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At the age of twelve both parents died.  Joshua was alone caring for a younger brother and sister.  No home and no income.  Three children on their own. A twelve year old doing his best to care for them.

Joshua said for a very long time they spent their nights sleeping under bridges and overpasses.  In the morning he would go into stores and ask for expired food products about to be thrown away.  As he grew older Joshua found work.  Committed himself to get an education.  All three survived this life of poverty on the streets.

This experience shaped Joshua and his understanding of the Good News of the Gospel as well as his dedication to our shared mission.  He understands the life of the poor - the least, the last and the lost - forgotten and overlooked by most of the world.

Today Joshua is the leader of our family of churches across Thailand.  And his own family continues to grow for this faithful husband, father, grandfather and patron of many abandoned children.  

I spent a morning seated across the table from Joshua.  I listened carefully.  Took many notes.  I was overwhelmed by such joyful trusting confident faith.

Joshua began our meeting by giving thanks. Year to date 158 people have found saving faith in Jesus in our family of Thai churches.  Grateful but not satisfied, together they pray for a national total of at least 200 people who will find saving faith in Jesus by the end of this month as we turn the page of the calendar of 2021.

Joshua gave thanks for three new churches this past year; for the way they have learned to be the church in the midst of the pandemic and government restrictions; of the pastors who use their cell phones for a Zoom call every Monday for training and encouragement.  

Joshua gave thanks for a fruitful outreach to a Ladda Muslim village in the far southern area of Thailand.  Today there are twelve from this village who believe in Jesus, three of whom have been baptized, and all together they gather as a small group every Friday.

The morning quickly came to the noon hour. Joshua had asked to take us to a ministry known as Eden Garden.  We learned this was a simple compound of five families who are a faithful part of our Chiang Mai church.  These families had asked for our visit and asked for the honor of serving us lunch.  We enthusiastically said, “Yes” before we understood what that meant.

Eden Garden is at the end of a one way lane nestled into a rice paddy, rented from a landlord (who intends to sell at the property at end of Dec 2022).  We were greeted warmly by curious smiles.  As we awaited lunch we were given a tour of their homes…entry ways without doors, windows without glass, bamboo walls with daylight peering through, tin and tarp frantically trying to keep the sun and rain out, sheets suspended to divide one sleeping space from the next. One shared outhouse unmistakable in its purpose. Their humble homes. Five families.  

Five families that wanted to serve us lunch. Centered between their homes, they fastened tarps on corner poles to create shade under which they prepared a table for four - Ellen and me along with Joshua and his wife On.  Each of the five families prepared a dish they sat before us.  Hungry children all around us.  A feast.  We would shame them if we did not partake.  So we sampled everything but wanted to leave as much as possible for these families to enjoy after we left. 

As we finished, I asked to share the Word with them. Joshua translated. I talked of the promise of heaven, that one day we will all gather from every nation, tribe, people and language - as one family.  They allowed us to take a picture with them.  A memory of loving, gracious, generous hearts - one family.

One final thought - one of of our strategic goals in the coming year is to relocate Eden Garden to land that our church family will own. Along with relocation, we want to be able to provide them with micro-enterprise sustainability that will bless them with long overdue and well deserved dignity.  Your prayers, as well as your contributions, are so deeply appreciated.  (Message us if Father puts it on your heart to share in this project.)

A final prayer update - tomorrow (Friday December 3) we fly from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and on to Kathmandu, Nepal for 17 days of ministry.  Stay tuned…

Thank you as always for this incredible privilege to serve on your behalf.  Our lives will never be the same as we humbly serve in Jesus Name!
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