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.

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‘ 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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

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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.

popologetics

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.

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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.

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Chiang Mai is a centre for mission of all kinds. One particular focus of outreach are the hill tribes located mainly to the north and west. Several folks from our house church are involved in reaching out to the Shan people and other minorities.

Matt Coe, our neighbour, who is the advancement director at Grace International School, had a burden several years ago that the school should also be involved in outreach to the disadvantaged and persecuted Karen people. The Karen are another diverse people group who have fled over the border to escape Burmese soldiers, who in some cases had been ordered to clear their land and raze their villages to the ground.

Matt, Bronwen and chris

Although the situation is marginally better in Burma now, the minority people groups have suffered much at the hands of an army who sought their elimination. Karen state, in Myanmar remains full of deadly land-mines. Matt’s burden was to link up with a migrant school called Thoo mweh khee school on the Burmese border and set up an exchange. This exchange programme has been running now for six years.

Last week, Grace again welcomed a contingent of around seventy students and half a dozen teachers from the school. Ann and I hosted two Karen girls for four nights. The Karen are mostly animistic or Buddhist in religion but many are also Christian. Our girls were both Christians who wanted to pursue careers in one case as a teacher and in another as a Pastor! The experience was eye opening for all of us. The girls had not used electric showers or flushed toilets before. I had the incredible privilege of teaching all seventy of them the story of Hosea which graphically portrays God’s outrageous and persistent love to those who have spurned and rejected his advances.

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karen at our house

 

This was not my first interaction with Karen people. While Pastor at Send Evangelical Church in 2008, I took the opportunity to visit our long term missionaries Robin and Rosemary who had spent the prime years of their life discipling a small group of believers among the Pwo Karen people. I spent a week with them in the village observing the corn harvest, the translation work and a hosue church service in Pwo Karen.

Robin and Rosemary also came to visit us two weeks ago in Chiang Mai where their mission was hosting its annual field conference.

We have a great house here in World Club land and though it has taken a long time to obtain the appliances we need ( we very much miss our bath and dishwasher) we have recently been able to open up our home and also host house church here.

house church adjusted

 

 

These last few weeks have been very busy for all of us. Lois has excelled in swimming, winning a gold medal in breaststroke at her first swim meet. Josiah is being stretched with extra classes to accommodate his advanced abilities in maths and Sam is playing soccer every Saturday morning. Isaac is slightly more settled at nursery which is a great answer to prayer.

For Ann and I our next major adventure will be travelling to Phuket on 28th November where I will be conducting a wedding and preaching for Andy and Sharon Cheung. Andy was a former volunteer with Friends International and attended Send Evangelical Church for a season. We need your prayers for enabling us to sort out the practicalities including child care and cover for the lessons from which I will be absent. These have caused us some stress in recent days as plans we had in place have needed to be re-arranged. Andy and Sharon would also appreciate prayer as this wedding has had to be rescheduled. and new locations found, several times.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support. Truly we are completely reliant on you and on our great God.

Reflections on reaching 40 not out.

Having reached the age of 40 yesterday, I have decided to write some reflections both as a cathartic journalling exercise for myself and because I retain enough arrogance to believe some people might read it. I post this probably for the same reason that most people post things on Facebook. We want a verdict of affirmation on our lives. However, I want to try to resist that motivation as many opinions and lifestyle choices I have made over the last 20 years, especially, are now extremely counter cultural.foot massage

My first reflection on being 40 is that I am past my physical peak, whenever that fleeting peak was, even though I cycled 3 hours this morning to try and prove otherwise. Even the lycra does not totally disguise the onset of sagging boobs and furrowed face.

People say that life begins at 40 when the brain cells die at a faster rate and forgetfulness, poor concentration and focus take hold. I regard that adage with scepticism. People say that you are wiser in your 40s which is a good job for me since wisdom (the art of making savvy choices) is something I am definitely not blessed with as a natural possession.

