Dear praying friends and family,
We’ve just gotten back from several days of celebrating God’s goodness to the China Inland Mission/OMF over the past 150 years. Quite the birthday party! It was good to remember God’s faithfulness to His servants in circumstances far beyond what we’ve faced, but also His faithfulness to us as a family over the past (nearly) 20 years. The long-term perspective is so important as we face challenges that look so huge … when we’re in the midst of them. It is sometimes tempting to think it would be wiser to wait until the obstacles are cleared before we move forward, but that is backwards thinking: It is only as we move forward that God paves the way forward, providing at the right time, not ahead of time. He is “Jehovah Jireh”, the Lord our Provider, and ‘Ebenezer”, our stone of help. He is also “Jehovah Nissi”, the Lord our Banner, and where that banner flies we must rally to Him.
One of the obstacles we face is that if our support does not increase, that we will not be able to stay on the field. Please pray for God’s mercy and that He would provide. Hudson Taylor famously said that “God’s work done in God’s way will not lack God’s supply.” Along with prayer for provision, pray that we would be faithful to do His work, being sensitive to His calling, and that it would always be done in His way.
Brenda and I were very much encouraged by the time of celebration, indeed a time of renewal for us. We have sensed that our role in Ayutthaya is shifting, and it is time to move on to a new phase in the work there. We have been encouraged by the vision and initiative that we have seen in the Tha Rua Church members. They are taking more initiative in ministry, even restructuring the church governance in a way that encourages everyone in the church to take part in some ministry while still providing direction and leadership. The seven church committee members (board of elders, if you prefer) are heading up teams for evangelism, visitation, children’s and youth ministries, the building project, worship, and other ministries, while encouraging everyone to join at least one of the teams. While they are in the midst of a building expansion, they continue to support efforts to start a church in at least one other district. While I (Tim) will continue to come alongside for outreach and some teaching (and occasional preaching), it does seem time to step back a bit. So, now what?
I’m afraid I can’t give details of what we have in mind right now, except to say that it is something that has been on our hearts for a long time, even as an important part of the vision as we returned to Thailand last year. Please pray for us as we explore the possibilities and see if the doors will open. I do need to stress that this doesn’t mean leaving Tha Rua or Phachi or Don Phut, but will be a different way of engaging – hopefully with a greater impact on the province as a whole.
I’d like to share one other story that has developed over the past couple of months. An elderly man who lived near the church, Uncle Lamyai, came by one morning as I was leaving the church to go have some breakfast. I sat with him and we talked for some time. He told me that he wanted to know more about Jesus, so I went through the gospel with him and shared a booklet with him that we often use. He came to the church the following Sunday, with church members praying for him, but his health took a turn for the worse and we didn’t see him anymore. I wanted to visit him, but we could never organize a time for some church members to go. Then, in late April, his daughter invited me into their house-compound one morning as I was passing by. She showed me the plaque that they had had made for where his ashes would be kept at the temple – Uncle Lamyai had passed away and none of us had known about it! I felt really bad that we hadn’t visited again, but she and Uncle Lamyai’s wife told me that he was always talking about the church members and the booklet I’d given him, and that he had stopped partaking in the Buddhist funeral rituals. They then invited me to come for the 100-day merit-making ceremony. I had to decline, since Christians don’t “make merit”, but then a thought struck me – something Thai Christians don’t normally do, but seemed a natural connection point. “Would you like me to come and offer a prayer as the family gathers for the ceremony? I wouldn’t be able to take part in the ceremony, but I’d be glad to offer a prayer beforehand.” Uncle Lamyai’s wife’s eyes welled up with tears, and she asked hopefully, “Oh, would you?” She took my hand and pressed it to her forehead several times, exclaiming “Sathu! Sathu! [“Amen!”] We also respect God!”
Trying to explain this to the church members and invite them to come was a different challenge. When I talked with church members about what I’d gotten myself into, they mostly looked at each other uncertainly and didn’t respond. The Sunday before the ceremony, I again invited church members to join me, but got no response. So when we drove up from Bangkok on the morning of the ceremony, we thought it might be just Brenda and I going to visit the family. But when we arrived at the church, three members were ready to go with us. And when we arrived at the temple, we were greeted warmly. Uncle Lamyai’s wife suggested that we offer the prayer where his grave was, but I told her it was better to do it with the family (who were at another part of the temple). After some introductions, I offered a prayer, thanking the Lord for the great treasury of merit that Jesus made through his sacrifice on the cross, offered freely to all who trust in him, which I believed Uncle Lamyai had. I thanked God for the hope of eternal life in Paradise with Him, and prayed that the family would know the peace and hope that Uncle Lamyai had found. After the prayer, the church members shared with family members for over an hour, giving out booklets to those who were most interested.
Please pray for Uncle Lamyai’s widow, brother, son, daughter, and others we talked with, that they would respond to this good news with faith and turning to the Lord. Pray for Tha Rua Church members to be proactive in following up this family and others in the neighbourhood to also come to faith.
The boys are off school until the beginning of August during at least part of the time between now and then, we will be helping with the Sattha Soccer Ministry in Central Thailand, organized by our teammates, Will and Meng En Brooks. Please pray as a team of young men come to teach soccer and share their faith with students (especially children) in places where churches are reaching out. There will be some women coming as well, helping to teach and to share with the children. Pray that God would be glorified through this outreach, and that there would be children and even families coming to know the God who loves them so much that Jesus came for them. Please also pray for the opening of a ministry center in a housing area for the Rojana, Ayutthaya industrial estate this coming Saturday (July 11). The Tha Rua worship team will be coming to help with this, and the center is being run by our other teammates, Brian and Bekah Farber.
Trusting in a Big God,
Tim and Brenda Noble
with Nate and Pete
“By God’s Grace we aim to see a movement of biblical Thai Christian communities growing into churches, characterized by MISSION*, spreading throughout Ayutthaya and to the ends of the earth.”