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.

29 November 2010

Exciting Opportunities in Samut Prakan

We are increasingly focusing on our next term in Thailand (2011-14) and in which direction the Work is heading. Recently, there has been some exciting developments regarding longer-term visas, work with the Foundation, and future partnerships on the ground in Thailand, which we will write about soon to those who regularly receive our prayer letters. Our Home Assignment time in Australia over these last 6 months has been enjoyable catching up with many friends and seeing so much of our beautiful home country again. But, now it is preparation time for another term of service overseas.

We were blessed in the previous term (2007-10) with many short-termers visiting and this looks set to continue over the next year at least. But, one of our priorities over 2011-14 is to build longer-term team - given the enormous amount of work to be done in planting new cell churches in every slum community in the 1.2 million urban-industrial province of Samut Prakan. Yet, at this stage, it is only Jen & I working among this group on this task. So, here goes a little plug for the many job opportunities on the Samut Prakan team followed by 3 pictures depicting some life there ....

Our focus is on the urban poor. Our strategy is firstly to share Jesus holistically (as meeting spiritual, physical, emotional and mental needs). Secondly, to disciple new believers, in a church planting context, so they are equipped to reach out to their own people. This strategy is mindful of the need to adopt a learning approach and to offer ourselves as servants of the people – as shown by the examples of Jesus and the Apostle Paul. To this end, we need people who love Jesus and want to make Him known, have a desire to serve the urban poor and have skills, or experience and/or training in any of the following areas ...

- TESOL teaching
- Starting up micro-enterprises with the poor
- Youth and/or children’s ministry
- Sports ministry(soccer, basketball etc.)
- Community / health development with the poor
- Health professionals (esp. doctors, dentists)
- Musicians
- Artistic / craft design
- Providing addiction recovery
- Environmental management
- Training leaders and/or discipling new believers

If any of this speaks to your heart, then please contact us. Then we can journey in discovering together whether working in this exciting ministry is for you. If God is prompting you, PLEASE listen to Him :-)

Some of our kids in our local slum community on our last day with them in June this year


Our cell church in our local slum community


Living conditions for many are very poor - this guy's name is Phil :-)


Feel free to comment or discuss further and to pray and partner with us in Samut Prakan for God's Glory. Until we see Him face to face, Phil

26 August 2010

Thailand Ministry Images

Check out our new video "Thailand Ministry Images". Some of you may have seen this video already as we have used it to present to groups over the last month. The video was made by a friend who visited us for a week in April 2010, so contains some excellent live images of bits of our work there. Why not have a look and leave feedback or a comment :-)



We continue to be on furlough in Australia and it is our plan to return to the work in Thailand with the urban poor in January 2011.

22 July 2010

Our first 3 years in Thailand

We are enjoying our Home Assignment in Australia, experiencing an Aussie winter again after 3 years of intensely hot weather in Thailand. I have compiled a very amateur video of our first 3 years in slum ministry in Thailand. Please have a look, feel free to drop a comment and enjoy :-)


Also, use this to stimulate you to partner with us in prayer. The needs are great, only God can adequately meet all the needs through His riches in Glory in Christ Jesus (Phil.4:19). What a privilege it is to serve the Living God - made possible only through His sovereign Grace :-)

STOP PRESS - we will shortly have 2 more videos put up made more professionally by a friend with videoing skills .... watch this space.

01 July 2010

Settling back into Australia

We have now been back in Australia for 3 weeks. Leaving Thailand seems like a blur, but before we know it we'll be back again to the ministry in Thailand in mid January 2011. Some things have been strange back in Australia such as:
- cars stopping for you at zebra crossings,
- relative absence of people in the streets (maybe because of the cold in Canberra),
- the rough Aussie accent (especially that of our new Prime Minister), which we appreciate would be hard for new learners of English to understand,
- the huge choice in the shops in varieties of Tim Tams and Easy Mac ...... and the list goes on!

But now we are back we are fully into re-connecting with people. It has been our priority to understand where many of our friends are at after 3 years and to appreciate their vastly different journeys to ours. We have also spent considerable time lately sharing with organised groups about the needs in Samut Prakan and the unfinished job at hand.

Our sendoff from our friends in Samut Prakan in early June seems sooooo long ago now, but below are a few images of this occasion .........

Some of our stuff is carried off by a friend to storage for the 7 months


I'm Saying goodbye to one of our key ministry partners - Ajarn Chaiyut


Two friends saying goodbye at Bangkok airport with Jen


Some of Matt's friends giving him a final hug


So, we have left Thailand for now. We ask you to pray that we remain faithful as we continue in ministry for these months in our own culture. :-)

02 June 2010

1,033 days on ..... expectations exceeded

That's the length of time we have been in Thailand ... wow, what a journey it has been!! We look forward now to catching up with friends and family in Australia for the next 7 months.