However, the big choices that I have made in these first 40 years have been good ones. I chose a great woman to be my wife and a wise and generous family to marry into. Before that, I am glad to have chosen to study History at Leicester University and to have gone on to do a PGCE and then be a history teacher. My decision to leave teaching after a couple of years, was ostensibly, a strange one, and in some ways regretful. But I met some incredible people while working for Friends International at Surrey University including my wife. I also had the opportunity, among other things, to travel to China and conduct a wedding in Penang because of this choice.

Leaving Friends International after seven years was the right thing to do. Being a Pastor was the greatest challenge of my life and exposed weaknesses in me that I wish had not been exposed. The decision to come to Chiang Mai, was made quite suddenly and with plenty of risks attached. Yet I am sure it was the right one.

chris and ann horizons

But it was my decision to become a Christian in the first place, in my first year of university, that was the most significant decision of my life. Like many 19 year olds, attracted to a new philosophy, I was arrogant, ignorant, legalistic and insecure. This is not British self deprecating piety speaking, but the objective truth. While the Bible instructs us to ‘. . .make the teaching of Jesus attractive.’ (Titus 2:10) I did not. I am quite sure that I repelled friends and family with my new found faith. If that was you, I am deeply sorry.

Nevertheless, God met me at University and began a process of change and salvation in my life. The verdict that matters in life and death is God’s verdict on us. On account of my faith in him (which is a gift), I have been credited a free righteousness which I could not earn. This is because Jesus came to save sinners. Sin is defined in the bible not only as breaking the law of God but also as serving other gods: normally good things God has created but which make poor saviours e.g.: people’s approval, sex, money, pleasure, leisure, food, sport, family, success.

I have turned to these false saviours from time to time but have never found ultimate satisfaction in them. That is because God has designed the world so that ultimate satisfaction is found only in relationship with our creator.

A trend on Facebook recently has been to nominate the books that have been most influential in one’s life. I am sure people post with mixed motives. Often, in order to advertise and proclaim their knowledge of literature as well as to edify others.

The books that have had greatest impact on me (as much as my failing memory allows me to remember) are:

Mojo Swaptops: (My childhood favourite: A story about the deliciousness of ice- cream and the wonder of ice cream vans)
Les Miserables (A story of the triumph of grace over law)
The Counte Of Monte Christo ( A story of the need for debt to be paid and justice to be visited)
Resurrection- (Tolstoys last book: The story of a man whose quest for redemption dominates his life.)
Lord of the Rings trilogy ( The story of an epic quest to destroy darkness and ‘make everything sad become untrue.’)
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years, 1899-1939 v. 1 ( The biography of a Welsh Harley Street doctor who gave up a glittering career to become pastor of Sand fields Church, Aberavon)
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. ( The biography of a German pastor who became one of the first to speak up against Hitler. He became a double agent and was executed on the last day of World War II)
Pilgrims Progress: (The second best seller of all time. An allegory of the Christian life)

bonhoeffer_book

 

The Bible: The bible is the great narrative to which all other stories point. All weddings and marriages point forward to the ultimate marriage between God and His people. Every great experience of food and wine anticipates the great banquet of the lamb to which history is headed. All great friendships point forward towards the ultimate friendship between God and his people. All sacrificial parental love points forward to the ultimate parental love displayed in The Father’s sacrificial and unconditional love for his people.

In my experience as a Pastor, I have noticed that often those who struggle most to embrace the Father’s offer of adoption and redemption have been those whose experience of parenthood was negative. Those who experienced an angry or an absent Father often struggle to trust their lives to an eternal heavenly Father.

Yet, in my experience of being a Father, I find being a parent the most trying, humbling and humiliating challenge in life. It is a challenge that almost nobody can live up to. I have only been a parent for eleven years but my greatest failings have been as a Dad. I have been uncontrollably and disproportionately angry and at times I have been absent. And generally speaking I have great kids. My idols have been exposed through parenthood. I want to have kids I can show off, I want to have kids I can control and who respect me and affirm me.

