Mission trip to Thailand

“We can be missionaries here, in our city. To understand this, we needed to go to Thailand”. Interview with Ukrainian missionaries.

Service or mission is what the Lord has called us to. We serve people differently every day, but we serve with one goal - to glorify God. Recently, our friends went on a mission trip to Thailand. They could serve others with their knowledge and skills. They have learned a lot of new things there. Read more about the trip below;)

Thailand

- How did your trip start?

- “What brought us there? It was prayer. I felt that when I came to Ukraine I had to prepare missionaries, not just be one of them” - Dan Sczebel. – “I started to pray and ask God where exactly He wants me to take a group. When I came back to Canada, I was able to meet Brian and Karen. We talked about what they do in Thailand. Then I realized that it would be a good opportunity to take people and visit Thailand. I first shared this idea with Abbie and started praying about who I should take there. When I was talking to different people, I noticed that their hearts are passionate to do good things.”

- How long did you prepare for the trip?

- “We were talking with Karen and Brian all year. Preparation started six months before the trip. The schedule was constantly changing and we didn’t know anything for sure. We got tickets, insurance, and prepared games for students. We were doing very little things on our own, and God was moving in everything else” - Dan Sczebel. The whole trip lasted 2 weeks.

- Where and whom did you help?

- We were in different schools. We visited an English club at the local church, where we were helping children learn English. We were at a hospital. Also we painted the fence for a school where children live permanently. At this school, we were singing worship songs with students. Also we prayer walked: we visited different Buddhist temples and prayed over them. We even had a situation when God led us to a temple where we met a monk. Usually they are closed to communication, but God opened his heart and we were able to have a great conversation with him. God led every moment and every second during our trip” -  Abbie Ferguson.

- What is the level of education and medicine in Thailand?

- “Really low. The hospital where we were is really good, but it is private. So we cannot compare it to government hospitals. Most of the schools where we have been were in mountains and villages. They were boarding schools and were far from larger cities. They do not emphasize English education. That is why the level of English is really low. As Brian explained to us, they have the Union of Asian countries. If you know English, you can get a good university education and a good job with a good salary. But the level of English is very low. One of the lowest. Unfortunately, they do not have the possibility to learn English because the lack of good teachers” - Nastia Stopochkina.

Thailand- What amazed you about the Thai culture?

- “People amazed me the most. They are very hospitable. I am still trying to understand this culture at least a little bit, but it is quite difficult. From one point of view they have some things which come from Buddhism. Buddhism is interesting, but has a confusing philosophy” - Anastasia Lomaka.

- “Buddhists’ understanding of life is very different from ours. They live with the hope for a new life, and at the same time they try to “earn” this new life through good karma. At the same time, they do not help those close to them and other similar things. I never thought before that the world still has golden idols and people worship them. When we came to their temples, we saw Buddha and other idols. You understand that an idol is in front of you. At this moment you understand how much work we still have. Something that is usual for them is completely unusual for other people. And, of course, children are like suns.“

- “What is interesting about their culture – they are very focused on themselves, because they are trying to earn karma by doing a lot of different things” - Abbie Ferguson.

- “Also one interesting thing is that they do not have tight relationships in families as we have here. They do not have such closeness between parents and children”- Masha Cheburakova.

- “They are a very smiling nation. Thailand is also called the country of 1000 smiles. And they really respect others. Everybody bows to each other when greeting. And depending on the age the deeper your bow becomes” - Dan Sczebel.

- “I will share more about Buddhism. It seems to me that it is interesting. I was amazed by their faith. Monks go out in the morning with bowls for food and other people give them food. And in exchange monks pray for them. It means that they do not buy food. They just go with faith every morning with the bowl and if they are given food they eat. If they do not, then they do not eat all day. It requires very big and strong faith. As for me it was very sad to see that they have such strong faith but they do not have any answers. Many Christians have twice less faith, but God still answers them. This moment made me think about my faith and how I trust Him and how I am ready to trust Him. I am sure that God is feeding them. If God feeds them who are believing in golden idols, why can’t he do it in some spheres of my life? They accept thoughts really quickly, but I can’t say that they can change their minds as fast. The thing is, what are they asking themselves. Maybe the thing is they need to learn how to seek questions” - Katerina Kyzyk

- Where do Thai people work?

- “They have lots of farms. They also work in fields, markets and in the field of tourism. The main profit comes from tourism. To be exact, it is from entertainment and renting of motorbikes. We also visited coffee fields where two brothers work together. They export 20% of their coffee to businesses. They have a lot people who work in their coffee plantation” - Anastasia Stopochkina.

- How did citizens treat you as foreigners?

- “Very welcoming. They are all smiling. Seems like we never met any grumpy Thai person. They are all very happy and welcoming. I think it’s because we went to the places where Karen and Brian had already been serving. And through those relationships which they built, they were treating us well. They even allowed us to pray and in classrooms and in the hospital” – Abbie Ferguson - “ There is only 1% of Christians in Thailand. Most of them are Buddhist – 95%. We had an opportunity to talk to a lot of people in the hostels we were staying in. So we had an opportunity to tell them about Christ. Many people travel to Thailand seeking peace. So we were able to share with them through our lives how we can have peace.”.

- Does Christianity spread in Thailand?

- “Not at all. Karen and Brian told us that there is no change for 20 years in the percentage of Christians. This means that it has not changed and there is no growth.

- Tell more about Brian and Karen’s family.

- “Brian was a professional chef. Karen worked in the tourist industry. For 6 years they were visiting all Southeast Asia for vacations. After some time they went on a mission trip. When they saw what was going on there, they heard God’s calling that they need to go into full-time missions. They did the same as I did. They sold everything and moved to Thailand. Now they work in the project called World Wide Life Humanitarian where they work on many projects” Dan Sczebel.

