"I remember the night of the storm."
That is how LTC Sophomore, Mr. Somsak began his testimony. It was the night his father made a desperate decision that changed the trajectory of his life.
He was just six years old, but his young life had already been full of storms. From his earliest memories, he had suffered from night terrors. Most nights he couldn’t sleep or eat. He constantly missed school.
His parents tried everything. They went to doctors and tried all kinds of herbal medicines. They had consulted with the village spirit doctor and had done all the traditional sacrifices. Nothing worked.
But, that night, in the midst of a bad storm with the wind pushing against their bamboo hut, Somsak’s father watch his little boy cry and scream against an unknown enemy. He remembered the Evangelist who told him there was a Spirit more powerful than all others. He decided to seek him out.
Somsak’s parents listened to the evangelist and choose to put their trust in Jesus. From that point forward, Somsak never again experienced a night terror. As Somsak grew up, he knew his family were Christians. But, no one ever really explained it to the child. So, he grew up accepting that he was a Christian but never understood that he needed to make his own choice for Jesus. But, God was watching over him and sent another to teach him.
After finishing 9th grade, Somsak decided to move to a suburb of Chiang Mai, find a job and finish High School through adult education. It was there in Mae Rim that he met a friend who invited him to Church. And it was there that he met Jesus for himself. He committed his life to Jesus and got involved.
For the next 20 years, Somsak continued to grow and serve. The church leadership mentored him, sending him to short-term Bible Courses, electing him as an Elder and eventually sending him to plant a church in a nearby town. During this time, he married and had two sons. Life was going really well. Until the Lord Called him to pursue full-time service. Somsak worried that he was too old to go back to school. And how would he support his family? But, with his wife’s encouragement, he took the plunge, quit his job and enrolled at Lanna Theological Center.
The Lord provided a sponsor for his first year and he continued working with the church. However, during the COVID pandemic Somsak lost his sponsor. He called Lanna to tell them he would have to withdraw. Instead, Lanna suggested he apply for a Next Step Scholarship.
We are so thankful for those who have contributed to the Next Step Scholarship Fund. This Fund allows Lanna to distribute funds to students like Somsak. So often it happens that a student comes with the promise of sponsorship, but for different reasons the sponsor is unable to fulfil the promise.
The Lord continues to provide donations into the Next Step Scholarship Fund so that Lanna can jump in and help.
Would you consider making a donation to the Next Step Scholarship Fund? Any amount adds to the whole and will be dispersed directly for students attending Lanna. Click here to make a donation using paypal or send a check to C.M.O. PO Box 2363, Joplin, MO (mark for Next Step)
T’an’s parents divorced right after she was born. Her father left never to be heard from again. Her mother left T’an in the care of grandparents and went in search of a job and a new life. She eventually married and started a new family. T’an has had very little contact with her biological mother.
By age 7, both her grandparents had died, leaving T’an alone. At that time, an evangelist opened an orphanage nearby. T’an’s family was not Christian but the pastor of a near-by church knew her situation and brought her to the orphanage.
T’an says that it was at the orphanage that she finally learned what having a caring supportive family really felt like. She felt accepted and like she belonged. She also was introduced to Jesus. As she grew, so did her faith and a desire to minster to other orphans.
As T’an neared her high school graduation, she started to pray for God to show her the next step. Most high school graduates know that whatever they do, they have a safety net called home. For orphans, there is always a bit of insecurity. Will the orphanage be their forever home or was it just a temporary childhood home ?
In T’an’s case, the orphanage told her they had no provisions to help her after high school. So, T’an went to her eternal Father and asked for guidance. She heard God’s call to prepare herself to minister to other children in the same situation. Her dorm dad suggested she reach out to his school, LTC. He had heard there was a new scholarship available for orphans. So, T’an applied and LTC was pleased to award her a Next Step Scholarship Fund.
T’an will graduate in March, 2020. Her goal is to find a job where she can make a difference in the lives of families struggling to stay together. She knows personally the pain and loneliness that comes from such brokenness. She wants to see families stay together. The Lord is continuing to fulfill that Call in her life.
