As I sit down to send this we’re already halfway through summer, and the days are tipping away from the last school year and toward the coming.
Brian spent some time writing out highlights from the 2017/18 school year and we’d like to share a few of those with you here:
This is our second school year in a temporary location. We’re currently sharing a campus with another school while we raise funds to build our new campus. Sharing the campus has actually been a really neat ministry opportunity for me as I’ve spent time with some of their staff. There are a number of young, single and athletic guys who I kept running into in the workout room and/or playing soccer or ultimate frisbee. Through these activities I’ve been able to have some great life and spiritual conversations with them.
Our travel XC (cross-country) team resumed the very first day of school. We only had six weeks to prepare for a significant international race alongside ten of the fastest international schools in all of Asia. Our team this year was young with several first-time 7th and 9th graders. And we really felt that inexperience against such high-level competition as well as having a small team with a number of injuries and sickness dragging down our ability. But we had a very unified, solid and fun team who encouraged each other, had good attitudes, worked hard, and focused on honoring God through their running. At the race they interacted with students from other schools a lot, and during our nightly team meeting and worship many of them shared how impactful it was to be around students who had very different backgrounds, morals, etc. They were excited and faithful in the opportunity to be a light and example of Christ to them.
This year we had a number of students transfer into Grace from other international schools in Chiang Mai just so they could be a part of our competitive athletic program. These students were not believers at the time of transfer but by the end of the year at least one had walked through changes in her heart and attitude. We don’t know exactly where she is with God now but we do know God is working in her and has used the students and missionary staff to impact her. We look forward to her being around for her senior year next year.
While my primary role at Grace is with the after school sports program, I also serve in other capacities as needed. The past several years this has looked like teaching one or two of the high school strength and conditioning classes. This year I taught a class of eleven students. We bonded through tough workouts, devotionals, and life discussions. A couple of my students are also regulars at our intramural ultimate frisbee club, which I am also in charge of. After one afternoon of frisbee another adult leader and I were discussing the impact of visual stimuli with the players, especially in regards to males and movies. One student came to us after the talk and shared privately his struggle with pornography. We encouraged him in faith and continued to talk with him about it throughout the rest of the year. I’ve come to realize this is a very real struggle for a number of our students. We now personally spend time encouraging them to seek accountability, and the school at large is working on preventive measures to remove stumbling blocks.
Early into the second semester we unexpectedly had an 8th grade student pass away. This caused a great stir in our community, especially amongst her peer group. It was a thought-provoking and sad time for the school and God used it in incredible ways to touch the lives and hearts of many other students. They first-hand, and many for the first time, witnessed how precious life is. Many of my students began asking difficult questions, realizing their lives as off-track with eternity. It was a door for thoughtful, open communication about spirituality and faith that many had yet to take the time to seriously explore.
Later in the year we hosted a varsity basketball tournament with eight schools from around Asia who are part of a Christian International School Conference. Despite the group title, many of the students aren’t Christians. Every year we hear stories of how their lives are changed by these tournaments and this year was no exception. Nearly every year we hear about students accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior during these tournaments. The nature of these tournaments are not just playing the sport. There is also a ministry component in which every team participates. And a cultural day as well as time for fellowship amongst teams. Many student athletes stay in touch from year to year and some end up attending college and campus Bible Studies together. This year’s tournament was extra special because I had the opportunity to lead several of the teams in their ministry day. We went out to Ban Pong, a village within Chiang Mai, where our organization (Venture) teaches English in a local Thai school and has a community center that reaches the community for Christ. The athletes learned about the center and lead games for the students at the Thai school.
One last highlight I’d like to share is about a 72-year old retired Thai watchmaker who lives in our neighborhood. He rides an old bicycle around as his only means of transportation and frequently stops by our house for discussion. He’s had some challenging and beautiful thoughts and questions about God and the Bible. We’ve had a number of multiple hour conversations over the past six months as he has shared about his Buddhist background and what he’s discovering in Christianity. He’s read the entire Bible all the way through once and is on his second time! He’s earnestly seeking truth and trying to understand God and the Bible but gets confused as he tries to fit the stories of the Bible into his Buddhist worldview. Just a few weeks ago he told me he believes in God and Jesus but he still has questions and needs time to read, pray and study more. I gave him a few notebooks to write notes, thoughts and questions for future discussion. He’s already left a 2-page letter of thoughts and questions in our mailbox!
The last school year has been full, fun, and filled with God’s love and joy both at Grace International School and in our home. Our family has continued to grow together in faith and love for each other and for God. We’ve gone on hikes, bike rides, runs and done a host of races together.
Saturday evening family time is a favorite for us all as well as our Tuesday morning hike up the stairs of a nearby mountain.
I’ve also enjoyed taking Paxton and Piper for runs, bike rides and other adventures to give mommy some quiet, alone time.
And we’ve read numerous books to them about heroes of the faith. They love a good book! And they are also a great help with juicing and making healthy foods for our family!
Thanks for you continued support this and every year we’ve been here. We’re thankful!