The Perkins Perspective | Glo(cal) | Autumn 2012
Planting Seeds in Thailand
By Amanda Reeves, SPU Senior
“The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.”
(Mark 4:26-7 NSRV)
“He does not know how,” said Jesus in the parable about the seeds. My trip to northern Thailand led me to similar conclusions regarding short-term missions.
“Mission,” I discovered, is a mild misnomer for a trip like this. “Mission” might imply a plan, a goal, a final desired outcome. But my Seattle Pacific Reachout International (SPRINT) trip challenged all of these, as I found that partnering in God’s work is a bit like trying to help the soil grow a seed.
Soon after Spring Quarter at Seattle Pacific University, my team and I boarded a plane bound for Chiang Mai, Thailand. Our list of expectations concerning the trip was short:
- Work with local Thai churches.
- Partner with Displaced Orphans International’s as they work with hill-tribe children.
- Be flexible.
Our first morning in Thailand, our group meditated on the parable in Mark 4. As a short-term team, we knew it was important to remember that the ministries with which we were partnering had existed before, and would continue to exist, long after we were gone. We knew not to place unrealistic expectations on ourselves to “save the day” or “rescue” those we met. The seed will still continue to grow, whether we were there or not.
With this in mind, we launched into our three-week adventure openhanded and intentional.
The Lighthouse Children’s Home is one of the places DOI helped establish and continues to support. It is led by Teep and Terra Yito, a Karen hill-tribe man and his Californian wife. Together they care for 11 children between the ages of 13 and 17, many of whom had been abandoned. Additionally, several children from distant villages live at Lighthouse during the school year. Our ministry team spent a great deal of time with the latter group.
During our time in Thailand, we supported the home and its leaders, and cultivate intentional relationships with the children. We also worked on improving the property.
For three days, our team worked on building projects at Lighthouse. We painted buildings, repaired a bridge, and built a mushroom hut out of bamboo. Working with the local agricultural university, Teep had developed plans to cultivate mushrooms both to eat and sell in the local market. With our extra hands, we were able to follow “Foreman Teep’s” instructions in the art of bamboo chopping, splitting, and paneling. After the day’s work projects, we would play, eat dinner, and worship together. It was the beginning of our integration into one family.
The following weekend, our team hosted a mini-summer camp for Lighthouse and another children’s home at a resort outside of Chiang Mai.
Our goal for this weekend was to give the adult staff a well-deserved respite and give the children unforgettable fun! During this time our relationships with the kids deepened as we spent the days playing soccer, playing games in the swimming pool, and working together on a resortwide photo scavenger hunt. I soon felt as though I’d gained a few more siblings. Chai and Woot became my pesky, fun 14-year-old brothers. Fue would tease me and get me with the same jokes … every time. Sam Ching would hold my hand as we prayed together, his eyes speaking love and friendship in a way that transcended our language barrier.
Our trip concluded with one last day with Lighthouse Children’s Home. We joined them for church at their home congregation in Chiang Mai. The time with them felt sweet and we were excited to sit together once again.
The service was held in English and Thai, appropriate for the spirit of unity that seemed woven in our American-Thai “family.” Afterward, we headed to the home where we spent a rainy afternoon playing together while the team cooked a homemade American dinner. The night concluded with more group games and worship, during which the children taught us a worship song in Thai. They loved teaching us ― and loved laughing as we attempted correct pronunciation.
Saying goodbye was difficult and surreal. Though brief, the fellowship with Terra, Teep, and all the children was life-giving. We were able to learn, laugh, and live together; we delighted in our many differences and discovered threads of commonality that we might not have noticed before.
As we waved goodbye and drove away, I realized that many seeds had been nurtured and cultivated during our time in Thailand. Seeds within my own life as well as the lives of those we met. All these seeds will continue to grow and mature whether or not we are actively engaged with each other. How? I don’t quite know how, but I am sure that it is by the same one Spirit and reflects the same one Kingdom.
Amanda Reeves grew up in Freeland, Washington, and is now a senior at Seattle Pacific University, majoring in global development. She led SPU's short-term mission group to Thailand in Summer 2012. She is currently on a study abroad trip to Guatemala.
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