The past couple of years have been full of changes in the Jones household. Both of our daughters have left home for university, our two teenage sons are in high school, a Chinese bat-soufflé turned the world upside down, and I now officially can’t read anything without reading glasses. As a guy who has enjoyed relatively good health prior to the age of 45, I must say that this whole mid-life-blindness-baldness-increased-eyebrow-length-and-I-can’t-hear-anything-anymore time of life is not nearly as much fun as life in my 30s. I hear everything gets better after you turn 50, right?
Last week, I appreciated listening to one of our supporting pastors as he shared with us his observations about how lots of ministries in America are pushing the “reset” button in light of the new world we are living in now that Covid is (hopefully) on the way out. His point was that a lot of people are realizing that life will never look like it did before 2020, and that Believers need to adapt in order to reach this new world with the Gospel. We’re excited about the way God has been leading us to figure out this phase of life.
“Change is hard but not changing can be fatal.” – Unknown
Reaching Out: Ministry in Prasat
When the unsaved mother of one of our church members passed away in July, we were invited to attend her Buddhist funeral at a local temple. Here’s the unusual part: we were asked to choose a couple songs to sing during the final moments of the funeral just before the body was moved up the steps to be cremated. In my 15 years here, I’ve never heard of Christians being asked to sing at a temple for a Buddhist funeral.
About a dozen of us from Prasat Baptist Church and Khu Khan Baptist Church stood at the foot of the “nain = crematorium” and sang “Does Jesus Care” and also a traditional Thai song “God Created our Lives.” There was an incredible silence that fell over the crowd as we sang.
Two “jao-a-wats/head abbots” from two temples along with 8-10 regular monks sat and listened just 20 feet away from us. There were school principals, the village headman, and many people who would otherwise NEVER consider listening to a gospel presentation in any form. All in all, I estimated at least 300 people were there as we shared the Gospel through song (others estimated there were closer to 600 people present).
Through our six years of teaching, witnessing, and just “doing life” in the midst of these people here in Prasat, we’ve interacted with countless faces that were in the crowd that day. For the two years since Covid started, we’ve largely been seen as suspicious outsiders and our opportunities to share our faith have been very limited. But yet, in one six-minute window on a hot sunny day, we were able to share the Gospel with more people at once than we have in the last six years combined.
We left that day with a strange mix of emotions. Thailand shares the distinction of being a country with a Christian population of less than 1%, and that means that close to 70 million people will spend their entire lives never hearing a clear Gospel presentation. We know dozens in that crowd whom we have taught, witnessed to, preached to, and pleaded with to turn to Christ who have openly rejected Him and chosen to follow their folk-Buddhist way of life.
We were thankful that God would use us to give these folks one more opportunity to hear, but deeply burdened by their ongoing lack of interest. The moment we finished singing, the announcer took the microphone and announced, “This is just their Christian culture, and all religions are actually the same and teach the same thing.”
Reaching Out: MK Ministry
Since our last letter, we’ve been looking for ways to adapt to ministry in a country that is still firmly in the grip of Covid-19. We were excited to be able to host the Southeast Asia MK Camp back in May with 45 missionary kids present from 24 different families. We had an awesome and memorable week with our main speaker testing positive for Covid the day before camp started and roughly two dozen of us testing positive for Covid after camp finished! The camp was a huge hit with the MKs, and we trust that those 24 families who took part in the camp went away encouraged in the missions work they’re doing here in Thailand.
In early July, our girls (Lindsey and Erica) both flew back to the States after a two-month visit, and we (Courtney, Trevor, Tyler and I) flew to Cambodia to join in with a group of missionaries there who were starting their first-ever MK camp in Cambodia. The “Cambodian MK Camp 2022” maxed out the facilities in Steung Treng with 33 MKs, and it was a huge privilege to be asked to speak for some of the sessions there. It was especially memorable for Trevor, who broke his hand during one of the games!
We are continuing to raise support for our MK Projects fund that will allow us to organize camps and events for MKs around the world in the days to come! Those interested in being part of this project can send any donations to Baptist World Mission with a note about the MK Projects Fund.
As always, we covet your prayers for our family. Pray for God to provide for and take care of our girls this semester at BJU in South Carolina. Pray for Trevor and Tyler here in Thailand as we prepare for a furlough in 2023 and Trevor prepares to begin college next August. (Just writing that phrase still shocks me!)
If anyone is interested in us visiting your church from April 2023 to January 2024, please let me know.
For Christ in Thailand
Matt and Courtney Jones
Lindsey, Erica, Trevor, Tyler
Baptist World Mission
For a printable prayer letter, click here.