Webb’s Christmas Letter 2015

So much has happened in a 2015, it seems difficult to write about our overseas experience succinctly. This year I am going to divide our news up into 7 points all beginning with ‘ H ‘.


Four excited children with their Christmas stockings.

  •    Home?

Despite having lived in Chiang Mai for 18 months now,  it is difficult to say where ‘home’ is.  We still often refer to Surrey as ‘home’ but we don’t know if we will return to Surrey. We certainly enjoyed our summer break back with Ann’s parents but not being in our own ‘home’ for that time had its own challenges. Ann has made the house here look much more homely. We have been able to get BBC i player and regularly watch Doctor Who but because of the time difference we pretty much missed the rugby world cup back ‘home’.



Rice fields, northern Thailand

  •    Heat/ Hearing of the court

The hot season here was  boiling with temperatures in the 40s. The heat makes the already pesky neighborhood dogs go crazy, let alone the human beings! However, we are so grateful to have a swimming pool in the school campus where we regularly cool off. This might not be the case after Christmas as the school is being sued for illegally purchasing the sports center 10 years ago. The judgement of the local court was in favour of the plaintiff and for the school to vacate within days. The school appealed to the supreme court and we await the decision  as to whether the supreme court will hear the case of the school on 18th December. The supreme court may well uphold the previous decision, not hear the case and rule that we need to vacate the buildings. We may need to find somewhere else to continue to educate the high school students from 2016. Please could you pray about this -especially that we would all react well regardless of the decision.

  • Hua Hin.

Juniper Tree Hua Hin

This Christmas, as last, we will spend in Hua Hin where there is a retreat centre for missionaries called the ‘Juniper Tree’. We are looking forward to some family time as school term is pretty hectic. We will meet up with a couple of families, living in China, we got to know last year. After this I will return to Hua Hin in the new year in order to cycle back to Chaing Mai (1000 KM). This is to raise some finance for a new classroom, as whatever the ruling of the court, we will need to build a new school in the near future.



  • Head of department/high school/ homework

This year I am head of the RE department here. This involves supervising two staff. Fabri has arrived from Italy to teach in the Middle School and Dan has been co-opted from the administration to teach ethics and comparative religion. Dan will be leaving us this summer so I need a high school teacher from next August. Is anyone interested? Sam has moved into the middle school this year and with that move has endured an increase in his homework load. Isaac has started Kindergarten and is learning to read and write. Lois and Joe are both doing well on the elementary side.  All four kids are looking forward to the “soccer” season in January.

  • House church

Lois’ healed finger.

Together with 5 or 6 other families and a few singles, we get together on Sunday mornings for House Church. Having divided House Churches in January, we now have much more responsibility. It has fallen to me to divide up our teaching series and to do a lot of the preaching. We have gone through chapters 1-6 of Daniel and most of 1 Samuel. Ann also plays the piano most weeks and we have lots of small children to host. It can be quite challenging to prepare alongside the responsibilities at school. Please pray that some of the folks who have recently joined would take up the reigns and help teach and host too.

All age talk at house church

house church

House church drama teaching the book of Daniel

  • HealthIMG_2535

When living overseas, health can be more of a concern. You don’t tend to get stung by scorpions in the UK. In October, Lois had a horrific accident which nearly severed the top of her finger when she trapped it in a toilet door. Praise God that it has healed so well. Ann has also felt better this term thanks to drugs for hashimotos. We are presently investigating helping Sam to grow as he is much shorter than all his classmates.