We have seen God exceed our human expectations, but at the same time are not surprised because God can do immeasurably MORE than all we ask or imagine (see Ephesians 3:20,21). We have been "riding on God's Back" as He does His work in Samut Prakan - we have simply been His willing (and some days not so willing) servants. Sure, the heat and humidity and general daily discomfort of living conditions get to you, but in the end it is worth it seeing the Hand of God in people's lives and His transforming power to behold. Only last Sunday, after preaching on Mark 13 at church God gave me the blessing of praying with a friend from our local slum community as he received Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.

Blessing of praying with Brateung as he receives Jesus
What then are expectations of our time back in Australia?
Firstly, to have quality time with friends and family. We will not push ourselves onto you but will serve those who are willing to have the time. This we hope will include lots of laughter, but may also include some tears (depending on what you - our friends - and we have been through over these last 3 years).
Secondly, we would like to share our burden for cross-cultural mission in Asia and want to (with passion) share with those who will listen how you can be involved in a great movement of God's Spirit across Asia. We want to celebrate God's Goodness together with you.
Thirdly, we will need to take some rest time in our own culture for a change. So, we do expect to get to the surf and also to the mountains and Aussie bush at some stage. Also, getting to see the Rabbitohs will be high on the list - wouldn't it be great if they made the grand final this year?

In the meantime, please continue to pray with passion for our friends here that God would continue to transform lives in the slum communities of Thailand. Below is a picture of our last cell church meeting last week. We praise God that after 2 years of meeting every week with only one of these people in our local slum community that God has added to the number for His Honour and Glory. What a Great God have we!!

16 May 2010

Joys in the Midst of Challenges

In past blogs I've tried to convey some of the challenges of our work here in urban slum communities, but there are also many joys amidst those challenges. Here I want to share two joys that we experienced last week.

Last Thursday at our cell group in our local community I had the joy of sharing the Gospel in Thai with a man who has been coming to our group for a few weeks. Not only has he been coming, but he has allowed us to meet in the shade of his front yard since the weather has been too hot to meet in Jemuay's home! He had been to a church in the past, and as we chatted about God's love it became clear that he was now praying to God instead of to Buddha for such things as happiness, a good night's sleep, and the provision of enough to live on, and he knew that Jesus died to save us, but he didn't know why we needed saving and from what. So it was a great joy to be able to share this with him. Bateung can be seen standing in the middle back of the photo below of our cell group in front of his home.



The other joy was visiting a 9 day old baby in the other community that we work in. On our first visit to this community we met Som, a girl in her early 20s, and started teaching her English every week along with a couple of other students. We have only seen her sporadically since then, including a few weeks ago when I noticed she was pregnant. We were excited to hear last week from her mother-in-law, who attends our cell group, that Som had just had a baby boy, so went to visit on Saturday. Here is a photo of Som, her baby, her mother-in-law (Mae Lek) and a nephew and niece. They're sitting in a house that Som's husband has started to build for them next to Mae Lek's house. The floor and roof are done, but he had to put make-shift walls of tin on two sides for now. When compared to all the paraphernalia that we had to have when we had babies, they have next to nothing, but it certainly hasn't affected the amount of joy that a new born baby brings to a family!



05 May 2010

Riding on God's back

Whenever I go to either of our 2 slum communities I am greeted by several smiling little Thai faces calling out "kru fil ma laew ... khii lang, khii lang". Basically, what they are saying is "teacher Phil is here, can we ride on your back". Generally, these kids have no fathers, they live with their grandmothers or another relative and yearn for male attention and rough play. The only attention they normally get from adults is an aggressive hit over the head. So I respond to their plea by giving them a ride on my back. I pay for it the next day - most of the time with a sore and stiff back. I've come a long way from someone who (at times) couldn't walk because of my injured back, as a teenager I was told I needed an operation with at least 1 year's convalescence.

Check out the video below of a happy little 8 year old (called Jet) taken a year ago riding on my back. If the video doesn't load you can view it on my Youtube channel.



As we conclude our first term of service in Thailand it occurs to me that this is what we have been doing - we have been riding on our Father God's back. It is only Him who has kept us faithful during opposition. During this time He has established a ministry here in the urban slum communities. He has planted 2 cell churches to be a strong and faithful witness in these 2 communities. We have also seen people make commitments to follow Him as their Lord and Saviour. Let's not be under any illusion here - it was God alone who was preparing to do a work in Samut Prakan 3 years ago. We've just come here and have ridden on His back. Zechariah 4:6 confirms this when it says " .... not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty".

