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.

06 December 2012

Unreached peoples of Isaan

We have moved to Ubon Ratchathani, one of the largest cities in the Isaan Area of Thailand.  Below is a promotional video (around 4 minutes) where we share of the need here for workers to join us in the task of church planting in one of the least reached areas of the world today.

Please pray with us for workers in this harvest field.

10 July 2012

A Glimpse into Khlong Da Nu

We have been working in this community for 4 years - started one year after our arrival into Thailand.  By God's Grace, a community church has been planted in this place.  We are praying this gathering of believers grows to be a strong base from which many communities in Samut Prakan are reached.  It will be up to the new leaders (Thai) to carry this work on as we prepare to leave for Isaan in a few months.

When God builds His church the gates of hell cannot prevail against it! (Matt.16:18).  Can I urge you please to pray that way for Khlong Da Nu over these next months especially, that it would grow into a strong community church.  To help you, I have pasted 5 pictures below followed by one movie to give you a glimpse into this place ......
Picture 1 shows the guys in the worship team practising before our time together last Sunday.  The guy on the right has written his own songs (one of which is on the movie later in this blog) and has a heart for his community to see Jesus.
The guy in Picture 2 has a servant heart that I rarely see in others.  He is one of the leaders in this community church.  He never lets me go thirsty! :-) Pray God continues to give him strength to serve and lead his community.
Picture 3 shows two of the ladies that attend this community church.  They live simple lives caring for their grandchildren.  The lady in blue on the left has a growing hunger for the Word of God.  Pray these ladies would be blessed and lead other ladies to the Saviour.  There are much more men in this church than ladies! - quite unusual for Thai fellowships.
Picture 4 shows where we meet for church - in the front of a member's house.  A few months ago, we put up a roof to cover the area where we meet to keep us dry during the heavy downpours of Thailand's wet season.
Picture 5 shows me with a friend whom I have journeyed with in this community for a few years now.  He still has more problems "than you could poke a stick at", but he is slowly learning what it means to walk with Jesus.  His faith is very fragile - he needs strength and a growing will to change his addictive lifestyle.  He looks much older than he is, because addiction has not been kind to him.

The video below (only 1 and a half minutes) shows one of the young leaders in the community church playing a song he has written.  This is the guy in the black shirt playing the acoustic guitar.  The song expresses his heart for his community to know the same Jesus who he knows and loves.  This was filmed during the practice before most people arrived for church.  After clicking the play button, please be patient if the video takes a little while to load (it does depend on how fast YouTube is at the time :-) ) 

Please join us in praying for Khlong Da Nu.

28 May 2012

Struggling and enduring in language

I am  a plodder, which means I persist with something until I get it.  I have been in Thailand for almost 5 years now (broken by a 7 month break in Australia - which probably means I have only had 4 and half years exposure here).  Learning the Thai language has been a priority, but also one of the most degrading experiences in my life.

At times, learning this language has put me in such a rut that it has driven me to depression, which almost made me give up on the Overseas Mission Field after the first year or two back in 2008-09.  But God, by His abundant Grace, has allowed me to endure.  Consequently, over the last year or two, God has given me the privilege of enjoying fruit of new believers and a new church plant.  But this hasn't come without its many pains and intense struggles.

By God's Grace, He has given me opportunities over the last 12 months to teach new believers in our slum church plant, which has extended my confidence in speaking Thai.  My latest encouragement was on 27 May when I preached my first full sermon in Thai for 40 minutes at the main Thai church we hang with each Sunday morning.  Note: this is not our slum church plant, which meets on Sunday afternoon.  It is more of a traditional church, not the house church model (like in our local slum) we are seeking to obey God in building.  Although it seems quite embarrassing, I have inserted a short 1 minute video that Jen took on that day of part of the sermon that I was preaching on about dealing with Temptation (from I Corinthians 10:13).

I want this video to testify to the awesome Grace of God that has enabled me (probably the slowest and worst of all language learners) to now teach and preach in this immensely difficult language.  YES, God can do anything (Ephesians 3:20,21)!!  In preparing to come to Thailand in 2007, God gave me several personal promises if I were to obey Him and step ahead in faith.  One of these was that He would give me the Thai language.  He never promised this language to me in "5 minutes".  NOTHING has ever come naturally to me in learning Thai, but 'bit by bit' He is giving it to me.  I thank and praise God for His persistent hanging with me.  Anything is possible through Him.

01 April 2012

Getting on board for the journey

No matter what stage we are at in life, we are travelling on a journey ... a journey that hopefully the Living God is directing us on. Life is short and uncertain, so it is wise to ensure our journey is God's best for us. We can discern God's best by listening to Him and seeking His Heart. In this we can be assured that He has awesome plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

Our journey at this point in time has us training leaders in the new church plant in our local slum community. Like any journey it is quite challenging - trying to understand people's nuances when they speak which are often immersed in culture that is still 'foreign' to us. Also, there is challenge in knowing how best to train these humble people .... we definitely don't train in the same way we would in Australia. We need to fit into their culture and relate and serve them in the best way for them to understand. So, I ask you to "get on board" this journey with us by praying for wisdom, resilience and faithfulness on our part.

Image 1: A Thai Family on a journey together in Samut Prakan

We have been on the Leadership Development phase of this journey for at least 3-4 months already. Like the Thai family in Image 1 above, the journey has sometimes being a little uncomfortable as we try to fit together and meet their needs. It is our role to serve these new leaders who have only been followers of Christ for around 1-2 years. Please pray we remain faithful and obedient in this Leadership Development phase and that they continue to grow in caring for one another and reaching out to the communities around them.