 

chris and family at horizons

 

My only hope is to cry out to God who has been so patient with me, so forgiving, so long-suffering in his teaching and guiding of me. Only when that truth grips me and gets deep down into the core of my being can I have the necessary patience to be the Dad I should be. Sure, God is angry sometimes too. You can’t avoid seeing that in the old testament particularly. Yet his anger is unlike mine. His anger is his settled, consistent hostility to all that is evil. Our anger is at core basically good. It is given to make a surgical strike against that which gets between us and that which we love. The problem is that our loves are disordered. Ultimately the gospel proclaims that God’s anger fell on his own Son, who willingly absorbed it, instead of on us. The only way to face the Father’s anger is to trample on that gospel and disregard it.

Whatever the next years may herald, nothing will sustain my family and I like the anchor we have for our souls in the one who is our saviour, friend, Father and lover.

Supporting Missions in Northern Thailand

Supporting Missions in Northern Thailand

Despite the many Buddhist temples dominating the landscape, with the accompanying superstition, fear and animism, Chiang Mai is a centre for Christian missions in Thailand. Korean, American and European missions locate in this strategic hub with good communications to the rest of Asia. Chiang Mai, then, hosts lots of missionary families, many of whom have served in other parts of Asia and have extraordinary stories.

 

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I teach several Korean students whose parents are still serving in Myanmar, China, Laos Cambodia and Vietnam. I teach adopted children, rescued from the streets of India; Kiwi and Australian students whose parents run businesses as mission, schools and HIV education centres. We go to church with ‘investigators’ who infiltrate the sex trade in order to expose and undermine it. We live next door to a Thai working Grandmother and Granddaughter, on one side, and a church planter among the hill tribes on the other side. Opposite are our friends Matt and Bronwen, a teacher/recruiter at Grace and a minister to female prisoners at the local jail. In addition, Sam and I play cricket each morning with a crowd of Pakistanis who have recently been thrown out of Pakistan and severely persecuted for their faith.

Along with helping with other social studies curriculum, my great privilege is to teach the bible to the children of various missionaries and some Buddhist Thais. I have the honour of encouraging them to hear God speak to them personally and develop a relationship with Him.  Some are walking with God and share their parent’s faith. Others struggle with being in a Christian school and long for the day they can leave. Many mentally assent to the truths of Christianity but have no personal relationship with Jesus yet. Statistics show that although many students from Grace leave with a vibrant faith that works itself out in a life of enjoying God and serving him, many also abandon their faith at University when they are confronted with a world where they do not fit in. We have much work to do.

This last term I have been teaching ‘tools for studying the bible’ using Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach’s excellent book: ‘ Dig deeper.’ We have learnt how to identify the author’s purpose, how to read passages in context before applying them to our lives, how to interpret different genres within the bible and how to reconcile apparent contradictions. The students write a bible journal every day and seek the living and speaking God. We have learnt many other tools too and are soon to study the whole book of Exodus.

dig deeper

 

As a family we have experienced great highs and lows. I love the teaching and have done some preaching too at the school chapel and at house church. There are lots of sports at Grace but sadly no cricket team. I keep fit by cycling up the hills that surround the city. Lois and Joe have joined the swim team with training twice per week. Sam is going to play soccer but has been set back by a nasty injury to his chin after he went over the handle bars of his bike. He is recovering well, however, and is enjoying school and serving in the community as he and many of his class members regularly visit a local orphanage called Mango House. Isaac has found it hardest to integrate, not being at school yet and struggling at pre school. Ann spends a lot of time with Isaac which means less time getting to know people and learning Thai. She has, however, enjoyed the company of several ladies nearby and as I write, she is having dinner with her prayer partners. Weekends are often difficult as family trips can be fraught. Please pray for harmony in the family,  a sense of peace and opportunities to offer hospitality to others.

 Prayer items

Thank God that Sam’s hospital visit went well and that he is recovering.

Praise for Grace International School which enables missionaries to stay on the field here in this part of Asia, confident that their children are receiving a great education.

