When people talk about missions, they often associate it with brave Christians leaving the comforts of home on a daring and arduous commission for Christ, perhaps sneaking through the underbrush to evade authorities or baking for hours under the sun doing construction work. While certainly some mission fields indeed meet the requirements of a Bond film plot, the reality of many trips is that they are challenging in ways other than the physical. My family’s mission trip to the Nong Bua Lam Phu (NBLP) church in Thailand was one peppered with memories and difficulties, tremendous highs and disheartening lows, and abundant examples of God’s protection and plan.
As a relatively young Singaporean, the trip was also an eye-opener into the culture, perspectives, and struggles our fellow Christians can face, an invaluable opportunity for personal experience and growth. But best of all was definitely the relationships we formed with the people in Nong Bua Lam Phu, brothers and sisters in Christ to be loved, prayed for, and blessed.
Our main goal for the trip, which took place from 28 March to 2 April 2023, was to run an Alpha youth programme and camp for the church, an important commission that aimed to bring the younger generation of the church closer to Christ while also reaching out to young pre-believers. Much prayer and work was put into making the programme a success beforehand, and yet it soon became apparent that the strivings of man were not what was most important.
We found ourselves having to overhaul the entire format in which we had planned to conduct the Alpha course, and we had to think on our feet to facilitate it successfully. Despite the stress this caused, God prevailed, and the course was a success, but it showed how much we owed it to Him to see us through.
During Alpha, the youths were encouraged to think and question various topics, including faith, the Bible, and sin, in a safe space where they could share their views and concerns, a deeply important process to growing Christians. The programme culminated with an altar call and the presence of the Holy Spirit was profound. Tears and prayers were offered in what I will always remember to be one of the most moving experiences of the Lord’s power to touch and change.
Of the many heartening experiences I witnessed, several have stuck in my memory. Teaching the younger children English was a heartening and rewarding experience, with their politeness and willingness to learn making them a pleasure to teach. As they began to warm up to us, they showed that even if we had trouble communicating, children everywhere are still children, full of fun and cheekiness ready to burst forth if given the chance.
Attending the Sunday service was also a moving episode, as their sanctuary had been filled with palm leaves to commemorate Palm Sunday. Hearing the sermon and singing hymns in Thai while being surrounded in green fronds was both humbling and exhilarating, as it came with the knowledge that this was how our brothers and sisters were accustomed to worship. We may be different in many ways and have different resources available to us, but we are all one in Christ.
There were many memories that were simply fun or interesting as well. The wildlife, for one, never failed to entertain—a large and truculent-looking water buffalo came storming into the church compound at one point, and there were several loud skirmishes between the church dogs and their wild counterparts which were fearsome to behold.
But of course, the best experiences came from the Thai people themselves, for whether it was the pastors, youth, or translators, speaking with them was both a joy and educational. We learned several basic Thai phrases, including proclaiming “aroi” meaning “delicious” at every opportunity. Enjoying a steam-filled hotpot with the pastor was a thoroughly satisfying kind of fellowship as well. Rather surprising is my favourite memory with the church youths: washing dishes together. It was a raucous time of laughter full of mangled English and Thai, so I suppose something about soap and dirty plates must make it easier for God to bring hearts together.
Overall, it was a trip which I am thankful to have been a part of. It isn’t every day that one gets the chance to go out and make a difference in the lives of others, but I can safely say it was worth it. And of course, trips like this will make a difference in you too.
Here’s what some camp participants have to say:
Boonyarit Hongthong, nine years old: He had fun at the two Children’s Ministry lessons and liked the lesson on “How to Make Friends”. “I liked the Bible story on Jonathan and David’s [friendship]. I learned to love friends and neighbours. I remember the Bible verse Mark 12:30–31.”
Kanit Phukingna, 17 years old: “I loved the discussions. Alpha makes us know each other better and allows us to think about questions like ‘Who is Jesus?’ I brought my friend Kaew who is curious about Christianity. Alpha is a good atmosphere for her and for us to exchange knowledge and know more about our faith.”
Wiyada Thongkaew, 15 years old: “I didn’t think this camp was going to be fun. I thought it would be boring. But the Alpha videos were fun and we can understand better. Last time, some Christian words like ‘repent’ were difficult, and when I do wrong, my family would say ‘Sin, sin,’ but don’t explain what it is about. Now I understand my faith better, that God is always with us, and the Holy Spirit and God always understand us.
Thippawan Seeprom, 20 years old: “Alpha, for me, was a chance to know more about Jesus Christ and about the Holy Spirit. I now know which fruit of the spirit that I don’t have and need to grow.”