Celebrating Unity and Diversity in Thailand

This week I am in Roi Et, Thailand with a delegation of nine pastors and lay people, representing the Japan Covenant Church at the Asia Covenant Consultation, VII. It was under the urging of former ECC Dept. of World Mission leader Jim Gustafson that these regular gatherings of Covenant church leaders and representatives started, and this year’s consultation coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Thai Covenant Church so they are hosting it here in Roi Et.

Yesterday was a travel day. Our group from Japan met at Narita Airport at ten in the morning and flew to Bangkok where we rushed through immigration and customs, and then barely caught our connecting flight to Khon Kaen. Once we got on that plane we saw many familiar faces from Taiwan, India, U.S. and more. We finally got our act together and took a group photo like we should have before leaving Japan.

Japan Delegation arrives in Kohn Kaen

Then it was a long two hour bus ride to Roi Et, where we finally arrived some time around 10PM and got checked in.

Checking in at the open-air lobby of the hotel

This morning our opening session was a panel discussion about church planting, with panelists representing six different countries and seven groups. They talked about how we define churches, what we seek to accomplish in church planting and how we go about doing it. The variety of perspectives, methods and contexts made for a rich discussion.

Representatives from USA, Japan, Northern India, Thailand, Southern India, Taiwan and Philippines

These gatherings are always a great opportunity for strengthening our international networks and friendships. Much of that happens at the informal level, often times during the coffee breaks or meal times.

Paula Chen (Taiwanese missionary to Japan), Yasushi Shimizu (chair of the Japan Covenant) and Vernon Wu (representative from Taiwan Covenant)

After supper we had an international worship service and celebrated our unity in Christ with a traditional Thai style communion service, using rice balls and Rosella juice for the elements followed by a string tying ceremony; another traditional Thai custom.

The Thai celebrant preparing the elements of the Eucharist

Pastor Ino receiving a string blessing

Pastor Shimizu receiving a string blessing

Pastor Usui giving a string blessing

This group is so diverse that one can’t help but wonder how we can even think about working and serving together. And yet over and over again we are being reminded in very tangible ways that our unity in Christ is greater than any of our other differences.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for day two!

4 comments to Celebrating Unity and Diversity in Thailand

  • Daniel

    Great to see Pastor Ino being blessed and a part of this process too. Miss you guys so much! We are definitely praying but need to do that more and more!

  • jhpeterson

    Hey Daniel,
    So when are you coming back!! I’m ready for another round any time you are…
    Next fall we’ll be going back to the U.S. on home assignment for 6-7 months.

  • RONNA

    These gatherings are always such special times, I love seeing so many familiar faces. Hope to have the chance to see these brothers and sisters again.

  • Sharon Dotson

    Jim, thanks for taking these pics, sharing them and hearing a little about the consultation. It is neat to see the diversity represented there.

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