Praise that friends have lent us a vehicle for the time being.

Pray for harmonious family times. Pray that we would get on well and be able to offer hospitality to others.

Wisdom and financial resources to fund and know how and when to obtain a driving licence and purchase a vehicle.

We are so appreciative of your prayers.

 

With much love in Christ

 

Chris, Ann, Sam, Lois, Isaac and Joe.

 

 

 

Grace at ‘Grace’

My favorite word in the entire English language is ‘grace’. If I were to name a church, I would name it ‘Grace Community Church.’ Grace means to receive what we don’t deserve. Grace is what distinguishes gospel Christianity from all other religions where salvation is worked for and achieved rather than received through faith alone.

We are here as a family by the sheer grace of God and because so many of you have shown us grace in supporting us financially. We have also been shown a lot of grace by folk here who have helped us with many basic things like huge shopping trips to get furniture, crockery and bikes, entertaining our children, taking us to an Elephant safari and helping us get school uniform.

We still have a long way to go. We would value your prayers for acquiring a car (much more expensive than we thought), a nursery for Isaac and an oven. We want to use these things to serve more effectively and would like to host house-church in our house occasionally. But we need to get some furniture and be hospitable. Set up costs are rather more than we anticipated.

It is a real pleasure to teach at Grace International School. My main subject here is teaching the students in high school how to study the bible. We have started with a Bible overview and compared the plot-line to other plots which we love eg: Star Wars, Shawshank Redemption, Hunger Games, The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings, Avatar, The Truman Show. In each of these, there is a situation of darkness in which the prospects seem hopeless. But there is the promise of redemption, and justice prevailing. Great sacrifice needs to be effected for this to occur.  This, too, is the plot-line of the bible after the rebellion of mankind against their creator. The Bible narrative is the ultimate story to which all other stories point.

Next, we are looking at how our society objects to the Bible worldview. We are looking at the view that history is written by the winners and that we cannot know anything for sure about the past. We are investigating the allegation that the bible is out of date, sexist, violent and tribal. We are then focusing on the reliability of the original documents and the copies that were made. As we do this, we are also learning to handle the bible. The students write a journal every evening on passages, set by me, which are peer assessed. We are learning how to observe, interpret and apply scripture so that the students have the tools to feed themselves from God’s word for the rest of their lives.

Here at Grace, students are not only educated, but they take part in mission with their teachers. Many will be involved in outreach to tribal groups in the area, to refugees, handicapped children and persecuted minorities. A course in sports leadership, equips students to use sport as a means of reaching out.

As a family, we are overwhelmed at the impact the school has on young lives, apart from enabling missionaries to stay here or in their field, confident in the education that their children are receiving.

Sam, Lois and Joe have a made a good start in school and have been learning some new sports as you can see in the photos.  Please continue to pray for us. Each new day is a challenge and a blessing. We would especially ask that we can find the right nursery for Isaac and that he would sleep through the night without coming in to our room for comfort. We also ask that you would pray for us to find the right vehicle and to stay safe and healthy.

With much love:  The Webbs

foot massage lois volleysam smashvolleyball lois

volleyball

10 days in Chiang Mai

 

Before Ann and the children arrive, and before I go on a staff trip overnight tomorrow, I thought I would take the opportunity to write another post about what God has called us to do in Chiang Mai. I make no excuses for immediately referencing that call of God. I believe 100% that God has called us as a family to serve him here in Chiang Mai and in the community of Grace International School.

After a difficult and harrowing year, during which I completely lost my confidence and pondered many regrets, God has helped me to know in my heart that the experiences we have been through, including the successes and failures, in working with Friends International, as a Pastor and as a teacher have culminated in this opportunity live in Thailand for as long as the Lord wants us to be here.

