A weekend with a Thai family 
Thursday, April 5, 2007, 06:23 PM

Dinner with Aun's parents and his uncle

Last weekend saw an exciting opportunity to visit the home of one of my students. Aun who I had taught for 2 months and build a good friendship with, took me to his family home just outside a town called Phrae. He has a simple family, just him, his mum and his dad, they live in a smallish house at the side of a main road. His parents run a small dress making business in the downstairs of their house with a kitchen just behind and 3 bedrooms upstairs.

We left Chiang Mai early on Saturday morning to travel to a national park about 60km away. The train dropped us at the bottom of the mountain, so in the searing heat we climbed 2km to the entrance of the national park! Thailand has a thing about charging foreigners 10 times the price for visiting national parks; in this case it was 20 baht for Thai’s and 200 for foreigners. However, after some sweet talking and the mention of “bpen missionary” he allowed me in for 20 baht. It turned out that Aun didn’t have much of a plan for what to do there and the 40 degree heat was a little to warm for any serious trekking so after sitting in the vaster centre for about an hour we hitched a lift down the mountain in the back of a pick up truck. They dropped us at a small restaurant at the side of a main road and told us there would be a bus along shortly to take us to the next town. We sat and ate a bit of very spicy food at this restaurant and then waited for the right bus to come along. Sure enough, a big green bus shortly appeared and we hopped on. After another 2 hour bus journey through the mountains we soon arrived at Phrae where Aun’s dad met us in his fairly old pick up. That evening we bought some food from the town and ate together before watching a DVD together.

Sunday morning came very quickly upon us. To my supprise Aun seemed very keen to take me to his local church just across the road. Aun is not a Christian yet and so I accepted the offer. It turned out that this was in fact a catholic church with some of the worst music and singing I have ever heard and an extremely elderly congregation who had no doubt been propping up the pews for many a year. Accepting that God works in many mysterious ways, I continued to pray that this wouldn’t put Aun off Christianity forever. As I cautiously asked him afterwards what he thought of it, he responded “I enjoyed it, I get to see lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time”

After a lunch of rice and chicken soup it was on to the sights of the town. Phrae isn’t a big town and to be fair isn’t very interesting, maybe that is why I didn’t see any other foreigners all weekend. However, it was good to see Aun’s secondary school, and the small museum. Aun went to a Catholic school so he was proud to show me the chapel, which is fairly new and impressive.

Later, we headed to Aun’s uncle’s small farm to catch a few fish for dinner. When I say farm what I mean is a large allotment with 2 fish ponds and a pig sty. We caught a few large fish and lots of smaller ones which we returned to their home.

The day finished with a special meal with Aun, his parents and his uncle. There was a variety of food from which to pick from, fish, chicken soup, pork, spicy sources which I left alone and then to top is off, mango and sticky rice-amazing!

We returned home the next day in time for work at The Centre. Our travels continued today as we took the necessary visa run up to Burma. We spent about an hour in Burma, buying a few DVDs before popping back across the border without any difficulties. Tomorrow we head off on holiday to Ko Tau in the south of Thailand for a week so I won’t be blogging next week, but there will be plenty to tell after I’m sure. Happy Easter.

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March Prayer Letter 
Monday, April 2, 2007, 09:55 AM
Dear Friends,

As I write the third prayer letter I have sent from Chiang Mai I realise that this must mean I am half way through my time here. We are enjoying ourselves so much that even the mention of going home is banished immediately. However March has been a month of ups and downs as we have come to terms with the frustrations and difficulties of working in a different culture and with a different language. March has also been a great month in many ways as we have had so many encouraging times with the students and a lot of fun too.