She will intern with two organizations. One works to help families stay together. The other helps teach poor farmers new and better agricultural techniques. T’an is excited about all she will learn during her internship. Please pray for T’an that God will continue to protect her, provide and lead her to fulfill all that He has ordained for her. Pray that T’an will remain faithful and strong in her life of service.
The dorm parents immediately saw a special quality in Na Say. She was always willing to help the younger kids and do any necessary chores. When she graduated from high school, they offered her a full-time job as a care-giver for the younger children.
Na-Say didn’t have any other place to go nor any option for further study, so she took the position. But, she still longed for something more. God began to place on her heart a desire to study his Word and prepare herself to be a Teacher of the Word for Children. She laid it before the Lord, that if He wanted her to study, He would provide the finances and the opportunity.
Students from LTC came to do a youth rally at her orphanage. They told her that there was a new scholarship fund for orphans. She took that as an answer, applied and was granted a Next Step Scholarship.
Orphans like Na Say have a special burden for the at-risk children of SE Asia. They are very much aware of the dangers that lurk about looking for children to deceive and exploit. And they are determined to protect and bring needed change to a dark world. Following graduation, she will return to her orphanage and be on staff.
Thailand is full of orphanages and dormitories that are giving at-risk youth an opportunity to grow up in safety, security, and knowing Jesus. Out of these ministries are coming young people whom God has called into full-time service. Their generation is strategically placed to make an impact into a world that is filled with ugly.
Because there are many more young adults like T’an and Na-say, LTC created the Next Step Scholarship Fund. By clicking the Donate button below, you can make an on-line contribution to one of two funds:
1. The LTC General Tuition Fund. This fund will be applied to the general operational funds for Lanna thereby making it possible to continue offering low tuition. By, June 2020, we need to raise $3,000 for the LTC General Fund so that LTC can continue to offer low cost tuition for the poor and at-risk.
2. The Next Step Scholarship Fund: This fund will provide full tuition scholarships for those who can not afford the low cost tuition offered at Lanna.
When Jack was 2 years old, his mother and he were diagnosed with a disease that carries a heavy stigma. His father took the two to a local hospital and left. The hospital called the Agape children’s home, an orphanage established to care for mothers and babies left alone by this terrible disease. Within a few years Jack’s mother had died. But, Jack thrived in his new environment. As he grew up and learned about the unconditional love and acceptance of Jesus, he gave his life to Christ at an early age.
By the time he was in high school, Jack had chosen to pursue Cooking as a career. He thought it would be exciting to be a chef in an international restaurant. But, in his senior year a DOR team from Lanna Theological Center came for a weekend revival. They challenged the youth to consider how they planned to use their life and skills to serve God and His Church. Jack couldn’t shake the sense that God wanted more from his life, so he decided to enroll at LTC.
His dorm dad was not happy with Jake’s decision. He counseled Jack to consider his situation. He was an orphaned with a chronic disease. He had no family to help support him. Why would he choose a career that did not promise financial security? But, God was faithful and gave Jake a confirmation. This is his testimony of that confirmation.
“On the day I was to move into LTC, I had to wait for my dorm dad to finish his errands. I was sleepy, so decided to lay down and take a nap. In a dream, Satan came and began to ridicule me; telling me how stupid I was to choose Bible College over Cooking school. But as his voice got louder and I turned to look at him, I heard a sound behind me. I turned and there was God and his angels. A loud voice say: “Jack, Praise me and Praise me only!” Satan spoke louder. Then God spoke…even louder. And the two went back and forth, getting louder and louder. Finally God took a deep breath and with deafening shout, said. “Jack, Jack, Praise me ONLY” and the wind from his voice blew Satan away. And I woke up immediately.”
When asked the meaning of this dream, Jack replied: “ I will always serve God because He is the One who fought for me.”
Exodus 14:4 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still!”
Mr Sir-ri-sak Puche is the pastor of a small congregation in the mountains just south of Chiang Mai. The congregation is small and unable to pay him a living salary. But after years of worshiping without a pastor to teach and guide them, they were hungry for leadership. Sirisak and his wife answered the call. But that decision came after years of doubt.
As a young man, Sirrisak decided to study at Bible College with the idea that he could be a pastor. He enrolled at LTC, but he struggled with doubt as to his value and skill . So, he quit, went home, got married and started farming. But the little church in his home village needed help. Like so many churches scattered throughout SE Asia, there was no leader, no pastor, to teach the Word and help the believers walk their faith through life’s events.