The school is enabling missionary families to stay on the field but I have also began to realize that Chiang Mai is a place where many bruised and broken families come for respite care. Families at Grace have served and are serving in Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia among other places. The children and young people studying at the school, therefore, are part of families who have endured and suffered much.

grace

 

 

 

Although these missionaries are often amazing people, they are not immune from a fallen world and that falleness manifests itself in all the typical ways and some typical ways. Some parents, whose children study at Grace
have neglected their children in the name of serving Jesus. Some of the students are very resentful of their parent’s life choices. This is not a school where behaviour is impeccable. Pornography, bullying, ‘sexting’ abuse, etc go on here too. But it is a school where God’s grace is exalted.

Having received so much of God’s grace, my mission in life is to speak much of it and to show it. I can’t do that in my own strength. But God has called my family and I to this location to magnify his grace.

Those of you who pray and support us, you are partners in this. I hope you can feel a measure of the excitement of being partners in God’s plan to radiate his grace to the nations.

 

hosue flood

 

 

This grace has helped me get through some crazy days recently. Last night I was preparing to go to bed when I heard the sound of rushing water. A pipe had burst in the kitchen and had completely flooded the downstairs portion of the house. And it was coming out fast. Because we live in community, I was able to call on a fellow teacher nearby who found the valve and then sped me away on his motorbike to the school (at 10pm) where we picked up some ‘super-soppers’ (which I held in one hand as I clasped his back tightly on the end of the bike) in order to shunt the shin high water into the downstairs bathroom.

 

 

 

Because I have been spending my time furnishing as well as flooding the house, I have fallen behind in lesson preparation. I do need prayer that I can prepare a great scheme of work and great lessons as I am teaching Bible study methods to grades 9-12 (14-18 year olds). This is an incredible privilege and I am desperate to do a good job.

Well, Ann and the children arrive on Friday night. I haven’t seen them for two weeks so that is exciting. They are going to be tired, hot and overwhelmed. Please pray that they may settle quickly and also know this sense of call without numbering themselves among those children who feel neglected in the cause of Jesus.

First days in Chiang Mai

Well, I’ve had three days in Chiang Mai. I’m sorry I don’t have photos yet as I don’t have all the cables I need but here are some initial thoughts and some requests for prayer.

The journey via Abu Dhabi and Bangkok was fairly smooth although all flights were delayed. I am staying in a YWAM house which is used to host DTS training, until I receive keys to our new rental home on Friday.  I get to have a look round tomorrow afternoon and talk with the landlord about appliances like a washing machine which we will need. Please would you pray that I can get us set up before Ann and the children arrive.

Please do pray for Ann and the children as they fly next Thursday and for Ann as she is very tired now packing up everything ready to let our house out.

My induction so far has involved meeting the new staff, getting familiarised with the ethos and history of the school,  a new curriculum, learning the computer system and understanding where we stand regarding insurance. We start at 7.30am and finish around 2.pm. Then we have time to practice what we have learned. The school is a great facility, built on the site of an old sports club. Most of the staff and children are American. Many are Koreans who are also planting churches and pioneering missions in this part of Thailand. The quality of the school enables these missionaries to have the confidence to continue their ministries and not to return to their home countries for their children’s education.

I haven’t been in to Chiang Mai yet. It would be good to do that this weekend. Please pray that we can find a church where we can worship, serve and be fed.

Many thanks again for all your support, love and prayer.

Chris

 