The Centre

March has been a very quiet month for us at The Centre. While many students have been enjoying their summer break back at home only a few have been learning English at The Centre. Apparently this is extremely unusual as The Centre is almost always over run with students all the time. This has brought with it many frustrations as often we have felt a bit bored and disappointed when only a few students turn up to the evening events. It has also been a month in which we have learnt a lot about the difficulties of working in a cross-cultural environment. Occasionally we have been confused and even offended by some of the things the Thai staff, have come out with. While their English is very good sometimes things don’t come across in the way it was intended and we have struggled with that at times this month. Please pray for us as we work with such an international group of people (3 Thai, 1 American and an Australian and us), that there wouldn’t be misunderstandings and that we would always have the right attitude to our friends and colleagues.

Classes this month however have gone surprisingly well as my first class turned up all but one day and often all 4 of them were there. This made planning the lessons much easier than my previous class and we also had a lot of fun in the lessons which gave me much more confidence in my ability to teach English. While I’m not sure that they learnt a lot the main purpose of The Centre is to build relationships with the students so we can share the Gospel with them and I do think my lessons achieved that. My second class had just one student, “Aun” who I have mentioned in previous letters. These were always good fun as we get on well and I often had the chance to talk with him about the Bible and answer some of his many questions. God is clearly at work in his life at the moment and he is open to talk about Jesus but I often get the sense that he sees learning about Christianity in the same way that he wants to learn about English. Please continue to pray for him that his eyes might be opened to see what an amazing thing it is to have a relationship with our Saviour. Also pray for me as I have the opportunity to go with him to his home town about 4 hours train ride from Chiang Mai this weekend. Pray for good conversations and opportunities to share with him and his family, it’s certainly a very exciting time for me.

April promises to be a lot livelier as this week we have started new classes with many more students. I have 2 in one class and 7 in the other with around 40 students studying at The Centre over this time. Hopefully this will mean that we will have more students to the events and also have more opportunities to build relationships with them.

I also introduced “Jeep” to you in my last prayer letter who has now returned to his home town. However, we have had a couple of phone calls from him because he said he is missing The Centre a lot and is desperate to practise his English. We suggested that he tries to find a church where there might be some foreign missionaries who would be happy to speak to him in English. Although we haven’t heard from him since, he seemed very happy with the idea so we can pray that he would and that he wouldn’t forget all that he has learned at The Centre.

I wrote to you a few weeks ago about one of my former students “Pang” who became a Christian. Although I haven’t heard much since we did hear that her mother who was seriously ill with cancer, passed away in the last week. Please continue to pray for Pang that she would still have faith in Jesus and that she would have peace at this time, in this difficult situation. Also pray for the rest of her family that they would be drawn closer to Jesus through this situation.

Other Activities

March has been another busy month outside of The Centre with a lot more opportunities to spend time with Steve and Sherree (our mentors here in Chiang Mai). In February we didn’t see much of them as they were so busy with many conferences and a trip to Australia but since then we have had much more time to have dinner together and get to know them much better. We also had the chance to spend a relaxing weekend with them up in the mountains north of Chiang Mai close to the Burma border. This was a great time as it is such a beautiful place and it was nice to breathe some clean air which can’t be found in Chiang Mai at the moment.

It was also my birthday on the 20th of this month which was celebrated in style with a spot of bungee jumping. This was so much fun if not a little scary too. Our friend Jen and Steve came too which made it all the more enjoyable. Jen had been up all night before worrying about it but she loved it in the end! Nathan and Jen also organised a small party for me at The Centre in the evening which all the staff and a few of the students attended with lots of my favourite Thai food.


April is looking like a very busy month for us here. On the 5th we have to make a trip to Burma as our visas require us to. Fortunately this isn’t difficult as there are many buses to the border town of Mae Sai and it is only 5 or 6 hours so we can do it in a day. We are also taking some holiday down in the south of Thailand on the small island of Ko Tau during the national festival known as “Songkram”. This is basically a 5 day nation wide water fight where anyone on the street is fair game. The Centre is closing for a week during this time so we will take the opportunity to take a break.


Just a reminder to check the blog (http://paul.zealey.org.uk), there you will find more news of my activities day to day and lots more things to pray for. I am also putting some photos up so you can see the environment and the people I’m working with.