As we listen carefully to God we believe the next stage of our journey is taking us to the Isaan Region of North East Thailand, where around 22 million people live - most of whom have not heard about the Good News. God is preparing the way for this journey with many details being worked out before our very eyes - even before we ask for them!

Image 2: A group of friends on a journey down an Ubon Ratchathani city street
Like the people grouping together on a journey in Image 2 above, we desire to serve WITH Isaan people and others that God chooses to bring alongside us in Ubon Ratchathani and the surrounding provinces of Si Saket, Surin and Kalasin. Please pray the path ahead would be clear (like it is for the truck in Image 2) and that many would join us to go on this journey together. Again - a reminder - praying with us means you are on this journey with us to reach the unreached. Be encouraged because God will bless your partnership as we "travel" together :-)

10 February 2012

Reaching the poor - Isaan strategy

You have probably caught up with the fact that we are intending to move to the Isaan Region of North East Thailand by the end of this year to start a new team "Sowing Seed to Plant Indigenous Churches".

Seed sowing is an important occupation in this large region of 21.5 million people. It is mainly poor rural communities that make up Isaan - main industry is agriculture, with the production of Sticky Rice accounting for 60 per cent of the cultivated land in Isaan. However, Isaan is the driest and poorest region in Thailand - all of Thailand's 10 poorest provinces are in Isaan (the poorest province is Si Saket, which is just to the west of Ubon). Isaan has a history of being dominated and oppressed by various regimes over the last 800 years - which paints a painful past for the ethnolinguistic groups that occupy the region (Isaan, Lao and Khmer).

We are excited about the potential here for great things to happen and for building on the work already started by others in some parts of the region. In early May we are making another survey trip to the Isaan and visiting with a Thai Christian worker in the needy province of Si Saket (poorest province in all of Thailand) to see how we can partner with him in the future.

What is a picture of the need in Isaan?
The following statistics give a stark picture of the spiritual need in Isaan and are what God is using to drive my heart toward the unreached .....

Population per 1 evangelical Christian
Regional Data - Thailand (174), Isaan (634), Bangkok (113), Chiang Mai (20), Chiang Rai (17)
Isaan provincial data - Khon Kaen (528), Ubon (844), Surin (1,076), Si Saket (1,068), Kalasin (1,303)

This data shows that in order to evangelise their respective provinces, each Christian in Chiang Rai only needs to reach 17 people, while each Christian in Kalasin needs to reach 1,303 people. Much God-honouring work has been done in the past in areas like Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai and we celebrate the progress of the Good News in those places. But these figures demonstrate the enormity of the missions task STILL to be done in the Isaan region and its true nature as a largely unreached area.

Crowds of Isaan people gather at a concert in one of the cities

My heart cries deeply as Jesus spoke about the harvest being plentiful but the labourers are few. This truly reflects large sections of Thailand, with a heavy focus on the 20 provinces that make up the Isaan region.

Challenge to pray
Will you pray with us as we seek to build a team strategy, survey and build a plan of action over the coming months to reach the great unreached region of Isaan in North East Thailand. Please pray that seed would be sown in relationship building that lasts for eternity to give people an opportunity to hear the Good News about Jesus.

22 January 2012

Moving on in tears ....

Yes, we are planning a move from Samut Prakan to another part of Thailand by the end of this year - to do similar ministry. After 3-4 years of sweat and tears, God blessed us with the official opening of our church plant in our local slum community (see photos after this 1st paragraph). This seemed impossible 7 years ago (end 2004) when we did the surveying and then even more impossible when we started the reality of working there 4 years ago in 2008. But God does more than we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20,21 - my life favourite verse). During that time we have seen God bring people to Himself in a new faith, and taken us through some incredibly difficult times, given us strength through discouragement, gave us the opportunity to train a team of Thai leaders and now He gives birth (officially) to this new church! We are hanging around for a few more months yet, until we are sure they are fully equipped to reach out to new slum communities in our city.

Picture 1: The church gathering from the back

Picture 2: The "front door" of church :-)

God is faithful .... as a quote from my autobiography says "Never doubt His faithfulness and His character to do more than what you can ask or imagine. Believe in the impossible and what mankind says is unattainable until, through God’s strength, it becomes possible and attainable."

Moving on doesn't mean abandoning an area or ministry (i.e. the urban poor) .... it means giving it freedom to 'fly on its own' - in a similar way that God called us to do with our children when they became adults. 'Flying on your own' grows maturity and dependence on God like nothing else - we've seen that with our own children. Now we hope to see it with this new church plant.

God has convicted me strongly in this country (and taught me through some very hard lessons) to be careful to hand things over to local believers (when the time is right) and remove myself from the temptation of squashing their initiative with my control tendencies.

I have observed Jesus' example and Paul's example of an incarnational approach to ministry. But they never stayed in a place for very long. In Jesus short time of ministry He lived in at least 3 different places (Bethlehem, Egypt and Nazareth). In His ministry He travelled extensively to many places - moving on when He sensed the time was right! Paul, while being very incarnational, only planted himself in any location for up to 2 years (his longest was in Corinth for 2 years).

I firmly believe I see the best fruit when God uses me (only by His Grace for an deserving sinner like me) to pioneer a new work where people haven't heard about Jesus, see God bring them to Himself and then grow them into a new church. What comes next is incredibly hard for me - MOVE ON !! God is now telling me to do just that. He is also telling me to maintain an apostolic connection for the rest of my life with the slum ministry in Samut Prakan. He is now telling me to follow His path to work in reaching the great unreached region of Isaan.

I choose to obey my God - in tears I choose to move on .... watch this space over the coming months as we share more of the vision to reach the 21.5 million Isaan people group of North East Thailand - where the poorest of the poor live in this country.