The video below shows a prayer time at the end of our cell church meeting in one of these slums. In this particular slum we started a small cell group (when we started a kids ministry) around 2 years ago with the only believer in this community. It is a huge blessing to see what God is doing as He "adds to the number those who are being saved" (Acts 2:47) and has raised up solid Thai leadership ..... no need for me to teach here anymore and we can feel thankful and 'blessed out of our boots' as we go on Home Assignment next month. Watch and enjoy what God has done :-)



Yes, riding on God's Back is the best thing we can do. What are you going to do in your life? I plead with you to choose to ride on God's Back - it is worth it, you get to see things from a HIGHER perspective, you get protected by the strongest back in the universe, you get to have fun !! However, it is a bumpy ride sometimes but I can testify it is worth it and I wouldn't exchange riding on His Back for anything else in this world !!! :-)

21 April 2010

It's time .....

We are drawing close to the end of our 1st term in Thailand and are now preparing to return to Australia in early June for 7 months. Over the month of May we will be making sure arrangements are in place for the ministry to continue over the June to January period and saying goodbye to our many friends here for 7 months.
April has been summer holidays in Thailand ..... schools have been closed and many of our friends have gone back to the rural provinces. So, over this last month we have interspersed holidays while continuing some ministry in the slum communities in which we work.

The joy of the Songkran festival - I'm on the left joining in on the water throwing

The annual Songkran festival was a real highlight with all our children joining us in Samut Prakan. But even better was the opportunity Jen & I had to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary - firstly, on our own, then with all our kids together. On both occasions we went to the sea, thanks to God's bountiful provision of a monetary gift. At this time, we do feel blessed by God's goodness to us - His provision of strength and energy during this hot season, His provision of 25 years of marriage partnership, and His provision of 3 wonderful adult children who love to follow the Living God. I feel in a good place as we conclude our first term of ministry in Thailand - God has done much to establish this ministry to the urban poor of Samut Prakan, we recognise His Hand in all things. What a joy it is to serve the Living God !!

Jen & I took the opportunity to thank God for 25 years and think toward the next ? years until death parts us

If you had seen the news you would realise that Thailand is in the middle of a political and economic crisis that has the potential to shake up the country significantly. We would ask that you please pray for the Thai people in this period of political uncertainty that their desire for peace and resolution would turn their attention to the Only One who binds the broken-hearted (our Lord Jesus Christ).

21 March 2010

Cell church in the slum

Just wanted to give you a 'small peek' into the cell group we run in Klong Da Nu slum community. Every Thursday we meet with 3 believers and are often joined by neighbours or other interested people who want to see what it is like to worship the Living God. Klong Da Nu is a community of around 700 people.

video

This video was taken last Thursday. If you have problems viewing the video here, you can also view it on my YouTube page at http://www.youtube.com/user/malonephil
along with other videos there.

This is very early stages of church planting in an urban slum community. After 18 months of working in this community we feel a part of it. God has used this time to build credibility for His Name amongst a people who are hurting from a range of issues in their lives and background. God has given many opportunities from these many friendships to share about the Good News. It is long and hard work, but a privilege to testify to the faithfulness of God in our our own lives.

Faces of Klong Da Nu Community


Please pray for us as we continue to work in this community on days when the temperature reaches 40 degrees with high humidity. You may notice in the video a wet towel around my neck (this is a necessity at this time of the year).

We are now in the midst of the lengthy Thai summer break when schools are closed and many return to their rural provinces for time with their wider families. It is also the Thai new year in a couple of weeks. So, from Monday 22 March we will be on holidays for around 4 weeks (which will include a conference with our mission agency in the middle of that time) and include a celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary with all our children. So, we probably won't blog again until late April :-) Happy new Thai year.

09 March 2010

Some Challenges in Ministering to the Poor

1 John 3:17 challenges us: "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" This verse rings in my mind as I spend time in poor communities visiting friends from church, eating lunch with english students, chatting with people sitting along the path and building relationships.

I see one couple from church trying to rebuild their termite-eaten house one side at a time so they still have two walls and half a roof to sleep under for the several weeks it will take them since they don't have the money to hire help. The have been able to buy some timber and tiles with money they have saved up from her $8 a day 4 day a week job since he stopped drinking and she stopped gambling, but it has now run out. I should mention too that they look after her 10 year old grandson whose parents were both sent to jail on drugs charges and are now both dead, one from a disease, the other from capital punishment. My whole being wants to use funds donated by our friends around the world to give them all they need to have a decent home that will not fall down around them again in another year, as well as the money needed to request electricity connection to their house. As you read this you're probably thinking, well what's the problem, why don't you??