  • Hope

On Sunday at Church I was preaching on the genealogy from Matthew’s gospel. It does seem a strange way to begin the New Testament. Yet Matthew, skillful writer as he was, is showing that Jesus is the fulfillment of all stories. All the categories that were set up in the old, Jesus fulfills in the new, but not only that, Jesus fulfills all stories. He is the Mocking-jay, born in district 12- Galilee of the Gentiles. He goes to the capitol to give His life to save people from the tyranny of sin and death. He is the ultimate ring bearer. He comes to change our beastliness into beauty and to remake this fallen world. In so doing, He turns all the world’s values upside down. Included in his genealogy are 5 women – all with scandal affixed to their name: the incestuous and deceptive Tamar, the prostitute Rahab, the Moabitess Ruth, the adulteress Bathseba and his mother Mary. Kings and prostitutes sit down together in the Kingdom of God as people who have been shown grace. That means there is Hope for all of us this Christmas. Jesus begins a new generation- the seventh seven. He fulfills what the year of jubilee foreshadowed. He comes to cancel all debts, to free slaves and to bring rest. Our lives, including whatever 2016 has in store, are set in the context of this grace and this hope.

Sending our love at Christmas time to you all.  May God bring you this Hope and peace.

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas.






Parents evenings with a difference.

Parents evenings in schools in the UK could be tense affairs especially if you needed to address issues concerning the behaviour of several students. Depending on whether you taught a subject up to A-Level, you could be required to partake in six such evenings in a year. Thanks to OFSTED’s limitless demands for numbers on spreadsheets, parents would know, from reports, what national curriculum level their child was working in your subject. While most parents were also a little nervous but generally amicable, some parents wanted you to give them gloat-ready statistics and phrases that they would put on Facebook. Others seemed to have come for a fight.

Parent teacher conferences at Grace International school bear no comparison at all. Two working days, including an evening, at the end of the first quarter, are assigned to these conferences. This allows for parents to return from their field of service in China, Mongolia, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos , Cambodia or other parts of Thailand to meet with teachers and spend the half term break with their families. Teachers are treated to  a wonderful meal, prepared by  parents who live in Chiang Mai, at the end of the first 10 hour session.

I met parents who have spent most of their lives working among minority Muslim groups in China, I met doctors working with Karen, Hmong and Luo and Shan hill tribes. I conversed with parents seeking to run businesses in Cambodia and Laos through which they can finance church planting and gospel work. Finding out about their ministries and praying with these people both for the child and the wider family  was as important as relating their child’s academic progress. Many parents affirmed that they could not do what they do without being confident that their child was in good hands at Grace.

In Colossians 1:6 Paul rejoices that ‘. . .the gospel is bearing fruit and growing.’  Despite, decline in the ‘western world’, two days of parent teacher conferences, here in Chiang Mai prove this to be as  true in 2016 as it was in 66AD.








Come and join us . . .

Five weeks into a new school year and it is apparent that the school needs some more teachers to join us. The mission community here relies on and greatly values the support of teachers who enable their work to continue.

come and join us

Mr Coe addressing students in an assembly.

The aim of the school is to provide quality education for the children of international workers located in South-east Asia. The primary goal at GIS is to allow these families to continue to work in their fields without having to compromise the education of their children.

We particularly need high school English teachers. Presently students are receiving tuition via on-line courses, which is not ideal. At the higher levels, students study ‘Brit Lit’ and American Literature.

Having previously possessed the snooty attitude that there cannot be such thing as an ‘American classic’ this year I have repented and read two classics for the first time including:  ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and most recently: ‘ The Scarlet Letter.’

The latter is set in Puritan 17th-century Massachusetts, where a young woman named Hester Prynne has settled while waiting for her husband to join her from England. His delayed arrival leaves her vulnerable to her passion, and the opening scene of the book finds her serving her sentence on the town scaffold for bearing a child out of wedlock. Her punishment includes wearing a scarlet “A” on her clothing, marking her as an adulteress for the rest of her life.

scarlet letter

The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne, 1850.

Hester’s husband happens to arrive at this inopportune moment. He offers her his forgiveness, but extracts a promise that she will never reveal his identity and assumes the pseudonym Roger Chillingworth. His mercy does not extend to the unnamed father of the baby, as he dedicates his life to finding and punishing Hester’s partner in crime.

