Dear friends, supporters and prayer partners,
As you may have already heard, our friend and Brother John Middlewood, founder and leader of the Christian Mission Naratchakwai’s ministry in Nakhon Phanom in north-eastern Thailand fell asleep in the Lord, peacefully and without pain, with Sister Maeo at his side, at 11.35 am on Friday 21 November, Thailand time.
In early October he was admitted to a University hospital in a city fairly close to Nakhon Phanom named Khon Kaen and was in an Intensive Care Unit until his death. Tests and scans determined that he had cancer right throughout his body – he got very good care and attention whilst at the hospital but the cancer was so widespread that there was nothing that could be done other than keep him pain-free and as comfortable as possible. His only daughter Margaret Santos and her husband from the United States had visited him for a few days just before his death.
John’s Christian funeral service was held, in the sanctuary at Christian Mission Naratchakwai (CMN), in the morning of Monday 24 November and a further public service was held at the crematorium in the afternoon. The following morning John’s ashes were, at his request, scattered on the Mekong River alongside which the city of Nakhon Phanom is situated. I had the privilege of representing ACGC and ACMissioNZ at the funeral and subsequent gatherings and was able to make travel arrangements to enable me to arrive in Nakhon Phanom in the early evening of Sunday 23 November.
Although we are saddened at his death, as 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 tells us, we do not sorrow as those who have no hope and we look forward to that wonderful day when Jesus Christ comes again to begin eternity for those who have accepted Him as their Lord and Saviour. We know that Brother John will be amongst those to whom the Lord says “Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a few things….. Enter into the joy of your Lord”. Maranatha – O LORD come!
As is the custom in Thailand, there was a steady stream of those who wished to pay tribute to John and express their condolences to Maeo and her family and to the girls who form the leadership team at CMN, from the time John arrived back in Nakhon Phanom from Khon Kaen late on Saturday. Many, many hundreds of folk, from the Naratchakwai village and surrounding villages; from the Christian community in the province including members from the other five churches of the Christ for All People Churches Association of which CMN was a founding member; from the education sector covering a very wide area around Nakhon Phanom and nearby cities, towns and villages; from the commercial and industrial areas of the city – folk whose lives John had touched in one way or another over the many years that he had ministered for the Lord. Remembrance gatherings were held on the Saturday and Sunday evenings before the day of the funeral and during these many eulogies to John were voiced, interspersed by the singing of hymns led by Bee and her team of girls.
John had also been the NE Thailand representative for a United States organisation of ex-servicemen who, as he had, had served in the US military forces in the area during the time of the Vietnam War – the Thai, Lao, Cambodia Brotherhood (TLCB) – whose members have over many years given substantial sums of money to assist children in the area with funding for health needs, with educational scholarships and physical facilities at kindergartens, elementary and high schools. I had the privilege on Wednesday of attending the dedication and handing over to a small elementary school of a wonderfully equipped two-room kindergarten building (pictured) which had been funded by TLCB.
John had been responsible for the organisation of the funding and the monitoring of the construction and it had been his intention to be present to officiate at the handing over to the school. This duty was carried out by a visiting member of TLCB, Mr Joe Boys, accompanied by Maeo. Mr Boys and his wife Sandy are retired teachers from the New York area and have been coming from time to time to the Nakhon Phanom area as volunteer English teachers in schools for several years. During their visits they also often assisted John and the teams from CMN with their English Camps in schools which John had been very keen on organising, to assist as many of the children and young people as possible in a wide area around Nakhon Phanom to become more fluent in English.
Please pray for the LORD’s comfort for Sister Maeo and for Assistant Pastor Boonta and the girls who make up the ministry team at Christian Mission Naratchakwai.
There will be many questions and matters to be considered in respect to the ongoing CMN ministry for the present and future and what shape it takes without the driving force that was Brother John. ACGC are committed to being available to assist and support Sister Maeo and the team in any way we can to ensure that the ministry continues and develops as it has done in recent years. Present plans are that I and other ACGC personnel will return to Nakhon Phanom in the early part of next year, once Sister Maeo has had time to consider the future, to discuss how we can be involved.
Please pray for wisdom for us all as without John and his fluency in the Thai language and of course English, communication will not be easy.
Please pray regularly for Sister Maeo, Pastor Boonta, and the leadership team of young ladies, seeking physical and spiritual strength for them and seeking wisdom to seek and know God’s will for them and for the ministry.
Six of the Christian organisations which Yesuway Jeevan Mission partners with and supports financially are involved in the care and welfare of orphans and underprivileged children and as the Christmas season approaches they all seek to find ways of bringing some extra special treats to the children.