To put it simply, poverty is not just about lack of material things and so is not fixed by just giving material things. For example, we don't want to cause a dependence on charity, especially from foreigners, to replace a dependency on gambling, or worse, to take the place of a dependence on God. We have already agreed with our pastor that most of our giving should be done through the local church and are thankful for the wisdom he has shown in meeting the needs of the poor.

We did give an agreed amount through the church to the above family to buy good timber for the posts and tiles for the roof, and the men from the church helped with labouring one Sunday afternoon. It still is not the house of their dreams, as they had to use the corrugated iron from the old roof to make the walls until they're able to save up enough again to buy fibro for the walls.

Meanwhile, I'm still struggling with the questions of who to help, how best to help in a way that will bring people closer to God, and how much of my desire for people to think well of me is tied up in my desire to help. Most importantly, I'm learning that this community needs God's love even more than any material help we can give, as addressing their spiritual poverty will go a long way towards 'fixing' their material poverty, which brings me back to the verse I began with: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." (v16-18) And let us not love just with money, but with our whole lives. Isaiah 58:10 tells us to "spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry," not just to spend our money on them. There are so many other stories we could add to this one which show that our first response is not always the best, so please pray for Godly wisdom for us in everything we do.

23 February 2010

Neighbourhood offering to monks

Thailand is a country of festivals ..... never a month goes by and we see a festival of some description. Last month we witnessed a parade of monks coming through our area to give their new year blessing to the neighbourhood. Receiving this blessing from monks is very important to the Thai - from their perspective it will give them good fortune, protection from evil spirits and earn good merit - all part of a journey to earn their own salvation.

A neighbour prays over her offering for the monks


An official precedes the monk procession to collect a monetary offering from the neighbour


The procession of monks comes down the road calling into each house


Another neighbour shows respect while they receive blessing from a monk


All the 'goodies' collected are thrown into a ute accompanying the procession


Please pray with us for release for the Thai from the burden of making merit. We know that Jesus has made perfect merit for us that lasts for eternity and provides a free gift of salvation for all people.

06 February 2010

The Challenges of Cross Cultural Discipleship

We have been working with the kids in the slum community near our home for around 18 months now and were overjoyed to witness many of them pray to accept Jesus at our Christmas outreaches, as you may have read about previously. We have been even more overjoyed to observe in these weeks following, that some of them were really serious about the decision they made, and although they don't fully understand it, they are keen to learn more about becoming children of God.

Amidst the joys of following up some of these children and teenagers, it's also been quite a challenge and somewhat discouraging at times. These challenges include their haphazard attendance at our get togethers as they're often off staying at mum's place or visiting relatives in another community for the weekend, the distractions from younger children, their different world view and ingrained beliefs, as well as my feelings of inadequacy with the language barrier and the age barrier (I hardly ever worked with children in Australia!)

This morning we came to the question, are you confident you will go to heaven when you die? When they answered that they're not sure, it depends on how much good they do compared to how much bad, I realised how much their Buddhist world view is still ingrained in their thinking, despite the number of times they'd heard the Gospel. I was able to go over with them again the fact that we can never do enough good to get to heaven, that we need only trust in what Jesus has done for us...

There are two 13 year old girls in particular who I would love you to pray for. Their names are Bin and Wil. Please pray that God will continue to work in their hearts to bring them to a greater understanding of what He has done for them and of His love for them so that they will be able to pass it on to the younger children in their community, and so that the changes in their lives will be a witness to the adults as well. Praise God for His promise in the midst of my inadequacies: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:9)

Wil on the right with one of her little neighbours


Bin in her community

24 January 2010

A new year - God's work continues (part 2 of 2)

Part 2 of "God's work continues" features a small selection of the fellow believers that we work with - Thai people who love Jesus and desire to make Him known to others that have little opportunity in life.

Our church - this is where we meet with some great people on Sundays


Probably one of my greatest joys in ministry in Thailand has been to connect with this fellowship of believers (known as Muang Samut Prakan Church). I am thoroughly blessed as we meet together to worship the Living God - frequently, I am overcome with tears at the goodness of God as we worship together in that simple building pictured above. They have helped us grow our worship in Thai and have partnered with us in every aspect of the ministry in which God has called us to do here in Samut Prakan.