The years go by and Hester raises her daughter as quietly and piously as she is able. But the physical scarlet letter pales in comparison to Pearl, Hester’s “scarlet letter endowed with life,” and thus Pearl grows up under the shadow of her mother’s shame and the public’s scorn.

On the other hand, Pearl’s father fights his own guilt privately; it eats away at both his soul and body, in spite—or perhaps because—of the veneration he receives from the townspeople due to his role as their pastor.

He tries everything to assuage his guilt, from “confessions” of his general vileness to self-chastisement, even secretly standing on the scaffold as Hester’s sentence had required her to do publicly. Meanwhile, Chillingworth works to ascertain the identity of this man who did him wrong, watching his physical and mental deterioration with dark delight.

“The Scarlet Letter” is much more than a story of adultery in Puritan New England. It is a story that deals with universal themes—guilt, shame, and absolution—in a complex way.

The book begins with a masterful depiction of Hester’s shame from the public revilement. But the far greater guilt is borne in private by her lover. Although Hester is the one to carry the outward mark of her sin, the father of her child carries even deeper inward marks. She comes to find some sort of peace and purpose, while he grows increasingly tortured by his unconfessed sin.


The scarlet letter in the sky

Throughout the book Hawthorne emphasizes the inability of man to relieve his own guilt and restore his own peace.

The nature of repentance is a major theme, showing that religion and penance is insufficient for redemption. Hester’s lover, reflecting on his own hypocrisy, exclaims, “Of penance, I have had enough! Of penitence, there has been none!” The book shows, as does Jesus’ teaching, the difference between religion (which either crushes you or makes you proud) and the true gospel of free grace.

This book haunted me and yet made me grateful for the One who has not only, on the cross, taken the burden of future separation from God but offers to take the burden of the present hell of shame and guilt.  It reminds me of the One who bore my scarlet letter in my place.God knows the scarlet letter burnished on our hearts. Yet in Christ he offers to ascend the scaffold and bear it in our place, taking away the condemnation.

“Come, let us discuss this,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they will be as white as snow;
though they are as red as crimson,
they will be like wool. (Isaiah 1:16)

What a great opportunity to study such works with ‘Christian’, ‘pre Christian’ and Buddhist students in this school.

The gospel according to Divergent

This week I assigned my class the task of writing a blog in order to link the movie ‘Divergent’ to the Christian gospel. Here is my attempt.

The city is Chicago. The protagonist is a sixteen year old called Tris. The date is the day that young people must choose which faction they will belong to, in order to contribute to society for the rest of their lives. Each young person has taken a simulation test in order to guide their choice. As Tris narrates: ‘ Decades ago our ancestors realized that it is not political ideology, religious belief, race or nationalism that is to blame for a warring world. Rather, they determined that it was the fault of human personality- of humankind’s inclination toward evil, in whatever form that is. They divided into factions that sought to eradicate those qualities they believed responsible for the world’s disarray.’ (p42)

All the five factions gather to witness the choosing ceremony.

The factions divide into God given characteristics. Tris and her brother Caleb are born into an Abnegation family. Abnegation are the selfless faction that serve the faction-less poor in the city. They reject vanity, dress in drab plain clothes and are regarded by the other factions as ‘ stiffs.’ On the opposite extreme are ‘Dauntless.’ This courageous faction police the city. They embrace risk but are reckless and end up causing danger. Amity love peace and live a simple life but they are unprepared to stand up and fight when it is needed. Candour love transparency but tend to speak the truth in inappropriate ways. Erudite are the scientists, the researchers and philosophers but they end up using their knowledge for evil means.


The five factions

Divergent, like a modern Lord of the Flies,  elucidates the biblical doctrine of human depravity. It is human sin that is to blame for all the ills in society and humans cannot fix it.