One of these organisations is the Advent Christian Conference of India’s Silver Fern Hostel which is situated next door to the Mission compound at Guindy and at present it is caring for 70 children.
A recent generous gift from a New Zealand supporter has allowed Yesuway Jeevan Mission to provide new cooking vessels for the hostel. Mission Manager Immanuel recently presented the vessels to Warden Nelson and some of the 70 children. We express our sincere thanks to the donor of these essential articles and to all who support the hostel in prayer and financially.
Please continue to pray for all six of these organisations – the Silver Fern Hostel, the Good Samaritan Trust in Chennai, Pastor Kirubakaran’s New Life Orphanage in Kalanaickenpatti in the foothills of the Kolli Hills, Christ Special High School for the Handicapped at Sangkarapuram, the Shelter Trust Hostel for HIV/AIds sufferers in Chennai and Emmanuel’s School and Children’s Home in Manipur, North India.
Pray especially for the staff members who have the responsibility of caring for the children and meeting their physical, spiritual and emotional needs on a day by day basis and for those who have the responsibility to ensure that there are sufficient finances to meet all the ongoing needs of the children.
In mid-2013, generous gifts from donors in the United States and New Zealand enabled Pastor Kenneth to purchase 10 acres of paddy field (pictured right in 2013) for his organisation – Gospel for Myanmar. At the time Pastor Kenneth indicated that the land would enable them to grow rice both for the families of their members and to sell to provide income to ensure that their ministries continue.
Pastor Kenneth is again praising the Lord – this time for a good harvest this season from the land, which is situated in a village about 25 kilometres from Yangon. He recently wrote…
“Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We always remember you in our prayer time.
I and my family and all our mission work here in Myanmar is going well as you pray for us. I do very much appreciate and thankful for your love and care for us.
Along with this letter I send you some pictures of our paddy field. This year we plant two kinds. One is green gram and another one is paddy. It is very beautiful. This year God blesses our field and our green gram and paddy are very good and very beautiful. Let us continue to help each other by prayer. May the Lord continue to bless you.”
Google describes green gram, also known as the mung bean or lentil, as “a small round bean similar in shape to the field pea. ….it cooks up fast and has a sweet flavor. With its high fiber and nutrient content, it offers a number of health benefits.” and calls it “a lean source of protein.” Paddy, of course, is rice.
Please thank the Lord once again for the donors who provided this gift of land that keeps on giving to our brothers and sisters in Christ in Myanmar through the harvests from it, and thank the Lord of the Harvest also for good harvests for them this year.
M/s Mar La Soong graduated from Pastor Kenneth’s Bible School in 2008, and returned to her home area in Mindone Town in the Magwe Division of Myanmar to plant a church and share the Gospel with her people.
Her Grace Gospel Church soon became one of Gospel for Myanmar’s 12 mission fields in Myanmar. Gospel for Myanmar’s leader Pastor Kenneth visits each of these fields twice a year to encourage them.
As part of her ministry of reaching out with Christian love and compassion, Sister Mar Lar Soong also cares for 32 orphaned children. Pastor Kenneth provides two bags of rice each month for the children and gifts given for support of the Advent Christian Conference of Myanmar’s members’ 255 orphans and underprivileged children in their care is also shared with Mar Lar Soong’s children.
Please pray regularly for Sister Mar Lar Soong and her ministry and the children she cares for. As you pray please remember all of the church planters working in various areas of Myanmar, some of them very remote.
Please continue to pray for the small group of faithful Advent Christian believers who gather weekly for worship in the home of Sister Ruth Devairakkam and Brother Wilfred in Kluang and who gather in members’ homes for Bible study and communion during the week. Thank the Lord for their one-on-one ministry of assistance in many practical ways and for their spiritual ministry, including very specific prayer, to their neighbours, friends and other contacts.
A New Zealand donor has provided funds for Ruth and Wilfred which they advise will be distributed to needy families and children before Christmas
Once again, my sincere thanks for your partnership in the Lord’s ministries in South East Asia. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement to and financial support for our brothers and sisters in the LORD during this year that is about to end. As you celebrate Christmas will you please take moment to pray for the leaders and members of the Advent Christian ministries we support in India, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and the Philippines – pray that as they have extra and perhaps special opportunities during the Christmas season to present the message of God’s love for their people and the plan of salvation which began with the birth of Jesus Christ, that they will know the leading, guiding and blessing of the Holy Spirit on their ministries.
My prayer is that you will enjoy a very special time of blessing as you celebrate the First Advent of our Saviour Jesus Christ with family and friends and that you will know the wonderful peace and power that comes with the presence of God as we wait through the New Year for Christ’s Second Coming.