Slowly Sirisak was pulled into ministry. He soon realized that he needed to finish his leadership training. So, he and his wife came back to LTC and he finished his BTh in 2014. After graduation he was invited to pastor another small congregation, the Mae Am Khang Mai Church. There are about 30 members who have remained faithful despite having no pastor. Since the church was planted years ago, there had been no teaching and no evangelistic outreach. The children of the Christians there grew up and moved to the city for work. The parents continued to remain faithful, but they were hungry for more. They needed a leader…. a pastor…to teach, guide, encourage and challenge them to a greater commitment in faith and service. Sirisak and his wife responded to the call.
It has not been easy. The church has little money to pay Sirisak so he has to farm as well as fulfill his responsibilities as a pastor. One of his concerns was how to find open doors into the community for sharing the Gospel. There just never seemed to be enough time. But he continued to pray for the Lord to show him a way. The Lord answered that prayer in a most unexpected way.
You see, Sirisak’s village is the market town for that district. This means the schools for the whole district are located right there. However, the kids must find their own means of transportation to the school. He noticed that some kids had to travel 15 miles to get to school and then home again. It was cost prohibitive for many families, so kids were dropping out at Jr. High. The Puches started to take kids into their home, providing a home and food and parenting while they attended school. Soon, they had 6 teenagers in addition to their own 2 children. It wasn’t long before more families were asking them to take in their kids too.
The Puches decided they needed to add rooms to their house. Without any funding, they started to build; a roof, and then the floor. Slowly they are adding one wall at a time.
In the meantime, Sirisak started teaching guitar and coaching soccer on Saturdays. The teens bring their friends over all the time. The Puches found themselves developing relationships with a whole slew of families in the community. They were no longer the Christian leaders of “that church”, but he was now “our son’s soccer coach.”
Sirisak has not finished the extra rooms and has little income. And his family doubled in size; meaning more food and more utilities to pay. Despite all the obstacles, Sirisak and his wife are excited to see how God will provide.
LTC graduates like Sirisak are scattered all over northern Thailand and Laos, quietly serving and touching lives for Christ.
If you hear God calling you to help Sirisak build his dormitory for village children, we invite you to click here to make a contribution to the LTC Alumni Ministry Fund. This fund is used to encourage and help with ministry projects led by LTC alumni.
By Sharon Filbeck
The entire team that God put together was made up of LTC faculty and Alumni. What a privilege to see our alumni from different places working together in ministry. What we didn't know was this was the very first time they had had a women's retreat where the women taught the women. It almost didn't happen.
In January I was able to participate in the LTC’s Church Leadership Development program in partnership with the Mennonite Brethren Center located beside Thailand border. Over the years. Out of our conversations with the MB leadership was birthed a plan to host a Women’s Retreat for the women from across the border. (The church on that side is under persecution, so Christians cross over for special events) However, months went by and we did not hear back from the MB leadership. We had almost decided it wasn’t going to happen. But, in May they emailed me and announced everything was in place for the retreat to happen the first of June. I was still in the States. It was summer in Thailand and everyone was scattered doing summer ministry projects. Also, the dates coincided with the first week of school at LTC. It was going to be a challenge to get things pulled together.
The theme for the retreat was being Women of Christ. We focused on lessons and activities on becoming women who: seek to please God, to delight in God and to hunger for God, and to find satisfaction and healing in Christ. We talked about our most important relationships, meeting the needs of our families, examining how faith expressed in love works to bring hope, knowing your value, and releasing hurts to God to be renewed in Christ.
LTC Alumni, Dada was a wonder to behold. She seamlessly took turns leading different parts of the program. She facilitated with small groups, ran the power points for the worship teams, helped explain instruction for activities, and bonded with the ladies at every step of the way. Her presence was a blessing to everyone! We could not have had such a retreat without her!
Pray for us as we plan for next year’s retreat. Pray for the women who attended. Pray for God’s fruit in their lives and the love of Christ would shine forth in their homes and communities.
