We are back and in recovery from jet lag after a 12 hour time change from Chiang Mai to San Antonio!
Our trip began with the disappointing news that our good friends, Gary and Darlene Maroney could not accompany us. At the last minute Darlene was hospitalized. She is doing well, but please keep them in your prayers. Not having them along to help with the teaching put an extra load on Connie and myself. Once again we discovered the awesome grace of God to be there for us. Another couple, Bob and Jan Willmann, traveled with us to support and encourage pastors. I will say more about them in a moment.
Originally the leaders of the conference were planning on 100 atendees which was all that the new housing facility at Frontier Labourers for Christ (FLC) could accommodate. There is still work to be done in finishing the three buildings. To everyone’s surprise over 200 pastors, wives, and ministry leaders came! A dozen or so were from as far away as Laos, and they truly maxed out the space.
Here is a summary statement from the Conference Coordinator, Jung Dangshing:
“Four full days of busy and yet wonderful, meaningful and fruitful times together! Over 200 pastors and wives from five language groups were at the conference. The theme of the conference was on ‘Finishing Strong in Marriage and in Ministry.’ The take away for everyone was that marriage and family come first. Steve and Connie discussed that one of the reasons pastors no longer remain in the ministry is because of an inappropriate relationship with another woman. That point was made very clear. The conference was a turning point for many married couples in the ministry. Through the teaching, testimonies, and their life example, the couples recommitted to encourage, support, love and be faithful to one another, and to serve together as a team more than ever before. This kind of teaching has been something that has been overlooked in the Thai society, especially among the tribal people. The participants learned what they needed. Steve and Connie were good examples to the couples who came to the conference.”
Paul and Mary Lois Ferraro, from Denver, joined us in Seoul, Korea for the last leg of our flight to Chiang Mai. They were great companions to have along! Paul is the USA Board chairman for FLC. Paul and Mary Lois have been instrumental in the development of the ministry and the facilities in Chiang Mai. As they observed the conference they made the statement that this was truly “historic and provided much needed Biblical training to the village pastors. It was the first of its kind in Thailand where the pastors and wives were encouraged to finish strong in marriage and in ministry. We think that you reached a lot of village pastors that were hungry to hear you and Connie preach the Word. We are so glad that we were able to attend, since it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was a great conference.” You might be interested to know that after I presented the gospel on the first day, a number of the pastors and wives trusted Christ. Paul wrote, “My late brother, Sal, would have been very pleased to see the number of people that accepted the Lord since he always said to me, “I like to put my money where souls will be saved.”
The other couple that I mentioned earlier is Bob and Jan Willmann. They are in the restaurant business here locally in San Antonio. Jan is a native Thai. She and Bob met and then married back during the time of the Viet Nam war. What a huge blessing they were to accompany us! Jan is so conversant in the Thai language and was constantly used for prayer, communication, etc. Both did a masterful job in sharing their testimonies and had many of the attendees in tears with them. Bob was helpful in many ways with the finances and other needs that arose. They both have huge servant’s hearts.
Bob wrote, “These were the best four days I have spent in a long time. I learned so much about how a marriage can impact a ministry and how Christ can be found through the Old Testament. I watched the attendees while Steve and Connie were teaching. Even with the translation difficulties, they seemed riveted on what they were saying. Even this old Lutheran was emotionally moved by the excitement these pastors and wives were displaying. From some of the questions and comments Jan received from the ladies after her testimony, I believe she really connected with them. I hope that we can make another trip in the near future. We thank all of the Shepherds’ Support supporters who made this possible and thank the Lord for His mercy and grace.”
Jan wrote, “I learned so much from the instruction, especially how a strong, solid marriage impacts a couple’s ministry. I was so encouraged to see how excited many of these village/hill tribe pastors, with very little education, were active in trying to train others in the Bible. Many were very young. We thought that because the younger men could read, they were the ones to teach the older men and women. I felt the Holy Spirit touching my heart. This trip will remain with me forever. Thank you, Shepherds’ Support, for everything.”
Again, how can we say thanks for your continuing support in so many ways? Only Heaven can repay.
Steve and Connie for the Thai team along with the Shepherds’ Support Board:
Bobby and Carole Limmer, Lannie and Melba Green, Keith Eyre, Stuart and Lee Anne Hendry, Tom and Barbara Chandler