Elder HMS Richards was once asked when he thought the work would be finished. His answer, “When all the preachers are locked up.” We smile, but there is a lot of truth to that statement.
Truly, God has given us a big task of reaching the world with the gospel. The world’s population stands at 6,446,131,400. The latest statistics show there are 13,936,932 Seventh-day Adventist members but of these only about 220,000 are ordained, licensed or credentialed missionaries or ministers. That’s a ratio of only 1 minister for almost every 30,000 of the world’s population. There are simply not enough missionaries and ministers to go around. So where does the church find enough people to fill the needs. The answer is volunteers. They are cost effective, they are young and old, they come from many countries and they are willing to do just about anything, anywhere, at anytime. Let me give you a glimpse of what volunteering means to one.
Thailand, in Southeast Asia, is a land where the population is 94.6% Buddhist. Christianity is only 0.7% or less than 1%. Reaching people who don’t feel a need for salvation presents a difficult challenge for the Church. One way this is being done is through volunteers teaching children and youth in our English language schools.
Bill, a volunteer college student from America, came to Thailand to teach children in our Bangkok English Language School. One day, Kasem, a young Thai girl, approached Bill’s desk after class and said that she wanted very much to become a Christian. She explained that she had attended months of classes and listened to Bill praying daily for the students and their families. Bill asked her why she wanted to become a Christian. Kasem explained that she had found that there is forgiveness in Christianity and there is no forgiveness in the teachings of Buddhism.
Going home after school, Kasem asked her mother if she could attend the Bible classes at the school. Her mother said she would have to wait until she was eighteen. Three years have passed since then and Kasem is now fifteen. She is looking forward to soon becoming a baptized Seventh-day Adventist Christian.
Teaching younger Thai children, ages five through ten, about Christianity is very rewarding. They love to sing gospel choruses in class and listen to the Bible stories read to them each day. Often, when asked to bow their heads for prayer, voices will cry out, “teacher, teacher, I want to pray”. …and if a volunteer forgets to pray at the end of class, many of the children will cry out saying, “We forgot to pray.”
On another day, after putting up a new bulletin board in the school lobby, seven-year-old Hok became very excited. He wanted to know the story about “The baby in the straw.” Rushing back to his teacher, he dragged her to the lobby and asked her who the pretty presents on the bulletin board were for. Amanda, the volunteer teacher, sat little Hok down and explained the story of the baby Jesus that God gave as a gift to this world. She explained about the Magi who came from far away bringing special gifts to baby Jesus because they loved Him and wanted to worship Him. Little Hok was spellbound until he had heard the whole story of the birth of Jesus.
Every Sunday afternoon two volunteer teachers walk down a narrow, cramped and crowded back alley behind Klongtan’s main market place in Bangkok. That tiny, dingy and dirty corridor opens into what the volunteers call “the real Bangkok.” Some days the odors that hit them as they walk through the door are almost overwhelming, but coming to greet them are some of the most beautiful faces in the world. The younger girls, Smile, Apple, Banana, Beer, Lin, Pear Apple number 2 and other students and their very close friends. Older students, Jum, Noi, Kumlai, Aow, Duan and Wong gather together with a few others that they have brought. The girls are excited and enthusiastic because they are being taught to sing new Christian songs and choruses. Then they are told Bible stories and taught to read and speak English.
With the sights and sounds of the Bangkok market all around them, distractions are many. The room where they meet is very small and has no front wall, so everyone can see right in. The people on the street hear them singing every week and a few little kids usually hang around outside watching them sing and listening to the stories, but wander away when they begin to study English.
The first time the volunteers came to the Klongtan market it was unbearably hot and flooded with the summer rains. It was mosquito infested, dirty and grossly under equipped with a broken down table and a few old chairs. But after a few weeks the volunteers stopped thinking about the things they didn’t have. What they did have was “Henry” (their guitar) and many smiling faces of their young friends rushing out to meet them every week.
One day the young Thai girls were invited to go to the teacher’s house for dinner after class. There was food (Suki and banana splits). How excited they were. The invitation to go to the teacher’s home became a weekly tradition. There they could talk and pray with their new found friends.
Lindsay, who is a volunteer from Australia, says, “Mission work isn’t about being a missionary, it’s about being a friend.” Through the medium of English, volunteers are telling the world about the truth, the life and the character of Jesus.
Isn’t it about time we all joined hands as volunteers working side by side with the ministers to hasten our Lord’s return for the missionaries and the ministers can’t do it all alone?
Her name is Liong Pit Lin. She was raised in a conservative Chinese family. Like other Chinese descendants, Liong believed in Confucius’ teachings. She believed that the spirits of their ancestors would guard and protect them throughout their lives. In their house was a mini altar where they put their ancestor’s cremated ashes so they could pray to him. As a little girl Liong believed the spirits were immortal. When someone died their body would decay but the spirit lived on as a ghostly form.