By Sharon Filbeck
You know how wonderful it is to be caught by surprise. Here, red-tape and waiting becomes the rhythm of the life. Every now and again, the mundane becomes something unexpected. In that moment, you could never guess how much you needed the mundane to be transformed into something fresh. Those moments that stand out and say to your soul, “God is here” if you are looking for him. We experienced an adventure of unexpected moments recently.
Every year, and sometimes more frequently than once a year, we compile paper work and information required for visas. The rules and requirements frequently change. I don’t know what we would do without kind government officials, our wonderful secretary Fan, and Able Sairattanyu the Chairman of the Youth Development Foundation (YDF) of Chiang Mai. Generally, I look at the requirements each year and say “how high” when asked to jump, because jump we will and with pleasure. It's way easier on my blood pressure.
Two days before presenting our combined four inches of paper work, David went to stand in line at 5 a.m. to get a queue number for immigration. Yes, you have to stand in a line to get a number to stand in line later. This year, 5 a.m. wasn’t early enough. He came home without a number.
It occurred to me that I had never worried about our visas. In 29 years of ministry overseas, I had with child-like assurance expected that eventually all would work out.
I asked God if my attitude all these years was taking him for granted? Was it a sign of a faithful heart or a heart asleep? I pondered this before the Lord.
I truly believe we all have areas where our faith is strong, and we have tender areas that Satan attacks. Those areas are different for different people. What may cause anxiety for one person, may not cause anxiety for another. The same is true with frustration and patience. When you live cross-culturally for any significant amount of time, you realize others may need a kind response while dealing with the challenges of life. Only Christ knows the battle within another person. Although I had not responded to visa challenges with anxiety all these years, there were other aspects of cross-cultural living that could bring discomfort and unease. Just as I am aware that those discomforts do not produce the same effect in others.
Reflecting on this, I simply asked God to be present to me throughout the day and particularly in the visa situation. I asked for simple affirmations. I asked to see God afresh. Nothing else was on the table. No manipulative requests, no crystal ball prayers, only to simply see God’s hand.
We set off at midnight to claim a spot in the queue to get a queue number, and arrived close to one o’clock in the morning. There were a few stools with water bottles holding spots and a few guardians of said water bottles asleep on the ledge near the stools. We took our place behind them and relaxed with some snacks, determined to make the most of the adventure. By dawns arrival, the lines began to fill out and down the parking lot. The eldest grandmother in our midst warned off patrons that parking was prohibited in the queue area. A motley crew of students arrived doing their best imitation of the musical “Grease” with tricked-out cars, cigarettes, and obligatory fashionistas. Only one line-jumper tried to switch lines at the last minute, and found himself the focus of loud complaint among the patient crowd.
At seven o’clock the queue numbers were given out, and one by one recorded in a ledger. There were only a handful of people in front of our line, and we were advised to return by eight-thirty. We opted to get breakfast around the corner and returned straight away. We didn’t want to chance missing our appointed queue while stuck in traffic.
We settled in to wait as the morning progressed slowly. We were seen around 11 o’clock. A few typos were caught, although official didn’t anticipate them being a problem with her supervisor. She had just stamped David’s visa when her superior returned with his paper work. A different government agency had miss-spelled the name of the chairman of YDF of Chiang Mai in its confirmation letter for the foundation. The letter would not be accepted. As I kept up with the dialogue between the official and her supervisor, my heart quickened its pace and I began to think of possible scenarios: quick trips to the border, unexpected travel costs and fees, and possible consequences to our long term schedules.
The Immigration officer was wonderful. She quickly offered us the option, “Get the other office to write a letter saying they are in the process of fixing the mistake.” As well as reprint a few pages with minor corrections.
We would have to get it all turned in before four o’clock or they would cancel David’s newly stamped visa. All the paperwork we had prepared would not be accepted for either of us until the other government office wrote the letter. Our one-year visa renewal might be lost and we would have to start over.
Sounds like an easy fix, right? Only one letter, how difficult could that be?
Rarely, if ever, do those kinds of things get done in one day let alone in a few hours. It was noon. The day before Thai Mother’s Day. All offices would be closed the next day. We had four hours at most to get the letter, from the other side of town through rush hour traffic. I asked God, “What’s the game plan Lord, what’s up?... Ok, Lord, it’s all yours”.
