Missionary Diary: What it's like to serve in Thailand in COVID wave

James Kinghorn, from Sydney, is serving for Pioneers Australia among the Isaan, the people of the northeast region in Thailand. He works in a Pioneers team with a vision to see churches planted in a place where there are none. James’ passion and ministry is primarily among local children and youth, that they would be mentored and discipled into a saving relationship with Jesus.

“Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place – the Most High, who is my refuge – no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.” (Psalm 91:9-10)

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It has been alarming to observe Thailand experience her third wave of COVID, which seems to have spread to more communities more intensely than the initial wave one year ago. It seems people had become infected but were unaware. Then, they’ve spread it to others as they’ve travelled to their home villages in April for Songkran Festivities (annual, strongly observed New Year festivities).

Red Zones (high risk zones) have formed in usual places but also in townships in northeast Thailand, where some COVID clusters have formed.

The cost to our ministry is we have little-to-no access to villages for ministry programs or gatherings during the summer break. And, due to this third wave, the start of the school year was delayed until this month.

Provincial and district authorities appear to be responding differently across the country. The district authorities and village leaders in my area have closed down social gatherings until school term resumes.

As a result, I felt it would be disrespectful and unsafe to host children’s programs at this time in the villages and in our team office. We will resume the programs after local schools have reopened.

Today in my morning devotions I read from Genesis, chapter 4 – the narrative of (1) Cain killing his brother Abel, (2) the subsequent sinful line of descendants; (3) and the birth of Seth. From God’s Word, God tells me: (1) I am my brother’s keeper, (2) living in sin produces more sin, and carries through the generations; (3) God shows mercy and grace to people; (4) and God will fulfill His plans.

Such reflections upon God’s Word and life here in 2021 in Thailand caused me to pray: Dear God, I give thanks and praise for that you are our refuge and fortress in all times, and in you I can trust always. COVID is big, but you are bigger. Please help me to grow in my faith and dependence in you, and help me share that confidence with Thai locals that I’m able to talk to.

It was helpful to listen to Pi Ek about his perspective of Thai Christians and living a life of servant love in their culture.

This morning, I had a Thai lesson with Pi Ek (Thai tutor) through Zoom for two hours. We continued through reading the Gospel of John in Thai.  Today we read John 13.

Two sessions ago, it was helpful to me that I asked Ek to read the passage after I do. I benefit from listening to Thai more than reading it.

In today’s conversation about John 13, it was also helpful to listen to Ek about his perspective of Thai Christians and living a life of servant love in their culture. He shared that many Christians receive the servant love of Christ, but continue to live selfishly. He agreed with me that Jesus did not just tell us about servant love, but showed us how to love like he did.

We have a perfect example of servant love in Jesus. And even if we fail to love others, we can be thankful for his grace to us.

After this morning’s Thai session on Zoom, I drove to Khon Kaen Airport (two hours away) to pick up new teammates, Josh and Mindy from the United States of America.

After a long time waiting for Thai borders to reopen, and after two weeks quarantine in Bangkok, they are finally coming. This has been a long time coming and it’s exciting that the day has come.

After photos and selfies at the arrival gate, we went to Tesco for some lunch, and a quick shop for essentials, and then drove back home. We got back at around 5:30pm, dropped off their luggage and showed them around their new dwelling. After a quick dinner, I left them to settle in. Fortunately, this is their second missionary posting and so they have some previous experience with the settling-in process.

After showing them how to contact me, I went home and had a Skype with Dad. I am very happy that his latest round of chemo was successful and encouraged by how he is responding to the treatment and how God is carrying Him through all of this. I don’t like that he has to go through this, and that I cannot be with him to support him. But, what I can do is trust God, and give over his situation to God in prayer. For God is always with us.

After some housework, I went to bed after a fairly typical day of missionary life in northeast Thailand.

James Kinghorn, from Sydney, is serving on a Pioneers Team among the Isaan, the people of the northeast region in Thailand. He works in a Pioneers Team with a vision to see churches planted in a place where there are none. James’ passion and ministry is primarily among local children and youth, that they would be mentored and discipled into a saving relationship with Jesus.

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