Summary of Prayer Points

• Thank God for all the encouragements of the last month, for the good relationships we have built with the students and all the opportunities we have had to share with them.
• Thank God for the other staff at The Centre and the great work they are doing with the students.
• Thank God for the relaxing time we had with Steve and Sherree at the weekend and the good break it was for us.
• Thank God for all the fun we were able to have celebrating my birthday.
• Pray for the students Aun, Jeep and Pang, and pray for the new classes we have at The Centre that we would be able to build close relationships with them.
• Pray for this weekend as I have the chance to visit Aun’s family in Prae. Pray that we would be able to have some really great conversations, that his heart would be open and that I would know the words to say to him.
• Please continue to pray for safety on the roads as we seem to be using the bike more and more.
• Pray for our relationships with the staff at The Centre and that we would be able to accept each others different ideas and feelings.

Thank you for all your support and prayer,

Paul Zealey

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Fear Factor 
Thursday, March 22, 2007, 08:14 AM
As hopefully many of you may have remembered, Tuesday was my birthday! What would normally be a day with a few presents in the morning, a day at school and then a nice meal in the evening was rather different this year. It was a day that was shrouded in mystery, came with an early and unexpected start at 7:30. Nathan, who had stolen my keys the night before in a move more a kin to espionage than missionary work, broke into my room and woke me up from a deep sleep with a big “Happy Birthday” and a few earthquakes through my bed. I’m not the best at waking up in the morning and particularly dislike being woken up in such a sudden manner, fortunately for Nathan my quick thinking prevented me from punching him and instead smiled for the camera which he had been videoing the whole drama with. My anger was quickly appeased as Nathan conjured a bowl of gorgeous chocolate serial and a small present.

When I say the day was shrouded in mystery, there was one thing I knew would be happening, something involving big heights and a few elastic bands, known as Bungee Jumping! Around 9 O’clock our friends Jen and Steve turned up to take us to an outdoor pursuits centre just outside Chiang Mai where we would throw ourselves off a platform 50m above a large pond. As it was my birthday, I was the first to be strapped up with pads and tied to the ropes. I was lifted up to the top of the crane type thing with the instructor who tried in vane to distract my thoughts by telling me how safe this all was. To be honest, I was fairly cool about the whole thing, its easy just jump off, how hard can it be. Well, it can be hard, as the instructor brought me to the edge, the heart started to beat a little quicker, he decided to prolong the agony by asking me to pose for a few photos which seemed to take forever. Finally, he gave the count down, “Three, two, one Bun……” I didn’t here the rest, instead I was falling towards earth, my heart in my mouth, my cheeks behind my ears and hoping that they had attached the bungee cord to my feet. To my relief, my fall began to slow and I bounced back up. I think it only lasted about a minute but it became quite fun dangling upside down, not quite sure which way was up. After I was just starting to get a little nervous about hanging above a lake, 2 of the instructors on the ground offered me a bamboo stick to grab hold off and pull me back down to earth. Next it was Jen’s turn to face her fears; she had been up all night worrying about it. Shaking quite a lot she climbed into the cable car and began the journey 50m into the air, it took her a few moments and a couple of attempts to bring herself round to the crazy idea but she managed after a few prayers and a bit of encouragement. Nathan was extremely calm (outwardly at least) about the whole experience, he has an almost un-healthy love of heights and so jumping off something high and not dieing is a great joy. Steve was the last to jump, he too was extremely calm as this had nothing on the bungee jump he did over the Victoria Falls in Zambia. It was great fun and gives a huge amount of satisfaction to know you have survived a bungee jump in Thailand, not that it wasn’t safe of course.