In the last two centuries various political theories have been put into practice by governments across the world: Feudalism, Absolute monarchy, Apartheid, Fascism, Communism, Islamic theocracy and democracy. All have failed, and alongside various economic theories, are destined to fail. The heart of the problem is not lack of education but rather the problem of the human heart. As Jeremiah the prophet wrote 2,700 years ago: ‘ . . . the human heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.’

Tris corroborates this assessment of human nature when she writes: ‘ human reason can excuse any evil; that is why it’s so important that we don’t rely on it.’

Tris chose to embrace the ‘ Dauntless’ faction, throwing off the shackles of her legalistic past. But her test results had proven inconclusive. Her proclivity was to several factions. She experienced the teenager’s worst nightmare. She did not fit in. As a result she is targeted by administrators of the society. Yet Tris herself, and her love interest ‘Four’ are flawed individuals who make rash choices and find themselves unable to overcome murderous forces that are too strong for them.

Tris and ‘ Four’

Divergent points us by way of contrast to a world we long for which is free of manipulation, injustice, violence greed, perversion and evil. Our aspirations for this kind of world are only met in the truly Divergent saviour Jesus Christ. In the greatest act of dauntless abnegation, he confronted the hypocritical religious elite and died in order to pay the penalty that, warped and perverted humanity, deserves to pay.

Because he rose again, the last unfulfilled prophesies of the bible state that Jesus will return in order to redeem this fallen world to effect its complete redemption and as JR Tolkein wrote in Lord of the Rings: ‘ make everything sad become untrue.’ Only He can do it.

The momentous choice all young people made on choosing day is eclipsed in significance by the choice all humans are called to make today. The choice is to serve King Jesus or to serve king self. As the aging leader Joshua charged the Israelites several thousands of years ago: ‘ . . .And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve . .’ (Joshua 24:15)




Building Community

All who believed were together . . .’ (Acts 2:42)

My first week back in Chiang Mai has involved a staff induction where we start each morning at 7.30am for worship before getting down to the business of planning lessons and building community between us as teachers. In my department of three, we have a Brit, an Italian and a guy from north Dakota. Across the school, and in our community, we have people from many different backgrounds and almost every denomination you can think of. Its important we have started the term with worship each day. Working here involves not just teaching but doing life together. Its not easy because human nature is to be selfish.  I am much better at talking about community than practising it. Yet worshipping together at 7.30am has been just what we need to start each day.

staff working together

Staff problem solving


When the church began , a multi-cultural group, not unlike ours, came together every day and in their homes they devoted themselves to teaching, the fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer.  These people had  come to Jerusalem from Parthia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia. (Acts 2:9-10) There were also people from Libya, Egypt, Crete, Arabia and elsewhere.

International day

International day

Some people say that religion is a matter of temperament: some people like to be religious and go to meetings. Others say that religion is a matter of culture. If you are from Italy you are Catholic, If you are from Thailand you are Buddhist, if you are from Scotland you are Presbyterian etc. Yet the early church community, like ours, contained people with a plethora of different temperaments and backgrounds. The appeal of Christianity and the reason for its early spread was that its message reached out to Romans, Jews and Barbarians. Churches contained slaves and masters and men and women were equally involved. Christianity means that you have a close connection with people you would have previously despised.

The account in Acts chapter 2 describes how the earliest Christians shared their financial burdens and devoted themselves to one another in community. Christian community reflects the ultimate harmony that exists between the persons of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Though inexplicable, the trinity is the source of all harmony. Christianity is the religion that produces the most beautiful music, whereas religions without a God who is  relational and loving in his essence submit but do not sing.

Worship is the dynamite which led to the generosity, mercy ministries and evangelism of the early church. It remains the dynamite which fuels our work today. Why is this?

CS Lewis: makes the point that enjoyment itself is incomplete until it is expressed. My enjoyment of England’s Ashes victory is consummated by my sharing it with my British neighbour. Stuart Broad’s spell was all the more enjoyable because I watched it online with my  family and with my British neighbours. We revelled in it and enjoyed it much more because we were able to see it together.

