the first time. Others start to understand it for the first time while others develop skills that will enable them to be bible study leaders. We examine its claim to authority, authenticity and reliability. We examine its plotline and note that many of the great stories we love copy the Bible’s narrative of a situation where the prospects seem hopeless and then the intervention of a mysterious hero who with great sacrifice brings redemption.
The very first verse of the gospel of Mark says: ‘ The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’ Gospel means ‘ good news.’ Truly it is fantastic news in an age of fake news. The news is that God has revealed himself through Jesus. When we look at Jesus all the guessing games about God stop. Not only that but Jesus has come to bear my sin away and to make me right with God so that I can enjoy a relationship with my maker, lover and Lord.