Our friend and church pastor - Ajarn Chaiyut

Ajarn Chaiyut did his theological training in America, so he can speak English. However our friendship has been built with him using only Thai language. On the rare occasions when I preach (about 3-4 times a year), he translates into Thai for me as I am not confident enough to preach in Thai yet. He has a good understanding of the Bible himself and faithfully teaches and preaches God's Word. God used him to start this church around 12 years ago. It has since grown to now have somewhere between 70 and 90 regular attenders (including children). Every Tuesday morning for about 2-3 hours we meet with and pray with Ajarn Chaiyut as we work very closely on proclaiming Jesus in Samut Prakan and growing fellowships of believers in the many communities in which we work.

Mae Dukada - one of our "mothers" at church, aged 82 years

Mae Dukada speaks of renewed energy in her life since meeting Jesus for the 1st time only 3 years ago (at the ripe old age of 79). She lives a very simple lifestyle in a poor community but Jesus has provided everything she needs and she is satisfied with her new life in Christ. Last year she was attacked and robbed and suffered injury and bruising, but God protected her from losing her life. She says the only priority in her life now is to read God's Word and pray - God does everything else. She is a living example of God's faithfulness to the other older ladies in our church that come from poor communities. Praise God for Mae Dukada, we love her very much :-)

Jen with Jemoway in her house in the smaller slum community
Jemoway has worked with us for over 2 years now. She is full of the joy of the Lord despite having very little of her own things. She lives in one room that is her workroom (where she makes clothes), her kitchen and bedroom altogether ..... note the ironing board in the picture with a garment on it that she is making. Until recently Jemoway was the only believer in the smaller slum community in which we work (now, there are a few teenagers as well that Jen is discipling after the Christmas outreach). Every week in her room (pictured above) we have read God's Word together and prayed together for the establishment of God's church in her community. God is at work and the gates of hell cannot prevail against Him (see Matthew 16:18).

Please pray with us for these and others we work with who already know Jesus. Pray that we will encourage them to disciple the Thai church so that it grows into the next generation as a strong church that reaches the nation, the region of South East Asia and beyond.

10 January 2010

A new year - God's work continues (part 1 of 2)

I was reading Colossians 4 a few days ago and God drew my attention to the following in verse 18 "... see to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord". There are 2 very important truths here - firstly, God requires resolute faithfulness and obedience from me ("complete the work") and secondly, this ministry in the slums of Samut Prakan comes from God, belongs to God and is for His Glory ("the work you have received from the Lord"). So we are into a new year, and I have no idea what it will bring. God willing, the year can be divided into 2 parts - ministry in Samut Prakan up to early June, then Home Assignment in Australia for the rest of the year.

So, in this blog, let me introduce you to some typical people that we work with who don't know Jesus (next blog I'll introduce you to some people we work with who do know Jesus) .....

This is the Committee Chairperson who runs/governs the larger of the slum communities we work in.
God has enabled us to find favour with him while he has observed our Saturday work with the many children in his community. It was this relationship that paved the way for the Christmas outreach to be held in the central community area where somewhere between 400-500 people attended and heard about Jesus for the first time.

This lady also comes from the same community - we teach her English each Thursday and have a very good relationship that opens the door in sharing the Good news with her.
She helped us tirelessly with the Christmas outreach, providing sweets for the 300+ kids who turned up. She also cooks us something yummy each week and/or takes us out for lunch. We have many good conversations with her, but she is tied to the cycle of "doing good to receive good".

This 8-year old boy from the larger slum community has hung with us for a year now. He is slowly growing into a friendship with Jesus.
His name in Thai means "ant". He displays typical behavioural problems associated with a child who has been abandoned by their parents. As he learns to trust Jesus fully, I firmly believe God will bring the healing he needs to be a whole person. He is seen here at the Christmas outreach throwing down his ticket number which was not called out for a present because we ran out of presents.

This lady lives in the smaller slum community in which we work.
She makes pegs - 10 hours work for a mere $2. She is very needy and has the added responsibility of caring for her grandchildren who have been abandoned by their parents. She loves chats with Jen and stopped me in the street yesterday to tell me how much she has missed us over the last week or so when we were away. As we share the Good news with her we are reminded that Jesus loves her and wants to see her come to Himself.

I have just opened a small window to only 4 people who are fairly typical of those in Samut Prakan for whom Jesus died and cares for, but still don't know the saving Grace of a friendship with Jesus. Please pray with us over the next few months in Samut Prakan that God's work will continue for His Glory and that we will remain faithful as the temperatures soar to over 40 degrees (celcius) and humidity hovers around 90-100 per cent.