Dear friends and family,
Happy New Year! I am so glad that you are reading my prayer letter and I hope that 2023 has started off well for you.
It has been my busiest Christmas season ever in Thailand! We have more and more opportunities every year to tell the Christmas story but we are only a team of 3 full-time workers so we are limited in time. This year we were blessed to have 2 short-term workers help us, Elizabeth (USA) and Simone (Netherlands). Praise the Lord for the new opportunities and the help to do the outreaches well.
I can't detail everything that we did or it would be a very long prayer letter so I will present some highlights of the past two months:
1. Thanksgiving at the Student Center. On Thanksgiving evening, we invited our contacts to come to the student center for a Thanksgiving celebration. On the menu: chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, corn, sweet potatoes and dessert. Americans know how important the food is on Thanksgiving Day! Most of the students were still out of town this year for an extended term break due to flooding at the end of October. However, twenty people came and got to hear a brief history of Thanksgiving and the tradition of thanking God for all His blessings.
2. Professor Pat. One of the friendships that I have enjoyed in Thailand is with Professor Pat at the Department of Pharmacy. We help her by doing English Camps each semester. She is a single woman caring for her elderly mother as she is an only child. Both she and her mom are devout Buddhists. While I was talking with her over dinner, I asked her to explain a Buddhist ritual that I had seen recently. When I told her that I hadn't been to many temples in Mahasarakham, she invited me and the team to tour a unique temple nearby shaped like a boat. It was a beautiful day and a good experience to have her explain all that goes on at a temple especially for our short-term workers. I had a nice conversation with her about the concept of forgiveness. I explained that when we do something wrong (sin), we have to ask God for His forgiveness because not only do we hurt others and ourselves but we sin against God too and our sin separates us from our Creator. She said that as a Buddhist, she has to forgive herself for doing wrong and try to do better. I am praying that she will think about sin and forgiveness and what that means in her life.
(P.S. What are we doing with our hands in the bottom group picture with Professor Pat? A mini-heart! That is something fun that Thai people do when taking group pictures.
3. Outreaches in 2 rural communities We traveled over 3 hours on two separate occasions to help former students (On and Praew, who are Christians) do Christmas programs at the schools where they are teaching. Both of the schools are located in very rural villages and no one has ever been there to tell the Christmas story before. This is one initiative we wanted to do to help the Thai Christian teachers be a witness for Christ and tell the gospel story of Christmas. The children loved it!
4. Community of Believers
I celebrated Christmas Day at the community outreach of The Nazarene Church. I took my neighbor, Khru Dang, her granddaughter and Paul, a Cambodian Christian student. Christmas at Thai churches is like a big community party. The Christmas story was presented through a skit as well as a brief sermon. Two Pharmacy students that attend our English Corner, Tong and Jub Jang, attended with Professor Pom, a Thai Christian. I was encouraged to see Prof. Pom invite the girls for their first time at a church! They went forward for a prayer of blessing after hearing about being part of God's family! A lovely reminder on Christmas day that there is a community of believers here in Thailand and in America, working and praying to make Jesus known to those who have never heard of Him!
What God has been teaching me For the past few years, I have chosen words to focus on throughout the year. For 2022, my word was glory. For 2023, the Lord put on my heart the word courage...notably the courage to walk the path that the Lord has for me in 2023 or the courage to face any obstacle that comes my way. When I wanted to find a good Bible verse to go with the word courage, I noticed that in at least 8 passages the word courage is paired with strength (Deut. 21:6, Josh. 1:6&9, 1 Cor. 16:13, 1 Chron. 28:20, Dan. 10:19, etc). I realized that for me to be courageous in walking the path that God has for me in 2023, then He has to be the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps. 73:25-26). No more praying that God will give me strength but praying that God will BE my strength, my heart and my focus...then the courage will come! I am praying that the same will be true for you in 2023! May God give you courage as you make Him the strength of your heart and your portion forever!
Blessings, Amy Cottle