Keeping Up With the Joneses August 2022

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.

October 2021 Prayer Letter

Keeping Up With the Joneses
Between Worlds in 2021

One of the greatest parts of living between worlds as a missionary family is all the amazing people that we interact with all around the world. This summer, we’ve travelled up and down the East coast spending time with great friends and family all the way from New Hampshire down to the Florida Keys. We’ve reestablished and strengthened friendships over rounds of disc golf, catching fish, and eating crazy good food. God has ministered so much grace and encouragement to our family this summer and as we finish this “family furlough,” we’re turning our attention back toward our friends and church family 10,000 miles away in Thailand. 

You might be asking yourself, “Is it hard to live between worlds?” What does that even phrase even mean? Let me illustrate. Living between worlds means that ever since our family decided to go to the mission field in 2005, we’ve been living a life of high mobility, and we don’t really have a place we call “home.” During the past 16 years, we’ve rented houses in Kansas, Tennessee, and South Carolina. We’ve borrowed bedrooms in family basements, lived in our SUVs, and overrun our in-law’s house with countless suitcases up and down their hallway. In Thailand, we’ve lived on the twelfth floor in an apartment in the heart of 10 million people in Bangkok. We’ve also lived in two homes in Surin city, and now our rented house in Prasat is where we call “home,” because that’s where our dogs live. 

This living between worlds is even more crazy for our kids. Our four kids have grown up living “everywhere and nowhere” all at the same time. Now Lindsey and Erica are both on campus at Bob Jones University, and Lindsey recently said, “Living on campus is the closest I feel to being ‘at home’ because it’s the one place where I have been able to unpack my suitcases since leaving Thailand.” Yeah, life for MKs is complicated. I think you might start to understand why we might stare at you blankly if you see our family here in the States and say “Welcome Home” to us. 

For missionary kids, mostly belonging is one of their superpowers. They exist in an unfamiliar world we call the “Third Culture,” where they have partial ownership of their passport country (America) and their mission field, but not complete ownership or understanding of either place. This presents some pretty unique challenges when MKs come back to the States for life after the mission field and that’s a big part of why we’ve been here all summer. 

Missionary Kid (MK) Ministry Update

This summer has been full of some of the most amazing opportunities to interact with missionary kids from all over the world. In August, I spoke to 48 MKs from 27 different countries for the morning chapels at the first-ever Wilds MK camp in North Carolina. One of the highlights of the summer for me was listening to the testimonies on the final night of camp, and seeing how the week had deeply impacted the MKs for Christ. We’re so thankful the Wilds and Camps Abroad have taken up a burden for his needy ministry! 

Back in August, we were able to spend several hours on campus at Bob Jones University speaking to the incoming freshmen MKs during their international orientation and also helping facilitate an MK panel with upper classmen MKs in the Center for Global Opportunities. Since that time, we’ve hosted groups of BJU MKs at our in-law’s house in Greenville and, more recently, put together an informal pizza/taco party on campus. Nobody likes free Taco Bell more than college-aged missionary kids! 

Courtney and I also flew to Dallas in September to attend the Missionary Kid Caregiver Summit (MKCS), where we were able to hear many of our favorite MK authors share their burdens during the workshops. I’ll be flying next to Wisconsin in about 10 days to make a presentation about MK care to the Board of Directors of Baptist World Mission. 

Back in September, we joined our friends, Bryan and Sommer Lowery, to start the “Southeast Asia MK Community” Zoom meeting. This twice-a-month online Zoom meeting has been a burden of ours for many months now, and we had around 40 MKs for the first meeting. One of the goals of this meeting is to give these MKs a chance to fellowship and interact during this time of social isolation in Southeast Asia, where Covid continues to rage and lockdowns are still the norm. 

Back to Thailand

After all these details about MK ministry, you’re probably wondering about ministry in Thailand, right? If you are wondering if our ministry is changing, it’s NOT. We are very excited about getting back to our church planting ministry in Thailand. We are so excited to announce that as of October 1, the quarantine period for people returning to Thailand has been lowered from 15 nights to 7 nights! This is a huge deal for us as it will save us around $3000 in quarantine costs. We have purchased tickets and reserved our quarantine facility already. We have submitted the preapproval request to the Thai embassy in Washington and are waiting for the paperwork to be approved. 

Provided our paperwork is approved, we will fly out on October 18 and arrive in Thailand on October 20. Will you take a moment and pray with us about the following needs? 

1. Please pray for all of the details of our return to Thailand – much paperwork goes into this process. 

2. Pray that none of us will test positive for Covid between now and the end of quarantine. If any of us tests positive prior to leaving, we have to cancel ALL the paperwork and reservations and start over. If any of us tests positive in quarantine, we will be taken to hospitals for an additional two week stay quarantined in the hospital. Not our idea of a smooth transition. 

3. We especially need your prayers as we say “goodbye” once more to our girls in just a couple weeks. When we leave this time, we don’t know when we’ll see them again so that’s pretty rough on all of us. Living between worlds has some unique challenges! And we know that God’s grace will be sufficient every step of the way.

For Christ in Thailand

Matt and Courtney Jones
Lindsey, Erica, Trevor, Tyler
Baptist World Mission