Planting Trees and Giving Thanks

Post a Comment » Written on October 5th, 2011     
Filed under: missions
Day two of the Asia Covenant Consultation VII started with worship let by the Taiwan delegation. True to form they had the crowd up and jumping in no time!

Morning Worship

Next we heard two engaging presentations about missions from Jim Gustafson and Paul DeNeui. Jim is a veteran missionary whose vision and initiatives gave birth to the Covenant work in Thailand forty years ago and yet he came in a spirit of humility, reminding us that it is never about us, our plans, our ideas or our efforts. Mission belongs to God and is always in God’s hands. Paul is also a former missionary to Thailand and now teaches at North Park Seminary. He recast the missional story of Abram for us and spoke of the challenge of living in the tension between legacy and innovation. He also gave multiple examples from scripture of how God has chosen to use the forms of specific contexts and cultures to reach people but then hasĀ given them entirely new meaning; implying that such an approach to missions is firmly rooted in the Bible.

In the afternoon we finally were able to get out of the conference room and take a trip to the local Covenant camp site for a celebratory tree planting ceremony. Representatives from each country helped to plant a specific tree with their country’s name on it, and then about sixty more small saplings were planted around them. This was done as a means of leaving a mark for future generations while also giving thanks for the past forty years of ministry here in Thailand.

Representatives from each country praying before planting the trees

Curt Peterson leads the group in prayer

The Japan group planting their tree

The US delegation and their tree

More saplings being planted

After leaving the camp site we split into two groups and visited a couple of local churches. Since most Covenant churches in Thailand are house churches it’s very unusual and somewhat awkward to take large groups of tourists/visitors into these settings but our experience was truly encouraging and enlightening. The village we visited was set in the beautiful Thai countryside along a narrow street with fewer than fifty homes, surrounded by fields and forests. Right about where the pavement ended and the mud began was a small home that also serves as a meeting place for the local congregation.

Rural Thai scenery

A typical home in the rural village

Farm land

The home where this church meets

Praying for the church members

We crammed our group into the small open area in front of the house and had a time of fellowship and prayer with the members of this congregation. They have about twenty people in the church and have intentionally never built a church building or put up a cross anywhere. They have been in this village as a church for thirty years! I was struck by the contrast. In Japan, and even more so in the U.S. a thirty year old congregation with only twenty people, no land, no building and no full time pastor would likely feel like they were a failure, and yet the witness of this congregation was so strong; their clarity of vision and mission so apparent; and there was simply no question in anyone’s mind that this was the right form and structure for the body of Christ in that place.

Neighborhood kids get the best seat in the house during the prayer time

Finally we returned to the hotel and after a short break we shared a meal with about three hundred people including some of the members of the church we had just visited, and then enjoyed a celebratory program in commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the Thai Covenant Church. Curt Peterson brought the message from the Word and many others shared their parts of the story of forty years of God’s faithfulness in this land.

The Japanese delegation enjoying the banquet

Thai dancers from Covenant churches

Dancers of all ages

Banphote and Jim Gustafson share their part of the story

Tomorrow is the closing day of our consultation. Stay tuned for more news!

A little reminder that we're in Thailand!

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