The rest of the day proceeded with lunch at a café just next to where we stay and then the usual at The Centre. However, I kind of knew this wasn’t quite the end, they like surprises at The Centre. It wasn’t long after wrapping up my lessons for the day that I found myself being blindfolded with ties and lead out of The Centre and on to a motorbike with Nathan. This was rather disorientating as Nathan proceeded to drive around the roads nearby, stopping to put food in my mouth and asking me what it was. This happened 3 times and each time he took a blindfold off, not that this helped much. At the end of this rather scary 15 minutes, I was lead back to The Centre to have the blindfolds removed and find a group of The Centre staff and students singing happy birthday by candle light. The evening concluded with some of my favourite Thai food and a delicious birthday cake which Nathan had cooked earlier. It was a tremendously fun day with a lot of excitement and certainly one I’ll remember for a long time to come. Follow the link on the right for photos of the Bungee Jumping.

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Back to School 
Friday, March 16, 2007, 09:49 AM
This morning saw an unusually early start at around 6:15 to be up in time for school. Today was a special opportunity to visit “Grace International School”, located just south of Chiang Mai, it is a school run primarily for MKs (Missionary Kids) whose parents work all over Asia. As we could see from the moment we arrived this is no ordinary MK school. My image being a hut in the middle of the jungle with maybe 50 kids and 1 teacher; Grace couldn’t be further from this. It has been converted from a failing health club into an impressive school with around 450 students and over 100 staff and admin people. It has an incredible swimming pool as its focal point with tennis and basketball courts and a top quality gym. The health centre is still open to the public after school hours but provides a fantastic facility for the students.

We arrived this morning in time for the morning assembly which I don’t think could be further from my idea of an assembly. Assembly at Kennet School, Thatcham was an idiom for a time of discipline, un-necessary formality and utter boredom. “Grace” has a time for worship, prayer and then a short sermon every morning. This seems far from a chore for the students but even a joy. Education seems so much fuller at a school like this, it is seen as so much more than just passing exams but also developing Christ-like character. “Passing exams education” seems to produce stress, pride, arrogance and envy whereas surely education with Jesus at the centre leads to wisdom, understanding and hopefully eternal life.

“Grace” provides a fantastic solution to the age old missionary problem of what to do with their children. It has been an issue for most long term missionary families at some stage or another. It seems that for every family there is a different optimum solution depending on the circumstances they find themselves. I know very little about all the complex issues that arise when missionaries make these decisions but the problem is often that the local schools aren’t normally adequate for missionary’s children. Sometimes they will have poor education or the wrong syllabus or occasionally the area is too dangerous for the children to grow up in. Some of the options that parents are faced with are to send their children to the local schools, to home school or to send their children to a boarding school either in their home country or an international school in a third country. There is often not a right option as all have their advantages and their disadvantages and often only some are possible due to the costs. “Grace” falls into the international school in a third country category for most of the students but as it is in Chiang Mai it provides a useful middle ground between schooling at home or in local schools due to the easy travel to India, China and south-east Asia. The high quality of education and the low cost due to all the staff being volunteers makes it an attractive option for many missionaries.

“Grace” has many needs for staff in particular. As the staff are all missionaries and have supporters, they often have to go on home assignment for long periods of time. There are needs to cover these and also for more long term staff as the school is expanding. I’ll attach a list of all the needs below so you can pray for them but also pray for yourselves or those you know who may be interested in being the answer to these prayers.

As we were told this ministry, it really hit home what an important role this school has to play in world mission. India, China and south-east Asia is home to around half the world’s population and yet there is only one missionary to every million people. This school makes it possible for so many people to hear the good news of Jesus and to be saved from the eternal punishment we all deserve. If you are able to help in any way at all then it will be such a blessing to so many missionaries and eventually to so many people who wouldn’t have heard about Jesus. This was another reminder of how God can use anyone with any skills to advance his kingdom and impact so many lives. Check the website, the link is to your right.

Staff Needs @ GIS for the 2007-08 School Year

Secondary Teachers:
Art – (1 teacher)
Biology/Science – (1)
English – (1)
Foreign Language (French and German) – (2)
Middle School Science – (1)
P.E./Health – (1)
Social Studies – (1)
8th grade core– (1 or 2)
(includes language arts, religious studies,
and social studies)

Elementary Teachers:
Kindergarten – (1)
Grade 1 – (2)
Grade 3 – (1)
Grade 6 – (1) preferably someone
willing to teach math, science,
and computers.

