Malones in Isaan Thailand - Working amongst the unreached of Isaan

Follow the adventures of the Malones in Thailand as we work with urban and rural peoples in the Isaan area in Thailand. We aim to share the Good News of Jesus with the Isaan and mobilise for 5 teams across Isaan. Previously, we were with the poor in Samut Prakan (part of Greater Bangkok). If you would like to work with us (short or long-term) please don't hesitate to contact us for more information.

20 October 2009

English Camp at the beach

Last week we ran our Annual English Camp with a local school from Samut Prakan. This represents the only opportunity these people get to hear the Good News that God had placed in our hearts. We travelled down to Rayong Beach. 90 kids attended, along with 10 Thai teachers and our team of 11 native English speakers (including Jen & I). By the way, I'm still not telling anyone that I failed English at school :-) Thankfully, I am married to a wonderful woman who not only has TESOL training but clearly knows what she is doing. Also, we were blessed with a great team of volunteers who came from Chiang Mai (Thailand), Sydney and Canberra (Australia). They gave their all and brought a variety of skills and gifts to the Camp (beyond English teaching) - they were a fantastic team :-)

The great group of volunteers who helped us run the Camp

Hot pink was the theme colour for teachers at this year's camp. Somehow, I don't think I will be wearing my hot pink shirt again - Jen tells me it doesn't suit me !!

This is a unique opportunity we have every October to continue to build relationships with this local school and share the Good News with those who come along to Camp. We are really thankful that every child got an opportunity to hear about Jesus - either through the 'Bible Story' activity or through our interactions with them. Also, we were blessed to have many opportunities to interact with the Thai teachers. These relationships allow us to hold an assembly in the school on Christmas Day to share the Good News story God has given us - yep, schools here are open as normal right through what Westerners know as the Christmas period.

Acting out a story about Jesus going to His friends in the storm

One of the 5 teams lining up for a photo on the beach

Outside games activity

As we plan to be in Australia this time next year, we are unable to run the Camp next October. This was burdening our hearts, yet we are hopeful that God may have provided already a team of people who can liaise with one of the Thai teachers and another worker here in Thailand to make sure the Camp still goes ahead next October.

Yet another opportunity that God provides here to testify about the God of all creation to a people group that has had previous little impact from the Good News.

07 October 2009

The poverty dilemma

I often ask myself the question here in Thailand .... why do people live in such poverty when so many are living comfortable lives? And then, how best can we help people who are often in dire physical need?

Let me share a story.... Mae GuLaap (translated 'Mother Rose') is a 70+ year old lady who must fend for herself in her simple dwelling made of wood and cast iron in one of the communities in which we work. She needs to earn income because social welfare is inadequate to keep her alive. She lives with two children who have been abandoned by their parents. Then she looks after many more each day in order to earn 100 baht per day (equivalent to around $A 3.40). These little children are left by their mothers because they must go off to earn whatever they can through selling food on the streets and work long hours (a 12 hour day selling food is not uncommon). The dilemma Mae GuLaap has is that (in case of 2 children previously) the mothers may not come back for their children and then she must take on more young ones in her permanent care. The picture below shows one of the children (a small baby) looked after by Mae GuLaap. This baby is left with her for around 12 hours each day for 7 days a week.

One of the children looked after by Mae GuLaap - a baby rocking to sleep outside Mae GuLaap's dwelling

Mae GuLaap has tremendous needs, yet her face oozes out the love of God with a smile that can only come from Jesus giving her strength. She is a member of our church. But she rarely gets to church because she must earn her income 7 days a week. This is the reality of living from day-to-day on the poverty line in a country where there is little social welfare and few people to help those in need.

Last week we took Mae GuLaap a huge bag of rice - her face lit up like she had won the lottery :-) . A practical way to help meet a need and it probably means she can feed the children who have been abandoned into her care during the next week.

Green stagnant water lays beneath these places all year round in one of our slum communities

As you can see in the picture above, a lot of care is undertaken to ensure the spirits reside in well elevated little dwellings that are clean and carefully maintained. People, on the other hand, reside in houses made of whatever materials can be slapped together. We would love to be able to help teach people the importance of a clean and safe environment. Also, there are huge opportunities here to help in community development (more specifically community health development), if we had the people skilled in this area.

But, daily we are faced with the dilemma of how to best help people in poverty .... handing out money is not wise because it grows dependence and breaks down community by showing favouritism, yet turning your back on valid needs is certainly not what Jesus would do. We are increasingly coming to the conclusion that one reason God has called us here is to share our blessings with people in need - through providing food and other practical assistance (such as helping to pay education fees for children). It is a dilemma - while financial dependence is not a good thing there is a need for assistance. This assistance must respond to specific needs (e.g. helping the elderly with food parcels, or, helping younger more-able people with the means to run their own businesses). That is, in the case of younger people, the old adage applies "if you give them a fish, they will eat for a day but if you teach them how to fish they will eat for a lifetime".

Above all, we have Good News about salvation. God calls us to share this Good News while we are being Christ to people in caring for them physically.

Finally, we must ask ourselves the question in all circumstances like these .... what would Jesus do?