Broad taking a wicket during his Ashes winning spell at Trent Bridge

Broad taking a wicket during his Ashes winning spell at Trent Bridge

Every beautiful object demands praise. It is as if that which is beautiful has to get out and liberate itself with praise. As Tim Keller says: “Your joy not completed until it utters itself and somebody else says: ‘yeah’”

The more beautiful the object the more that object surges and has to be expressed in praise.

God demands to be praised.  Yet our worship each morning at 7.30am was not demanded of us by the program. It was the event in the day we all wanted to be at. Our community is not like when communists get together or republicans (often because of their predjudices)  We get together to praise the one who was broken because we know we are broken. We evangelise because we see him as an absolute beauty and we have to celebrate that.  We also have to be sensitive. Ann doesn’t care about Broad’s 8 for 15. But its still good news and it still definitely happened. Christ died for our sins and rose again to conquer death and enable us to be justified. It definitely happened and its great news.

But what creates community in our context is praising him for his brokenness for us. Our worship helps us break our barriers of political persuasion and race and temperament and class and work towards being a true community.

Students at a middle school assembly.

Students at a middle school assembly.

A year in Chiang Mai.

Psalm 40: I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

As I look back to this year in Chiang Mai,  I am so grateful. God brought my family here in response to my cry as I wallowed in the ‘slimy pit, the mud and the mire’. I am not referring to the building site I worked on last summer, which I enjoyed, but to a depression of soul after the failures and sorrows of the previous years.

mud and mire

‘He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire.’

Here in Chiang Mai, which is now ‘home.’ God has set my feet on a rock and given me a firm place to stand. When everything is shaking, I can stand on that which is unshakeable. When what we stand on shakes and is mobilized then we are immobilized. But though the whole world shakes, all the time, God is an unchanging rock.

God has given me a dream job. I am part of his mission here in Asia teaching missionary kids and enabling their parents to continue to undertake their medical ministries, their anti trafficking, and anti slavery work, church planting, prison ministries, translation work and all kinds of sensitive ministries in this part of Asia. The school exists to enable parents to be confident of their children’s education. So many missionaries leave the field in other parts of the world in order to return the their home countries for the sake of education. Its great to be part of that kingdom work the outcome of which will be:  ‘ many will see  and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.’

pirate red

Pirate murder mystery costume

Teaching here is a joy.  The students are both respectful, resourceful and are learning to think critically. I have so enjoyed watching lots of movies and analyzing them. We have had many debates on predestination,  eschatology, the significance of various individuals in history and as a class sponsor of the Sophomore year (grade 10/ year 11)  I have reveled in being part of a supremely well organized  murder mystery pirate party. Yesterday I took a pasting from them during  a massive dodge brawl on the tennis courts!


Sophomore year at Grace


It hasn’t all been plain sailing here but we have all had our horizons broadened and will be more equipped for ministry in the future, wherever we are led.  Though at times, they have been very challenging, the children have done very well to adapt. They have all done well academically and Sam and Lois particularly have excelled in sports.

Next weekend we return to the UK to Ann’s parents house for eight weeks. We will be speaking at 5 different churches and visiting family and friends. We are all looking forward to the cool weather, to watching TV and playing in the garden. Yet, many missionaries have told us that home visits are not easy times for the family. Please pray that we can chill out and refuel. Last summer we did not get a break at all. The children finished one school year, only to start another almost immediately. They have done very well but are very tired.

house church adjusted

House church meeting at our house

This weekend will be our last opportunity to meet as a house church. The church will change beyond recognition after next week as half the church transition to new ministries and new opportunities overseas. Among those leaving are 5 seniors. The Coe twins will move to the UK to start university and the three Americans will move to the States, also to begin college.

I am preaching this week on the blessing God instructed the priests to pronounce at the end of each tabernacle service:

24 ‘“‘The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face towards you
    and give you peace.’”27 ‘So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.’

smile of God

‘. . . the Lord make his face to shine upon you.