Computer Services Department:
CS Dept. Manager
Engineer/Network Specialist
MIS support

School Wide:
NILD Therapist – (1)
Occupational Therapist – (1)
Special Education teachers – (4)
Speech and Language Pathologist – (2)

K-12 Curriculum Director - responsible for professional development and curriculum leadership
K-12 School Counselor
K-12 Spiritual Life Director
Nurse – (1) full or part time
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Exciting News 
Tuesday, March 6, 2007, 10:33 AM
"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Luke 11:9-13

Dear Friends,

It’s with great excitement I write to you all again for the second time in a week. Having sent out a prayer letter last week I have really felt the need to update you on the events of the last few days and the many answers prayers. Late on Sunday night we heard that one of my former students, Pang had accepted Jesus into her life. She had returned home last week after graduating from Chiang Mai University (CMU) to find her mother seriously ill with cancer. By Sunday it had become too much for her to cope with so she rang Wor and Opal (two of the Thai staff at The Centre) to ask for prayer. After some long conversations she decided to accept Jesus into her life. Since being in Thailand we have heard many testimonies of how whole families have come to know the Lord through healings and although we don’t always understand why God works in the ways he does we hope and pray that this maybe the case with Pang’s family. Please pray for Pang and her family as they cope with her mother’s illness and as Pang grows in knowledge and understanding of Jesus. Pray for her to find Christians in her home town so that they might be able to teach her and encourage her in her faith, pray that she would find a church to be involved in and that she would not be distracted by the evil one. Praise God that she has come to know Christ and for all the people who have shared with her about Jesus. Pray for God to use her in the future for his glory and to spread his kingdom on this earth.

The other thing that makes me excited to write to you in an amazing conversation I had with Aun in our lesson on Monday evening. What started as a mindless question about his weekend turned into a wonderfully open and God inspired discussion about Buddhism and Christianity, about heaven and hell but mostly about Jesus and his salvation. It was so encouraging to spend an hour talking about Christianity and then to pray with him afterwards. He was so delighted afterwards that he could now understand more, he proceeded to talk to at least 3 of the other staff about our lesson individually and tell them how he now understood more and how well I had explained things to him. It was clear throughout this conversation that it was nothing I said that gave him this excitement but it was so clearly God directing our conversation and working in his heart to help him understand more of who Jesus is and what he’s done for him. Thank you so much for your prayers for him and for me, it is so clearly making a big difference. Last week we couldn’t have had this conversation but something really seemed different about Aun today, he was just so willing to discuss. Please continue to pray for him, pray that he would understand more of who Jesus is, pray that his heart would continue to be open to the Gospel and please pray for protection, that nothing would pull him away from this interest he is showing in the Gospel. Pray for us as we study the Bible in lessons, help me to know which parts to use and help me to explain it clearly to him. Thank God for this time we had to chat about Christianity and for his great English which makes these conversations possible. Pray for Wor as she particularly has had opportunities to share with him in the last week and pray that what we both say to Aun wouldn’t contradict but that he would continue to grow in knowledge and understanding.

On a sadder note, our great friend Jen who also works at The Centre and who has been tremendously hospitable to us over the last few weeks received news that a good friend had passed away over the weekend. Please pray for their family and for Jen as she comes to terms with this loss and being far from home. Pray she would have peace at this time and trust in God for her strength to continue all her work with the students in the coming weeks and months.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support. As you can see it is making such a difference and as well and seeing God using me in amazing ways, I’m continuing to grow in my relationship with him, to grow in wisdom and understanding of his will and his purposes for this fallen world. Pray for the right attitude and the right heart as I try to serve the staff at The Centre and the students.

Lots of Love,

Paul Zealey

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