One year in Bangkok!

Can you believe that we have been here over a year now?! It’s been an incredible journey, and so we thought that it would be fun to compile our (publishable!) list of the good, the bad and the ugly about living here!

The good, the bad and the ugly…

The good
The Robinson familyLots of nice fruit; sunshine; friendly Thai people who especially love children; experiencing a completely different culture; being where God wants us to be right now as a family; experiencing the sheer beauty of Thailand.

The bad
The seedy side to Bangkok (and what it is famous for) is all too obvious sometimes; homesickness; Thai superstitions; the Thai language, which is famously hard to learn; the poverty of so much of the population; corruption.

And the ugly
The traffic and the driving; the hygiene in food preparation – several bouts of food poisoning and infection later…

Work, work, work...

John has now finished full time language study but will be continuing part time to allow him to do more networking, prison ministry and other things that God leads us into. Gillian continues in part time language learning for the time being.

We have had a busy few months with speaking and ministering in different places. John has spoken at prisons in other regions where the response once again was amazing. He also taught with a YWAM school for Asians, where he met many from all around the region, set on serving God.

We were both asked to go to a place that works with girls and boys on the street, and had a moving time sharing testimony and ministering to these Thai people, largely from the very poor northern regions. 

Learning about grace

Teaching at the House of Blessing Halfway HouseJohn continues to work, worship and teach with the Thailand prison ministry, where he and the team speak in the prisons; he then teaches those who attend the services, including refugees from the border countries around Thailand. Those who come to faith in Christ after having grown up in Buddhism are very enthusiastic but they do need a major shift in perspective. Buddhism embraces all religions and is very much a pick and mix religion, as seen from the many statues of Hindu gods in shrines, and the inclusion of much of Chinese religions in Thai Buddhism, such as with ancestral worship.

Learning about grace after a lifetime of believing you have to earn merit is also a significant shift. Some of the class attitudes remain entrenched, however, as Thai Buddhism believes that people are poor because of things done in a previous life, so ex-prisoners and prostitutes who become Christian have a hard time finding acceptance in churches, even as Christians.

Earning merit over New Year

New Year is a time in Thailand for special visits to the temples to earn merit, and Buddhists pay to release fish and birds into freedom that the monks keep at the temples, so that they can earn extra merit. In this deeply superstitious society, Thai people pick a bird or fish for the extra meaning that they apparently have, such as releasing an eel to ensure a smooth passage through life.

At the Chinese New Year there were extra tables put at the shrines in every place to hold all the extra food and drink offerings, and the tables were weighed down. Offerings are only left in the mornings as it is believed the spirits sleep in the afternoons.

Christmas

Christmas entertainment - traditional Thai dancingChristmas was a very interesting time in Thailand. The Thai people celebrate our New Year as well as the Chinese New Year, but they don’t celebrate Christmas at all (despite some of the malls having “Happy New Year” signs with Father Christmas and snowmen next to them).

Gillian’s Thai teacher read some of the bible for the first time when they had a discussion about creation. There is no theology of creation in Thai Buddhism; Thai people live for today and hope to still be here tomorrow, so Gillian showed her the account of creation, which she was fascinated by, especially its detail.

On Boxing Day, John was asked to speak at the Thai language service of the Anglican Church, where they had a Christmas festival, and five of the Buddhist teachers from his language school came to church for the first time in their lives to hear him and were very moved.

Then we rushed to the House of Blessing for their Christmas celebration there. They had a Chinese feast for all the residents and church members. We were sat with a Thai government education minister, and did our very best to eat the delights of jellyfish and all sorts of food that were put before us in order not to be rude! We also enjoyed the Thai dancing although the children’s favourite game – throw the cockroach to each other – was a bit much for Gillian!

Touched by God

John has been asked to speak in many different places, but one which was extra special was to the parents of the pupils who attend our daughters’ school, most of whom are Buddhists. At the special Christmas event, he had a discussion and a prayer with a Buddhist dad after the talk, and the father decided to pray to ask God into his life.

Trusted prisoners at Rayong thrilled to see John and moved by his messageThe translation of John’s first book, ‘Nobody’s Child’ in Thai, and the comic version of his story in Thai, has been such an amazing resource. All the time we hears stories from prisoners, from Thai people and those who work with people on the edge of this society about the amazing response to them, and how much it has helped people to know God. A friend’s Buddhist maid that we had come to know approached Gillian one day really excited and told her how reading ‘Nobody’s Child’ had helped her to know God for herself.

She said with a huge grin that her heart had been so touched that she now knew God. She was baptised at church a few weeks ago which brought a tear to our eyes!

Often, it’s sowing seeds in other people’s lives who we might never know about; many others have been delighted to receive John’s books, such as our landlords. The Thai publishers have been so amazed at the response to ‘Nobody’s Child’ that they have decided to translate ‘Somebody’s Child’ into Thai too, and with John’s third book ‘Streetsmart’ having just come out in the UK, we are thankful for these opportunities to share the gospel.

The girls…

The girls continue to be busy at school, and appreciate the Christian content at their school, as well as the sports. Both of them try their best to be a witness to their friends, both Christian and non-Christian, and are learning so much about how to trust God and serve God in a culture dominated by another religion. Both have been nominated to the student leadership council this year, and will take leadership roles in various ways, including sharing their faith.

Joel

Joel is growing up fast, having just had his second birthday and is speaking more each day. He can speak some Thai words as well as some English words, and loves Thai people speaking to him so much. He manages to make friends with Thai children, and communicate somehow!

Gillian

Gillian continues to help at the church where she can. She now leads the children’s ministry on a Sunday, and helps out with preaching and all age services. The isolation of living in a big city is sometimes very hard, without easy access to transport, and there are practically no British women around, and no facilities such as libraries and playgrounds where she can take Joel. We are all excited as a family, though, at the doors that seem to be opening to minister and work in a slum area near to us.

Prayer points

  • Praise for surviving a turbulent first year in Thailand!
  • Prayers especially about the future, as we look to do other work alongside the prison ministry. Please pray that God opens the right doors and shuts the wrong ones –
  • the needs are so many and we have been asked to help in many things, but we need to know what God’s plans are.
  • For safety in travel.
  • For the girls to be able to study well at school, and to be a witness to their friends.
  • For good health for all five of us.
  • For spiritual protection.

Thankyou, our amazing prayer warriors and supporters; we thank God for each of you!

With much love,

John, Gillian, Leah, Natalie and Joel

 John finishing full time language school