My phone had died already, and Dave’s was plugged into a back-up battery (Thank you Rich Kemper!). Quick phone calls were made, the immigration officer explained to our secretary Fan what was needed. Our chairman was contacted. Dave’s sister, our co-worker, Carmen helped drive Fan to the other agency on the other side of town to get them to write the letter. Fan’s sister watched her baby. Our Chairman came out to immigration to authenticate the letter, and to vouch for us.
ALL of this was the backdrop. Imagine a flurry behind the scenes to get the visa needs accomplished, and many people globally praying for our visas in real time. I was sitting still in a crowded office while all the players around me scrambled and blurred. There was nothing else to “do” but wait.
Time seemed to stand still.
A young woman enters. She sits beside me in the last row of chairs in the waiting area.
I open my laptop and briefly think of working, but decide I am too preoccupied. I open Solitaire and then close it. On a whim I distract myself with Mahjong. The young woman curiously looks at my laptop and exclaims in English, “Oh, you are playing Mahjong!”. I smile and answer in the affirmative. I return to my game and continue to play. Again she looks over and beams, “That’s Chinese!”. I smile and said to her, “Yes, it is”. Again, I return to playing but opt for a more difficult level. She turns to me and says, “I’m Chinese!” and nods vigorously for emphasis.
I turned my lap top off, and decided to give her my full attention. Someone willing to interrupt you three times and enthusiastically beams at you deserves your full attention.
It reminded me of being stuck in an airport and having one of those enjoyable conversations with a complete stranger. We covered the usual questions, the ‘warm ups’ to getting to know each other. I found out she was an exchange student learning Thai, where she had visited, her favorites experiences, her least favorites etc. She was delightful.
The conversation turned to my occupation, education, where I worked, my family, children and grandchildren. Very quickly God entered the conversation. We talked about the differences between East and West cultures in raising families, how the approaches may be different but that every parent cares for what is best for their children. I gave her the roots of grace in how I raised my children with the equipping of their potential, and the release to pursue what God had called them to do. I gave her the example of my mother who released me to follow where God led me rather than keeping me close, and how we look forward to the times together.
We talked about faith, and her “no faith”. Her experience with Thai teachers who did not believe that she had “no faith”. They told her she had to believe in something. The request for information by her Thai teachers puzzled her, and she was surprised by the many beliefs represented in Thailand. We briefly touched on the different beliefs she had become acquainted with, and then we talked about evolution and atheism. We discussed intelligent design, irreducible complexity, how a human being is too complex to have evolved, and how such “evolution” would lead to death of an organism not a “new” type of organism.
I shared with her about my professors in the anthropology department who looked to evolution as their God. I told her that when I see the world and all its complexity, I see the hand of God. I could not believe that it was just chance or the product of evolution when I considered DNA, and how only what is in the DNA develops. I simply shared with her of my faith in Christ.
It was not pushy. I just put it out there with the things I had considered about faith and God, and the vast universe that God has created. I paused and let her ponder. She kept turning towards me as she thought. So I made a simple out loud prayer of sorts. I told her I hoped that she would seek the truth. I told her I hoped that she would get to know God herself, and that she may see his hand in her life. My sentences were simple, and gently expressed. Her countenance displayed deep thought. After a bit more of a pause, I told her I was thankful that she had a great experience in Thailand and I wished her a safe journey, and that I prayed that God would bless her.
Just as I said the last phrase, David placed his hand on my shoulder. All the paper work had arrived. Our two-and-a-half-hour conversation felt like only a few minutes had passed.
My attention was drawn elsewhere as I bid her farewell. The blur became more focused and time began to run again as all the players once again joined the activity.
Visas were granted. Feathers smoothed, and gratitude expressed. Reassurances made to everyone. The Immigration official was very kind all in all. An hour and a half later the correct one-year visa was stamped in my passport, then a multiple entry permission granted, and a 90-day report made.
In the midst of those last two necessary items, the young woman came up to me smiling and reminded me not to leave my lunch bag and water. She came up twice more to say goodbye as we were finishing up.
I saw God move afresh in the smile of a stranger. A seed of truth planted. I pray that it would be watered and guarded as God grows her awareness of him in her life. May God’s Word bear fruit in her life!
Oh, and we got our visas too after 15 hours at immigration!
