This past weekend my church (Chiang Mai Grace Church) had their annual church camp. The Thai churches have getaway retreats that involve the entire church body, as opposed to just kids or separate men’s and women’s retreats. Mother’s Day is celebrated on 12 August each year in honor of the Queen’s birthday and this year it turned into a 3-day weekend, so this big holiday was a perfect time for the event. Many people came from out of town such as family of church members, and former attendees who now live in other places. A total of 130 people participated in the camp.
The speaker was quite good and he brought some fun and interactive ways to illustrate the points he wanted to make through his talks. He even quoted Timothy Keller a couple of times, so I knew he was right on. The theme of the camp was identifying our idols, how we like to hold on to them and how to dump them – a very challenging topic! Another great thing was that three people were baptized!
The children learned about Thailand’s Christian heritage and they honored the two families and me who are there who are sent as cross-cultural workers with a simple gift based on Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger bringing good news, breaking the news that all’s well, proclaiming good times, announcing salvation, telling Zion, “Your God reigns!”
The program was, of course, all in Thai and so were all my conversations – except the few I had with the other foreigners – so my brain got quite a language work out! My Thai is pretty good, but this was definitely challenging!
This was the first and church I visited when I moved to Chiang Mai and I haven’t visited another one since. I feel peace there and that doesn’t happen often. It is not too small, but seems intimate and people love each other and are welcoming to all. I don’t go to a Thai church because I feel obligated to go to a “Thai” church. I go there because the Spirit moves me there. And to be completely honest, if I’m not fully equipped by the sermon there are amazing talks on iTunes a couple clicks away. Of course it is FAR from perfect and the body is relatively young. I still have a long way to go to feel “integrated” but probably there will always be that tension as an expat. Even so, it is my local body and I seek to serve in and through it.
A note on my Stateside schedule published here: I’ve since arranged some time in Grand Rapids, MI the last week of October.