Dear friends and prayer partners,
As I type this newsletter I have been back in New Zealand a little over a week after travelling to Thailand (two days travel each way including a mind – and other parts of the body – numbing 12 hour bus trip each way between Bangkok and Nakhon Phanom in the north east of the country) for a very encouraging and enlightening meeting with John and Maeo Middlewood, the four pastor leaders of the Advent Christian Conference of Myanmar (Burma) and ACGC Executive Director Rev Ron Thomas and Director of World Outreach Rev Tim Fox.
It’s rice harvest time in Thailand – in the north anyway – and as we travelled in the bus we passed through miles and miles of rice fields, often on both sides of the highway for as far as we could see in any direction – probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of acres of rice in various stages of ripeness. That reminded me of course that Scripture tells us, as Jesus told His disciples…. “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (John 4:35 NIV)
But in some areas we travelled through districts where there had been recent flooding caused by abnormal rainfall causing rivers to overflow their banks, and the rice fields were sometimes still standing in quite deep water, and the rice, which of course starts its growth cycle in water, was yellow and rotting and ruined and would never be harvested – thousands and thousands of acres. This reminded me that the things of the world also get in the way of the spiritual harvest, and that there may not be much time left to get the harvest in! In the large areas of rice that we saw, there was never a large number of workers – just a few here and there toiling away in the hot sun – often from daylight to dark – trying to get the harvest in while there was still time and while the rice was fit for harvest.
As we travelled in a more relaxed mode around the rice fields surrounding the Christian Mission Naratchakwai compound, we were able to see close-up the backbreaking task that the farmers have, as they and every able-bodied member of their family, help with the harvest to get it cut, threshed and stored before it is too late. I remember during an earlier trip to the area joining a family who had been working in the rice harvest fields all day for many days, and trying my hand at doing as Joel implores God’s people to do in Joel 3:13 – “Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.”
It’s hard, hard work! I lasted all of 5 minutes before my back ached so much that I could hardly stand up straight!
As we fellowshipped and talked together we were reminded that our brothers in Thailand and Myanmar, together with their families and co-workers and believers, are truly hard at work seeking to reap a harvest of souls for Christ in what are strongly Buddhist countries. I was reminded that in some cases, the backs and limbs of the reapers have ached, not because of bending to cut rice but because of beatings meted out by the authorities because of their faith and their Christian witness and ministry; their feet are sore and blistered as they walk for days and weeks on end in the hill country to the north of their country as they take the message of God’s love to the people of the tribes who have never heard the name of Jesus; they suffer physically and mentally because they and their families and the orphans they take care of do not have enough water, or food, or electricity supply to enable the children to do their study and homework for school; their legs ache as they bicycle for more than an hour each way to get to an internet café to communicate with me by email.
I was many times graphically reminded of how blessed we are in our western countries, and how great are our material blessings compared with what our brothers and sisters in developing countries have. As we talked, we often talked of the material things that were needed in Myanmar and Thailand, but over and over again our workers asked us to pray for them and their co-workers and believers, that they may be able to do all that they believe the Lord is calling them to do – while the harvest fields are still available and the harvest is ready.
Will you, as partners in their ministries, pray with them and for them for the following matters, which are just some of the items that we were asked to consider and seek prayer for……
• Continuing good health and wisdom and patience for John Middlewood and Maeo.
• That the Lord will lead them to a suitable Thai Pastor and his family who will be prepared to join their team and assist John by taking responsibility for some of the ministry.
• That the Lord may call missionaries from western countries to join John and Maeo in their ministry.
• That the Lord will give John strength and wisdom as he teaches English in more than 30 elementary and secondary schools in and around his area.
• For the Lord’s blessing on the team of teenage girls who assist John with the teaching of English. Eight of these girls live with John and Maeo (see picture) and are attending English medium programs in their schools and university and are getting high grades. Their tuition and living costs have been met for the present academic year by generous donations. Next year’s costs have been partially met already – pray that the Lord will provide so that these girls may all be able to continue their studies next year. Several are committed Christians.
• Pray especially for Amporn (right at rear) who is struggling at present with mental health problems. Pray especially for her mother who dedicated her to “the spirits” when she was young, and has taken her away from John and Maeo’s care at present. Amporn has committed her life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
• Pray for wisdom and spiritual strength and protection for John and Maeo as they minister in a community which is steeped in (evil) spirit worship.
• That the Lord will encourage many – adults and young people, parents and their children – from New Zealand and the United States to be part of a English Teaching/Work Team being planned to visit Naratchakwai in December 2011/January 2012 to minister with and assist John and Maeo. More details later.
In Myanmar (Burma)
• Pray that true democracy may return to the country and that the oppression on the people by the military rulers may be relieved, and that the people may have freedom of speech and freedom of religion. In particular pray that there may be freedom to openly plant Christian churches all over the country.
• That the Lord will protect the AC Conference of Myanmar (ACCM) leaders and their co-workers and believers as they minister in this country where overt ministry and witness is forbidden and therefore dangerous.
• That the Lord will bless the leadership of the present President of the Advent Christian Conference – call him Pastor Ooophe as you pray for him – God knows who he is.
• That the Lord will provide resources for the ACCM to care for the 95 orphans who are presently being cared for in the homes of the leaders and members. They provide everything – food, clothing, medical care, education costs including fees, books etc – for these children, and of course raise them in the” nurture and admonition of the Lord.” They see great need in this area of ministry and would like to increase the number of children they help in this way.
• That the Lord will provide resources for practical things that will make their lives and ministry easier – portable generators (see picture), water supplies, motor cycles for the workers, bunk beds for the orphans– who presently sleep on mats on the floor.
• That the Lord will guide them and provide resources as they seek to set up small micro businesses to help them become both self supporting and to grow their ministries and touch the lives of many others. They have in mind such things as looms (for hand weaving materials), sewing machines (to turn their woven cloth into garments), pig farms, small medical clinics for the poor,
• That the Lord will protect the two Bible Colleges that they run, and the students (total of 27 at present) and lecturers at those colleges, and will provide resources to expand this much needed ministry.
• That we (ACGC/ACMissioNZ)) may be able to send them teaching teams of those who will be able to increase their workers’ (total of 46 at present) skills in leadership and Biblical subjects. The ACCM leaders consider this an urgent and a very pressing need
• That we (ACGC/ACMissioNZ) may be able to send teams to teach English as a second language to their people.
The needs are great – greater than we realised, but our God is great!! Please pray with us that we may be able to help with these and the other needs that there are in Thailand and Myanmar. If you would like further details about any matter, please contact me; I will be pleased to give you more information.
Thank you once again for your partnership with us in Advent Christian ministries. God will bless you as you serve Him in this way.