Although we have found some Americans here to have some obscure practices and theology, there is a culture here of affirming and blessing. To bless means to delight in and to expensively commit to another’s good. One remarkable facet of this blessing is the line: ‘ . . . the Lord make his face to shine on you.’ Previously Moses had been told that nobody can see the Lord’s face and live. The turning of the Lord’s face is a poetic way of describing his smile: his close relational presence. This blessing was announced at the end of the service after all the animal sacrifices for sin had taken place. Thus the Israelites were taught that we can know God’s smile and presence when our sin has been atoned for. The priestly sacrifices couldn’t actually remove sin but were a picture of what Christ came to do in his ultimate wrath bearing sacrifice. Because of Christ’s sacrifice we can know his smile. Because he bore the curse we receive the blessing. Whatever happens next nothing can separate us from the love and the blessing of God.











Craving Authenticity.

Our generation simultaneously craves authenticity  and retracts from reality. We are a generation that increasingly despises religion with its external primness and posturing, sin management and elaborately crafted masks. At the same time we are a generation raised on and addicted to social media; posting beautiful photographs snapped during brief periods of ceasefire.

Teen novels of choice today are increasingly dystopian (society is characterized by human misery) Novels like Hunger Games, The Maze Runner and Divergent all present society and human nature as corrupted and about to face apocalyptic disintegration.






The Maze Runner









The sense that everything is about to collapse, and that the adults are, at best, not much help and, at worst, the source of the problem – is arguably the underlying narrative of many works of Young Adult fiction over the past decade or so, including many zombie and vampire tales. You can even find traces of it in Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl and certainly in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

In our classroom this term, we have watched and analyzed two older movies: The Truman Show (1998)  and The Matrix (1999). In the Truman Show everything is inauthentic. Truman Burbank  (played by Jim Carey) has been raised from birth on an engineered island with hired actors, including the nice wife and neighbours.  Truman’s world slowly unravels when he finds clues that reveal the seams. He knows something is wrong; He must decide whether to discover his reality or stay content on his perfect island. At the end of the film Truman makes it to the edge of the world and is seen slamming his fists against the set to find a way out. He is interrupted by the voice of his creator coming from the clouds. There he explains everything. Truman asks “Was nothing real?” to which Christof replies “You were real.” At the final moment Christof excitedly blurts out “Well say something dammit, you’re on TV.” Truman gives his trademark catchphrase and walks through the open door and out of the world he has been an unwitting prisoner of for all his life. The music is jubilant, triumphant and we see the fallen face of Christof. Our last shot of him is one of a rejected father slumped in his chair, grieving the loss of his son.


The Truman Show

In the Matrix, Thomas Andreson (Neo) , a computer hacker comes to realize that the whole world is in bondage to an Artificial Intelligence that powers itself from the energy provided by human foetuses. This is the Matrix, a fantasy world. The real world exists in exile where aboard a ship called the Nebuchadnezzar, a small collection true human beings, including a traitor, plot the redemption of the world. Their faith is in the prophecy of an Oracle who predicted the coming of a Messiah type character who would spearhead the battle to free humanity.



Every story we have examined points towards the great story of the gospel. Each story has a situation of doom in which the prospects seem hopeless. The corrupted world cries out for redemption. The resolution provided by the gospel of Jesus Christ seems too good to be authentic.

Yet before, the good news is announced, the bible says that humanity has swallowed a huge lie.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). The god of this age is Satan. As in the Matrix, human beings are blinded to the reality that without a rescuer we are ‘ dead in our disobedience and our many sins’. . .obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. . .All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger’ (Ephesians 2:1-4 NLT)

Satan, has duped the human race into ridiculing this stark reality as CS Lewis notes:

  • “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
    – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.