Faith and Doubt

abraham and covenant

 
Over the last few months, Ann and I have found our faith stretched in a way we have not encountered before. We have had to think more deeply about what trusting God means. We have also had doubts as to whether going to Thailand is the right thing and more basic doubts about whether God will provide for us, financially, emotionally and spiritually.
The great example of faith in the Bible is Abraham. Abraham is said to be the founder of three world faiths. But Abraham also doubted. In fact, he and his wife became quite cynical about the promises of God. In Genesis 15, God appears to Abraham to reaffirm the promises that Abraham and his barren wife will inherit both a land and descendants as numerous as the stars in the night sky.
Abraham responds: “. . . How can I know . . .?” (Genesis 15:8) He believes. But his faith is riddled with doubt.
What happens next is unprecedented and foundational to our understanding of God and the way he relates to his people. What God does gives Abraham an anchor for his soul and an anchor for our souls when we doubt. God cuts a covenant with Abraham. In our language, He signs an oath. He instructs Abraham to cut various animals in half. Then, in the form of a blazing fire, God passes between the pieces of those animals which are laid out opposite each other.
All this would be familiar to readers of ancient literature. The way covenants were cut was common across the near east. Those who made the covenant would act out the curses of breaking the promises. By cutting animals in half, they were saying: “If I do not keep these promises, may I be cut up and may my body be prey for the birds of the air.” But from history and archaeology we know that when a King and a vassal made a covenant agreement, both the King and the vassal would walk between the pieces. Or, most commonly only the vassal would act out the covenant curse. Yet in Genesis 15, only God, in the form of “. . .a smoking brazier with a flaming torch” passed between the pieces.
Theologians call this a unilateral covenant.
God was saying to Abraham, “I promise that I will keep these promises and if I do not keep them, may my power suffer powerlessness. May my immortality suffer mortality. May I be cut up and cut off if these promises are not kept.”
But God was saying more than that. The fact that only God passed between the pieces means that God would also bear the consequences if Abraham and his descendants broke the covenant.
This is the story of the Bible. God’s people did break the covenant. They worshipped other gods and rebelled wilfully. In the person of Jesus, on the cross, God bore the curse for us. He did this so that we can inherit the blessings promised to Abraham. This is what provides our anchor. God will never leave us nor forsake us because he forsook his own son in our place.
Faith means that we anchor our lives in the promises of God that have been ratified through the cross. Faith has room for doubt. It has room for us to cry out “O sovereign Lord how can I know?” But these doubts are also challenged by God who calls us to trust Him.

unconditional covenant
As we have exercised feeble and failing faith in God these last weeks, God has answered our prayers in so many ways. Here is a sample:
Answered Prayer
• We have been so grateful for the support of folk at New Life Church, Old Woking. We arrived broken and not able to contribute much due to our sudden change of emphasis. But people have been so affirming and supportive of us as a family. It has been overwhelming and deeply healing.
• I had the privilege of preaching at the wedding of the Alan and Karen’s son ( Pastor and wife), yesterday which was the most moving wedding service I have ever been to because of the grace of God, his forgiveness and generosity that it celebrated in a unique way.
• I have had opportunities to preach in various places in the UK over the last weeks which has blessed me and enabled us to partner more folk on our adventure.
• We have found great tenants for 68 Loop Road.
• Despite some setbacks, we have been able to obtain the Visas and sort out a huge amount of practical matters in a very short time frame.
• Obtaining the Visas this Wednesday has enabled us to purchase flight tickets and insurance. I fly out this Friday (25th and begin work 7.30am on 28th), Ann and the children join me flying out on 7th August.
• We have found a house in Chiang Mai, near the school and in a supportive community.
• We have met teachers from GIS on Furlough this week.
• Through the generosity of friends and family we have raised enough finance to be confident that God will provide for us in Thailand.
• God has been using us in these last weeks in Woking to reach out to many people in the centre of town and to partner in the extraordinary project that is the Lighthouse, brainchild of God through Woking Vineyard Church.
• We have had the privilege of knowing the support and generosity of Christians from a wide theological spectrum which is great preparation for mission.

Our further prayer requests are these.

• Peace for Ann and the children. There is still a lot to do in terms of packing the house up and making it presentable for our tenants.
• The children still have many vaccinations to endure. Please pray that they would remain positive about the move and that we would stay close as a family during this big transition.
• Ann is flying with four children. Please pray for grace for this journey.
• For God’s continuing presence with us, and His enabling for us to be a blessing to those we will meet in Thailand.
• Please pray that we would settle quickly and the children would make some good friends quickly.
• For precious friends and family that we leave behind.

With all our love
Chris, Ann, Sam, Lois, Joe and Isaac.