When Liong graduated from Junior High she wanted to improve her English conversational skills. She chose to study at AECS (Adventist English Conversation School) because there were American teachers there.
However, even though Liong graduated in a short time she wanted to stay longer just to be around these teachers. Besides learning English Liong was attracted to their way of living. Their attitudes were different. They had personalities that were kind. They ate vegetarian food. Liong didn’t know these were volunteer student teachers. The teachers invited Liong to go to a free Bible study class. She was so excited and happy. There she could learn English conversation “free of charge” and be with her new friends.
As a Confucius believer Liong didn’t believe in Jesus Christ. To her Jesus was just another fairy tale. She didn’t believe that there was a God that created the world but she believed in the evolution theory, that this world was millions of years old.
Although Liong went to a Protestant school from Elementary to Junior High and knew all the stories of Jesus in the New Testament and could even find a text from the Bible faster than anyone of her friends, she still considered the Bible as an ordinary text book.
At first Liong joined the Bible study class because she considered it just another subject but somehow the Holy Spirit worked on her heart. Her intention was to improve her English reading and vocabulary by reading the Bible but instead questions started coming to her mind. She became more inquisitive and tried to learn more about each verse. Soon she began to ask herself, “What if there is a God?” Liong began asking her teacher friend, “Why is there a God?” and “Where did He come from?” Patiently her teachers would answer her questions and show her from the Bible what God said about himself. She began to read the Bible for herself and to find the answers she was craving for.
After several months of Bible Studies, Liong began to believe that the story of Jesus was not a fairy tale. Then she began to wonder, since she believed in Jesus and wanted to follow Him, could she be a Roman catholic instead so she could still pray to her ancestors? Studying the Bible further the Holy Spirit whispered to her that praying to her ancestors would be hopeless because they were dead and didn’t know anything. Again she struggled in her heart. She didn’t want to become a Seventh-day Adventist because of their rules on the food they eat and keeping the Sabbath. Perhaps she could become a Protestant. After studying the Bible for three long years Liong realized that Seventh-day Adventists were teaching the truth, and she was baptized.
Liong’s parents were not pleased with her decision and wanted to kick her out of their house. Her volunteer teacher friends encouraged her and assured her of God’s promise to go with her. Struggling alone with her new found faith, the teachers, about to leave Indonesia, decided to help Liong by sending her to an Adventist boarding school where she could learn more about the Adventist message and lifestyle.
Today Liong is active as a Church Treasurer in Jakarta International Seventh-day Adventist Church and is a volunteer herself in one of the Adventist schools in Jakarta.
Rick’s year as a student missionary on a remote tropical island did not turn out as he expected. Prior to departure he had visions of palm tree lined beaches, sipping coconuts, and snorkeling in beautiful clear water. Rick had volunteered to teach high school at our SDA boarding academy.
When Rick arrived he was greeted at the airport with garlands of fragrant flowers and taken to his room which he was to share with another volunteer teacher. Soon he settled into a busy schedule of classes. As always there were duties in the boys’ dorm plus his responsibility of supervising several of the 80 students’ labor on the large plantation.
Over the first few months he began feeling a growing sense of uneasiness among the students. Some were dissatisfied with dorm life; others had conflicts with other students.
Early one morning Rick awoke to the sound of shouting and the clanging of metal in the dormitory. Some of the boys were trying to riot. They had footlong pieces of rebar with which they were beating the dormitory window frames to make a deafening sound.
By the next day the students were on a full-scale student strike from school. The atmosphere was incredibly tense and a riot seemed to be inevitable. The situation eased when the principal and the student leaders came together to talk and resolve the problems.
The remainder of the school year was filled with tension. One student tried to murder Rick with a machete and another tried to shoot a fellow student.
Week of Prayer was scheduled for April and so many students dedicated their lives to Christ. There were follow up baptismal classes. The entire atmosphere on campus changed from one of tension and negativity to one of God’s love and grace being seen in changed people.
By June Rick was ready to pack his bags and say goodbye, but there was one more surprise coming. The last Sabbath of the school year a baptism was scheduled and 37 out of those 80 students were baptized. Among those being baptized were leaders of the campus revolt who had been touched and transformed by God’s wondrous grace.
By Gary Rustad, was the Division Associate Secretary and AVS Director at the time he wrote this article.
To view more pictures for this article and to read more articles from this issue of Mission Post Magazine, visit http://www.adventistvolunteers.org/MissionPost/v7n4/v7n4.pdf.
I don’t remember much from those days. But one thing I will never forget. In the midst of my suffering and doubting, God reached me with just one electrifying realization.
Mission 360° features inspiring stories about mission work.
One day while Rajah was holding a Bible study, a mob approached his house, brandishing sticks and swords.