How do you fit into their mission?
I teach English at Providence Kindergarten and Primary School. I teach five English classes (grades 1-5) each week. At times, I also teach adults. Few Thai people know English, but are always eager to learn. Learning English increases the opportunities of Thai people regardless of whether they stay or leave the country. Likewise, having young children start learning English not only benefits their own lives, but will contribute to the future of Thailand as it becomes more connected to the rest of the world.
What led you to engage in this calling?
In 2000, my family and I became members of Congregational United Church of Christ in Decorah, Iowa. Although I did not realize it at the time, over the next 7-8 years, my faith slowly began to grow, change, and develop. I participated in six mission trips throughout the Midwest during middle and high school. I also became involved in church events and camps at Pilgrim Heights, the state UCC church camp of Iowa. In college I studied social work and religion, finding a strong connection between both areas. I continued to participate in several service trips around the United States and activities and programs working with such groups as individuals with disabilities, hospital patients, victims of domestic violence, homeless individuals and families, and refugees. I also spent time with children and youth as a volunteer and dean of camps at Pilgrim Heights. I formed a strong passion for working with people of all ages, backgrounds, beliefs, and abilities. In addition, I have always had a strong interest in learning about other cultures and ways of life around the world. My father is from England and several of my family members are foreign language teachers. From an early age I visited numerous foreign countries, to visit family or friends, and was exposed to different customs, traditions, and ways of life. In college I volunteered for several months in South Australia with a social welfare organization. It was through my experiences in South Australia that I realized my love for mission and service projects could be combined with learning and experiencing other parts of the world.
By the time I had finished my undergraduate education in May of 2012 , I had been exposed to many missions and ministries of my local congregation as well as spent time learning about the church and different United Church of Christ ministries on the state level. I continued to care about individuals and various social concerns in ‘my own background’, but I wanted to keep learning about church missions on a larger scale. I had always wondered where offerings went that supported programs in other countries or were funded through Our Church’s Wider Mission. It was not sufficient for me to give donations and not understand exactly what they were being allocated for. I wanted to be connected with people and programs of the greater church community throughout the world. Becoming a Global Mission Intern has not only allowed me to form strong relationships and friendships with partners in Laos, but also provided me with a rich experience to learn about national church ministries and global missions. I have also had the opportunity to learn about Lao culture, and be a witness to God’s presence working and accompanying the people of Southeast Asia.
Is there a passage of scripture that carries special meaning in your daily work?
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” - Romans 12:3-12
What is a lesson you have learned working in Thailand that you feel should be shared with churches in the U.S.?
The church in Thailand often worships and interprets Scripture differently than Disciples and UCC churches. When people outside of Thailand find out about the church in Thailand, many of their first responses are why have we become partners with a church that is in some ways very different. I think that we should remember the importance of caring, loving, and supporting one another on life’s journey, at whatever place (physical, mental, social, or spiritual) one is at, despite differences in approaches to Christianity. The Thai church is responding to a very different context, so it is only natural that they would have a different view of God. I have found that in working with the Thai church my ideas have been challenged in a way that has allowed for new growth.
Are there books that have shaped your understanding of your work?
- The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, by Kao Kalia Yang
- The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, by Anne Fadiman
- CultureShock! Laos: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette, by Robert Cooper
- I Little Slave: A Prison Memoir From Communist Laos, by Bounsang Khamkeo
- Western Christians in Global Mission: What's the Role of the North American Church?, by Paul Borthwick
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I have shared two recipes, one for a papaya salad called Tammakhung, and another for a pork dish called Laap Muu.