Visiting Thailand challenges, transforms students

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EML students meet entrepreneurs, local pastors and MB Mission workers

By Janae Rempel      

Online learning went offline in June when students in Tabor College’s Entrepreneurial Ministry Leadership (EML) master’s degree program spent 10 days in Thailand.

The trip is one component of the 21-month EML program offered online by Tabor College’s School of Adult and Graduate Studies in Wichita, Kan. The goal of the EML program is to help students think entrepreneurially. The trip offers students the opportunity to see entrepreneurial leadership in a different cultural context, to gain a global perspective and to evaluate their own culture.

 “Normal isn’t the same everywhere,” Bartlett says. “What’s normal there is completely different than here, but that’s OK. It’s not wrong; it’s just different.”

In Thailand, students rubbed shoulders with members of MB Mission’s Team 2000, met with pastors and church leaders, learned from entrepreneurs and ministered alongside Thai believers.

 

Three components provide framework for trip

During the first portion of the trip, the six graduate students met Khmu and Lao pastors at the Changed Life Center north of Chiang Rai.

“I wanted our students to hear stories of persecution,” Bartlett says. “Listening to some of the Laotian pastors talk about being imprisoned for their faith, and at the same time hearing about healings and crazy New Testament God-at-work kind of stuff in those contexts, was powerful.”

Students also met entrepreneurs. In Chiang Mai, they visited Create International, a communication ministry of Youth With A Mission that creates indigenous media resources with the intent of strengthening church planting and evangelistic efforts. Students also met the founder of Expat Homes, which provides home rental and relocation services for foreign renters because only Thai people are allowed to own property.

“(Expat Homes is) a ministry, and they operate it under biblical principles, ethical principles,” Bartlett says. “It was amazing to listen to him talk about the ‘coffee shop for Jesus’ idea in the sense of how his entrepreneurial spirit came through.”

A third component allowed Bartlett and students to worship with Thai believers. They worshiped in one of the early Mennonite Brethren church plants in the fishing village of Ang Sila. They also attended a Sunday morning service in a slum area in Chachoengsao. Sunday night, some students shared their testimonies in a Burmese church. Five people came to know Christ and were later baptized.

The group also visited the Abundant Life Home orphanage and accompanied Ang Sila believers to Thailand’s largest cancer hospital in Chonburi to do crafts, share testimonies and pray with patients.

 

Students, teacher transformed

Traveling to Thailand provided opportunities for personal transformation for Bartlett and students alike.

For Jessica Garcia, the trip re-ignited a passion for reconciliation within Hispanic families.

“Just to see how these Thai people, these Khmu people, or the people from Laos, have such a deep desire for their own people, for their nation, to come to know Jesus, it sparked that again in me,” she says. “It made me feel like it is a gift that I am Mexican-American.

“Thailand was really something special, just to see their love for their own people,” says Garcia. “I thought, ‘I have that. It’s just been hiding because I’m scared of what that love can push you to.’”

Garcia’s decision to lead a MB Mission TREK ream to the Philippines was affirmed in Thailand. http://mbmission.org/trek Missionary Louise Sinclair-Peters said Garcia’s passion for reconciliation reminded her of Sam Arcano, the same pastor Garcia will serve alongside in the Philippines.

 “It was the first time that I saw a legit connection between this program, my dreams, my passions and TREK,” Garcia says. “I think all of us in that moment were like, ‘There’s a bigger work behind this trip, behind our projects.’”

Garcia says the trip encouraged her that even amidst physical poverty, one can be spiritually rich; gave her a desire to practice simplicity; and showed her the importance of revering God.

For Edith Buller-Breer, the trip grew her trust in God’s provision, both financially in providing necessary funds, and physically.

“I have grown in my trust of the Lord and also in my connections with the larger spiritual community,” she says. “I’m an older person and I have some age-related issues. I knew if this was going to be a positive experience for me, I would need the prayers of people supporting me. When I was in Thailand, I knew, several different times, I said, ‘I am being carried along by people’s prayers.’”

Buller-Breer says she appreciated the enthusiasm for the Word she witnessed in the Burmese church. She was also surprised by the way Thai believers prayed and hopes to introduce the idea to her small group.

“Everybody prays at the same time,” she says. “It’s a really cool experience because it revolutionizes those habit patterns that you have formed about prayer. God can hear everybody at the same time. He doesn’t need us to speak one at a time to make our prayers known to him. It places value on everybody present.”

Lee Waldron was impacted by the radical faith of pastors at the Changed Life Center. Despite having few material possessions, they were dedicated to the Lord’s work.

“I think my takeaway was, it’s not about how much I have or what title I gain; it’s about how I’m pursuing Jesus,” Waldron says. “How much of myself can I give to Jesus, and how much am I willing to lay on the line to run after him in a culture that doesn’t necessarily promote that?”

For Waldron, that will involve being disciplined to make time for Jesus, listening to His voice and walking in obedience to the Spirit.

“I want to be a person that is committed and completely lives a life that is all sold out for Jesus,” he says. “I want my life to be a worship story, not just moments where I sing a song here or there to God. Thailand brought up much that was already on my heart, but really brought it to the surface, and it has been hard to ignore things since I’ve been back.”

Bartlett, too, was impacted. He says he was challenged by the commitment of Team 2000 and sensed God calling him to be more open to the Spirit.

“It’s so easy when you’re on those kind of experiences to see God at work all the time in many places and to be willing to pray for people,” he says. “I was sitting there thinking, ‘Why don’t I do that at home?’”

Bartlett says the experience exceeded his expectations.

“As an educator, it’s so awesome to put people into that kind of context and watch them grow and learn,” he says. “I think there’s so much that can happen when you’re out of your comfort zone and in a language you can’t speak. I’m excited to do it again.”

 

About the EML degree

The Entrepreneurial Ministry Leadership program was designed to meet leadership needs not being met by traditional seminaries. Students choose their direction of study and are equipped to meet needs in their communities practically and relevantly.

The program involves coursework, a weekly online video chat, a week of spiritual formation and an international experience. Each student is paired with a faculty mentor to help create a “see a need, fill a need” project.

Photo provided by Tabor College: Tabor College EML students visited the While Palace while in Thailand. In addition to visiting typical tourist sites, the students learned from entreprenurs, met with pators and church leaders and ministered alongside them.

 

 

 

 

 

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