If everything had gone smoothly, I would never have had the chance to have such a wonderful conversation with the unknown young woman. In that unexpected moment, God was seen afresh. There, my assurance that all would work out was affirmed. There, the pleasure of being in the presence of God was celebrated. There, truth was spoken and seeds planted. Everything else was just the backdrop for the real purpose of the day, and I left light-hearted.
Grace and Peace!
The 2nd term began at LTC with some excitement. At 1 pm on the first day of class (Tuesday, January 13) One of our students, Alehpa, came into the office and announced there was someone outside who wanted to be baptized. I invited him into the office to talk. After introductions I learned that Ae was a friend to Alehpa. Alehpa had been witnessing to Ae and praying for him for a long time. Ae had finally come to a decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and wanted to be baptized that very day.
I asked Alehpa if he was willing to continue to disciple Ae and he said yes. So we immediately delayed the start of afternoon classes and went down to our fish pond for a baptism. As we were walking I told Alehpa that since he was the one who brought Ae to the Lord that he should be the one to perform the baptism. Alehpa was nervous, this would be his first baptism. But after a quick walk through the preacher's manual, and having Professor Wanchai assisting, Alehpa baptized his friend into Christ. What a great way to start the school term!
Pray for Ae as he grows in Christ. Pray for Alehpa as he teaches and mentors Ae. Continue to pray for God's blessing as we expand our ability to train more leaders like Alehpa. Pray for the needed funding to build the classrooms and dorms needed. Pray God sends us more men and women like Alehpa who have a heart to be servant leaders and make an impact in their churches and communities.
We have passed through a season of Thanksgiving and are now entering a season of rejoicing as we celebrate EMMANUEL, GOD WITH US. We have many things to be joyful about. I am joyful for our students at Lanna Theological Center. At a time of the year when we begin making plans to go home and visit family and friends, students at Lanna Theological Center will spend the Christmas Season in ministry and service. We have just completed our first 90 days in class teaching and students will spend the next 30 days in field experience applying what they learned in the classroom.
I am also joyful for how God has blessed the matching funds efforts. As we approach the December 31st deadline we have raised just under $50,000! I give praise and thanks to God for His blessing. I want to thank you for how you have given sacrificially towards this goal.
In these last few day of 2014 I ask you to:
Offer up prayers of thanksgiving and joy to God for the commitment our students are making to ministry. Pray for their safety as they travel to and from their points of service.
Pray that Tuey and Dee, and all our students have opportunities to impact their communities for EMMANUEL this Christmas season.
Join with me in giving praise to God for His bountiful blessing in the matching funds campaign and for his provision as we approach the December 31st deadline
But most of all offer up prayers of praise and rejoicing in EMMANUEL, because GOD IS WITH US.
Part of that uncertainty involves how to obtain visas for missionaries and for international students. Although it is still not clear how the visa situation will eventually work out, God has allowed our international students to continue renewing their temporary visas to come to LTC. The first trimester of the 2014-2015 academic year began September 7. In the week leading up to the first day we were not sure if any of our international students would be granted visas. There was a minor hiccup on the paperwork for one student. But in the end all received visas for 90 days. This is less than requested, but enough time to complete the first trimester. The information given us was that an official of the foundation asking for the visas must present in person to the Thai consulate to guarantee the students. So we will reapply in January and someone from the foundation will get to take a trip to a neighboring country.
In spite of the uncertainty God has blessed us with one of our larger groups of first year students in recent years. Thirteen new students from two countries representing 5 different language groups registered for classes. Total enrollment for this trimester is 30 students. (Of the thirty, 13 are from a neighboring country and represent 2 languages groups in that country.) Our male student dorm is full!
Thank you for praying for us and LTC. God is faithful and continues to bless our efforts to train, equip, and send leaders out who will impact SE Asia for Christ. Please continue to pray for our students and staff. Pray especially for our 13 first year students as they grow and mature into Christian leaders in church and community.
David Filbeck is currently in the US through January 10, 2015. He and Sharon are available for speaking and presenting the needs of Lanna Theological Center. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 903-806-6639 to schedule a visit.
Carmen Filbeck will be in the US for November and December. Contact Carmen at CLfilbeck@gmail.com to schedule a visit.