In the fall of 2005, Woodside was challenged and felt led by the Lord to do something to address the human trafficking crisis in Thailand. Long story short – it involved the purchase of 16 acres, developing a foundation and building an orphanage and a wonderful ministry partnership with pastor Akha John. The orphanage led to the building of a dining hall, library and a leadership training center.
Carolyn and I were in Chiang Rai nine years ago for the dedication of the orphanage, and then just returned to Thailand to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the church and the dedication of a church building that can accommodate 1000 worshipers.
As I left Thailand last week to return to Michigan, I jotted down several reflections on this project and partnerships.
The blessing of a team and its leaders. Over the years, we have sent many teams to work on this project, involving: construction, medical, dental, teaching, etc. The projects all have challenges with heat, transportation, inadequate resources, and the list goes on. The Lord, through it all, works in the lives of the team so that serving is both a privilege and a joy. On this recent trip, 44 people used their vacation time to invest in reaching the Akha people. It truly was a joy to be part of this amazing team. Thank you, Jim Bedor and Brian Bauer, for your outstanding work as team leaders.
The humble, faithful and visionary leadership of Pastor John. My friend Pastor John is a very intelligent, well-educated servant of God. His heart is large enough to minister to 70 children in the orphanage, pastor a large and growing church and reach two million of the Akha tribe in Thailand, China, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. It is breathtaking to realize all that has been accomplished and yet pastor John would be very quick to deflect all glory to God while acknowledging the major investment of his wife, Nut.
The development of a young warrior. Drew Clarkson is a young man from Woodside who is finishing his college studies while being an intern at Woodside. Drew has spent these past several months with the work in Thailand as a helper for Pastor John. It was so good to reconnect with Drew and watch a young man transition to a great warrior for Christ. Truly Pastor John would say of Drew, “He was very valuable to me for the ministry.”
A son coming of age. For the last six or seven years, my wife, along with four other Woodside families, have sponsored a young man in the orphanage named Saman. His name has been in our prayers and his picture on our refrigerator. He has met our other children. We had some special times talking and eating with this young man who refers to us as “Daddy and Mummy.” Saman now is 20 years old and finishing his first year of Bible college in Bangkok. He has a tender heart for God and upon graduation would love to return to work in the church and in the orphanage. Praise God!
A God who is awesome and worthy of our praise. I am thankful to God who connected people separated by language, culture and 8000 miles. I am thankful to the Lord for all the indescribable things he has done in Thailand and in our hearts. I am thankful to God for allowing us to be a part of changed lives. This partnership has been such a blessing and we give God all the glory! Thanks be to God!