I first arrived at The Centre in Chiang Mai just after retiring. The plan was to spend two months testing the waters and see if this would be a suitable place where I could serve God for two years. Twelve wonderful years later, I still feel I’m where God wants me and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do!
My weekdays follow the pattern of a morning activity, such as one of my two Thai lessons a week, or a session at the gym, a weekly Bible study or maybe meeting a friend for coffee. In the afternoon, I walk to The Centre, being careful to avoid the dogs lying in the streets. The heat and humidity sap my strength so I take it easy in the mornings in order to have enough energy for the afternoons and evenings with the students – the best part of the day! I just love spending time with them.
At the moment, we’re in the wet season. It’s common to have bright sunshine one minute, followed by a torrential tropical downpour the next, which could last two hours and cause some local flooding.
At The Centre, we teach conversational English to students who come from two nearby universities and need extra language skills to further their career chances. Even so far away from England, it’s strange to see the power the English language has to open and close doors. At The Centre, we teach in small groups. This helps us build relationships with our students and share Jesus with them more easily.
Once I arrive at The Centre, I spend time downstairs chatting to our Thai staff and a few of our five teachers, before heading upstairs to the classrooms where I teach. There’s a bit of a lull and then the students start arriving on their motorcycles and the places starts to buzz!
Board games and lively ping pong matches are usually in session downstairs all afternoon and on into the evening, helping students form new friendships and feel part of The Centre community. At around 7pm, some of us will wander to the local food market for a good, cheap stir-fry or some other delicious Thai dish. Once a week, we hold a social evening where we eat, play a large group game and someone will share their life-story. After this, some students will stay and chill, play more games, sing along with a guitar, or just chat.
Buddhism permeates each layer of society and culture in this beautiful country, yet God is definitely at work. Over the years, many Centre students have grown in their understanding of Jesus and some have decided to follow him and risk separation from their families and communities. In the past year we have noticed a significant increase in the number of students showing a real hunger to know more about God and some have been coming along to my Thai church which The Centre partners with. Of the two students who were recently baptised, one first came to The Centre eight years ago and the other joined us earlier this year.
What a joy and privilege it is to be God’s planters and waterers (1 Corinthians 3:5-6). We feel as if we have front row seats, watching what God is doing in these precious people’s lives. How could I possibly think of doing anything else?!
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