Both ‘materialists’ and ‘magicians’  reject reality. Famously Morpheus offered Neo a red pill or a blue pill. “You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

red pill

‘You must be born again . . .'( John 3:3) 

The rabbit hole goes deep. The Apostle Paul’s verdict on humanity is that ‘ there is no-one righteous, not even one.’  ‘They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshipped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise!’ (Romans 3:10, 1:25)

The red pill is a hard pill to swallow. As in the Matrix, it means a new birth is necessary.  Jesus made this point to a superbly upright religious man and a member of the Sanhedrin:  Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’  (John 3:3) Taking the red pill is a choice to reject both the illusion of materialism and the inauthenticity of religion. As Jesus said: ‘ . . . if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.’ (John 8:36) 




Extraordinary people and Extraordinary blessing.

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 saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God’. (Revelation 20:4)

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.


Songkhran water festival


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.


Candor and Amity factions teaching English


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.


Factions and their flags. Ready for action.

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.

family departing

Teaching theology to high school students

We are now two and a half weeks into a new term and I’m excited about my role which  is to teach Theology to around 80 high school students. I have young people aged between 14 and 18 in my classes. Its very exciting being able to do this as I want the students to be able to give a personal, reasoned, intellectually rigorous and persuasive defence of their faith when they leave school.

god's big picture

The course taught previously is biblical theology which involves tracing the narrative of the bible from start to finish. I have decided to divide our time into three:  looking  firstly at world-views and contemporary culture using Ted Turnau’s excellent book: Popologetics. Next we will trace the theme of ‘the kingdom’ through the bible using Vaughan Roberts’ superbly accessible book God’s big picture and then we will select some topics of systematic theology using Wayne Grudem’s Introduction to Christian belief.


We have had great fun with the first of these units analysing the world-views of song writers,  movie makers and play writes.  In scrutinizing the plot of Kung Fu Panda we noted how the western idol of self belief is married with the eastern belief that the universe has a destiny for you. To find inner peace, as wise Oogway instructed the anxious Shifu: ‘ . . . you must abandon the illusion of control and submit to the destiny of the universe.’  Turnau’s advice on how to critique popular art has led us to ask the questions: 1. What is the plot? 2. What is the medium and genre of the art you are studying? 3. What is true and beautiful in this imaginary world? 4. What is false and evil and what are the idols it exposes. 5. How does the true gospel trump and replace the idol?



Alongside this, we have discovered that in our world there is no such thing as an unbeliever. Every human being, either knowingly or unknowingly, bases their life decisions on a set of pre-suppositions which they take by faith.  We have traced how the Enlightenment has led to the intellectual community assuming the pre-suppositions of philosophical naturalism. Poor old Descartes must be turning in his grave. (This is of course an idiom not a theological statement).

In recent decades, however,  the foundations of modernism and enlightenment thinking have been eroded by post modern thinkers. On a street level, most people in the western world today are more ready to accept a belief in the supernatural. They are suspicious (very rightly) of organised religion and assume that there is no world story that has a monopoly on truth. ‘Truth is relative’.  ‘There are no absolutes’. Which is of course an absolute statement making the whole claim inconsistent and incoherent. This inconsistency we see at government level where politicians champion tolerance and free speech while gagging and even criminalising those who might speak against homosexuality or for the exclusive claims of Christ. This is a point Douglas Murray skilfully articulated this week in The Spectator: http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9416542/religion-of-peace-is-not-a-harmless-platitude/

So I have enjoyed these first few weeks of the new term. I’m spending a lot of time preparing lessons.


The family are doing well too.  Sam and Lois are representing the school in soccer.  Joe will start training twice a week too. Isaac seems a little happier at nursery. Ann is excited that her Mum and Dad will be joining us for 10 days from next Wednesday.

We all miss blighty and the snow. We hope to make it back in June if finances allow. Thank you so much for your prayers.

