Three local experiences unique to Thailand 2017 gathering
By Connie Faber
Three experiences were on his list when ICOMB executive director David Wiebe was asked what unique or special things related to the Thai culture, foods or location took place during the global Mennonite Brethren consultation held in Chon Buri, Thailand. ICOMB together with MB Mission hosted the global gathering March 7-11, 2017.
Dinner on the beach
Delegates crossed the street outside their hotel Wednesday evening and walked a quarter mile down the beach to a set of umbrellas and beach chairs for a dinner of chicken, shrimp, fruit and more. The meal was provided by a group of vendors who fed the group from their kiosks, an arrangement made by local missionary Ricky Sanchez. “We all had lots of conversations and interaction as we walked and ate,” says Wiebe.
Visit to Abundant Life Home (ALH)
Afternoon workshops were shortened Friday so that consultation participants could visit ALH, an orphanage for children affected by HIV/AIDS founded and directed by MB Mission worker Karen Sanchez. Sanchez works with the Thai Department of Social Welfare to provide a loving home in a family environment. For the trip, delegates boarded songthaows, a passenger vehicle unique to Thailand and Laos that is adapted from a pick-up or larger truck and used as a shared taxi or bus.
The drive took them through Monkey Mountain, an area where monkeys run free in the streets. “They come right up to the vehicles and will steal your phone, watch or anything you aren’t hanging onto,” says Wiebe. “They also will bite if you get too close, launching a rabies treatment. None of that happened.”
The ALH children provided a cultural dance and show, including some great break dancing, according to Wiebe. That evening, the ICOMB group enjoyed a buffet of local Thai food, including homemade pad thai, a stir-fried rice noodle dish commonly served as a street food and at casual local eateries in Thailand, and the “freshest, sweetest watermelon in the world.” The evening concluded with a “Fire Tunnel” and launching mini hot-air balloons.
Sunday worship service
The week ended with an outdoor worship service at a nearby beach and boat launch. The service included testimonies from 15 baptism candidates from four churches, three Thai and one Burmese.
“We heard all their testimonies,” says Wiebe. “The Burmese church seemed oddly off to the side and were not paying attention. Then Louise Sinclair Peters (an MB Mission worker in the area) announced, ‘We’ve been a bit distracted. We were leading four people to follow Christ!’ That was such a blessing.”
It took 45 minutes for everyone to be immersed in the water, says Wiebe. “During the entire time Pastor Naat led a group of about 15 people in singing and dancing continuously, song after song,” says Wiebe. “Mvwala Katshinga had brought shakers from Congo so he and a few other Africans along with a few North Americans sang and danced with them throughout. Such fun.”
Photo credit: John Irvin for ICOMB