- “It seems to me that they are a really good example for everyone. And it was a big surprise that they do not have their own children, but despite that they raise 6 girls. 6 girls under one roof, plus 3 dogs and all of them are teenagers! And most do not much speak English” – Nastya Stopochkina.

- “Most people in Thailand know 2 languages: Thai language and the language of their tribe. I was really amazed how the girls communicate with each other. They all have different stories, but they know how to deal with and communicate with each other” – Masha Cheburakova.

- “God sent us not with our own goals that we need to accomplish something there, but we were going to support what Brian and Karen already started. They have lots of projects and we were there to go alongside of them in these projects to bring God’s love and energy in all of these places. They work in different schools and they take girls them from sex trafficking or orphanages. They also try to support the school system by providing different materials for a school. They have an English club and they also start new projects” – Abbie Ferguson.

- How did God bless you during your trip?

- “First is relationships between each other. We were learning how to be in unity. Second – I didn’t know what I was going to do there, but we had different situations where God used me to help. It is similar to the situation when you are blind and God is shining the light on people who need help” – Diana Oliynyk.

- “The unity in the team is really important. We became really good friends and could work as one body. We didn’t have any conflict and could completely focus on serving others. You start to see God in every small thing” – Masha Cheburakova – “Katya and I were painting fence and we became thirsty and none of us had water to drink. At this moment I just turned around and saw a small girl with glasses of water for us”.

- “I see different blessings from the first day of our trip till today. God provided financially, also provided good relationships and great weather. Honestly I was worrying when Dan told us that we would have 35 degrees and humidity above 50%. I thought it would rain all the time. But thankfully we didn’t have a lot of rain. Brian told us that it is an unusual weather for that season. I really want those people to know Christ”. – Nastya Lomaka.

- “We spent a few days in Chiang Mai and then went to Chiang Rai, where we served most of the time. The owner of the hostel in Chiang Rai was a really great lady. Her name is Viva and she became a Christian 4 years ago. It was a huge blessing because she was allowing us to do rehearsals till 12 am. And on the next day we were going to perform at the church. We were live streamed across all Thailand. She was helping us by cooking with us. We had an evening of Ukrainian cuisine when we invited Thai people to come and eat with us. That was a big blessing” Masha Cheburakova.

- “I will share about a blessing which happened during worship night. There was one woman who was standing in the front. She was singing louder than all of us together. From time to time she would shout out  “Halleluiah” or “Amen” and dancing at the same time. Thanks to her we didn’t have any fear to sing despite the fact that I am afraid of the stage. We all knew that we were on the same wavelength. This woman was our “sparkle”. She still communicates with us, calls us and comments our photos” Nastya Styposhikina.

- “If Thai’s believed in God, they would light the whole world” Nastya Lomaka.

- I want to thank God for the difficult times, because I know that he provided these moments because He wants us to see Him from different sides and trust Him even more. Everything was a blessing to us” – Abbie Ferguson.

Thailand- Do you have any stories about Thai people who came to God?

- “The story of Viva. All her family members are Buddhist and she had been Buddhist all her life. I asked her how did she came out of Buddhism to believe in Christ as the Savior of her life. She answered: “I found the Truth.” That is all. She didn’t say anything except that. Then she added: “Since I found the Truth, God changed my life. Everything what I have or do comes from grace.”  That is why she named her hostel “Grace”. Her son is also a Christian and I am sure that it is difficult not to be Buddhist, as for all Christian we met in Thailand their families reject them. In Thailand we understood that they are luck of truth and grace”  Abbie Ferguson.

- “I think a lot of us made parallels with Ukraine and understood that Ukraine is the same. Ukraine needs truth and grace” Dan Sczebel.

- Which lessons did you learn from this trip and what would you like to share with others?

- “I think everyone had different lessons during the trip but for all of us, as Dan said, God was teaching us about grace. We faced some situations which had no grace. Some people have deeper understanding of grace and their life is completely different from others” Abbie Ferguson.

- “I think everybody here had to learn how to practice grace. Sometimes grace is just an idea in our heads unless we need to make it real in our community, because each of us are different. Grace has to be common to each of us” Dan Sczebel.

- “The family of Brian and Karen was a big example for me. They adopted two girls: 20 and 18 years. How different their lives are compared to their background. They have different stories which you would find in books. They accepted grace of Brian and Karen into their lives. They are completely different from each other and I was impressed by the story of one girl, her name is Olivia. When I looked at her I thought she is living with Brian and Karen for a long time. She is active, she was playing the drums with us. She knew a little bit of English but she still can communicate. I found out her story. She had been adopted recently (10 days ago) and she had been sold by her own mother. Later, the woman who saved her from slavery committed suicide. And after that she was send to Children’s foundation where Brian and Karen found her.  I can’t imagine which future would she have if not this family. She is 15 and she loves life. It was a big example for me, when you except grace, you make a decision to live and rejoice every day. Karen and Brian are a great example that we need to move on. They wake up at 5 am and go to bed really late. They work all day and do different projects” Nastya Lomaka.

- What are your first impressions from doing a short-term mission?

- “I don’t know about others but I was thinking that we would sleep on the floor. But actually we were lucky. Karen and Brian were with us all the time. They really cared for us. They also tried to show us some things and not make us exhausted. God was working through us and at the same time in us. I really don’t know who got more from this trip” Kateryna Kyzyk.

- “When you serve others, you feel that God blesses you through these people. When you serve, you understand that you want to continue doing what you do because you see God’s work in every minute. You understand why you do that. We can be missionaries here, in our city. Just serve others. And to understand this we needed to go to Thailand” Masha Cheburakova.