Love the Webb’s



Webb’s Christmas Letter 2014

The Webb’s Christmas Letter 2014

2014 has been a momentous year for the Webb family. We have spent half of it in Surrey and half of it in Chiang Mai. I have been a speaker at two weddings and had to turn down another, I had four jobs and attended four job interviews.  It has been another year where God has proven his faithfulness and overflowing grace to us.  It began with many tears, fears and uncertainties. Returning to teaching after fourteen years in Christian ministry was hard to say the least. My heart was not in it and I (Chris) knew that we would move from Surrey in due course but had no idea how I would provide for the family and where we were meant to be. The children were happy in their schools, and nursery, in Send, but for me, even entering the village was traumatic. We had recently moved house. We had changed churches a couple of times and felt unsettled in every way.

Family preparing to depart for Thailand. August 2014

By Easter, things were no clearer. I had resigned my teaching job and some kind builder friends agreed to employ me as a manual labourer.  We had joined a church on our doorstep: New Life Baptist Church, where the Pastor and his wife supported us greatly and continue to do so.

new life church

New Life Church, Old Woking

As a step of faith we raised some money so that I could be supported to work, half time, with my good friends George Osbourne and Erik Jespersen at the Lighthouse in Woking. I also volunteered to work at New Life, meeting up with various men as a form of mutual encouragement. My weeks consisted of laboring on Mondays and Tuesdays, meeting with drug addicts to study the bible on Wednesdays and Thursdays and often preaching on Sundays.

In 2014, I had job interviews in Southampton, Cambridge and Oxford: But the match up of our gifts and experience and the opportunities was not appropriate at that time. In May, I had an interview over Skpye with a panel from Grace International School Chiang Mai. I have often had dreams (literally) of working in an International school and though Ann was fairly skeptical at the outset, I felt in my heart that this was the place God was preparing for us for the foreseeable future. Nobody recruited us. Ann found the school on the internet, noticed a vacancy for a bible teacher and a spiritual life director. I applied for both, got appointed for the former and God has provided the means. (teachers are unpaid). Ann spent the summer frantically preparing for our departure. She did a super- human job in this respect. She flew alone with four children. I had needed to depart early to attend staff orientation and furnish our house ready for their arrival.

Our time in Thailand has been tumultuous but generally very positive. Grace International School exists in order to enable missionaries to stay on the field, confident that their children are receiving a good all round education within the Christian worldview.


Grace international School

Sam has flourished in this environment, enjoying a freedom that he did not know in the UK. He has adapted to a different educational model with some advantages and disadvantages over the National curriculum. He has excelled in soccer and advanced in his ability to think critically.

Lois has excelled in all sports, earning a gold medal in a swim meet. She has adapted very well to her new environment and our house is often filled with little girls who come to hang out and watch movies.

Joe has grown in his understanding of the gospel this last semester, recently making a personal commitment to follow Christ. He still struggles with food phobias and is more highly strung than the two older children.

It is fair to say that Isaac has settled less well. He does not yet attend school and the culture shock of attending a Korean run nursery has affected him. Ann and I often struggle with his poor behavior and choices. We think he will be much happier when he attends school at Grace.

House Church Christmas Outreach which attracted 50 Thai guests.

Ann has spent the semester obtaining appliances, making the house hospitable, looking after Isaac, generally adapting to life in Asia while doing some private piano tuition, helping with recess and occasionally hosting and playing piano in our house church. Simple tasks like shopping take much longer here. The heat and the humidity is sapping. Friends have been a fantastic help.

Looking forward, we are committed to serving at least another year here. I anticipate that at some point we will return to church based ministry in the UK. But for now we are experiencing a period in our discipleship where we are learning more about cross cultural mission and raising our own third culture kids as well as discipling others. I love the challenge of teaching bible study methods and theology to high school students.

This Christmas we will visit the beach in Hua Hin before welcoming family.  We are hoping to return to the UK during the summer break in order to visit family and friends.  We trust God to supply the as yet un-raised funds for this. Thank you so much for your friendship, love and support. We love to hear your news too.  Please send us yours by email.

Love from The Webbs.