SERVING IN: Thailand, Asia
MINISTRY FOCUS: Church Planting
Brian and Mary Beth moved to Thailand in 2001 as newlyweds with a heart to reach the unreached. Along the way, they have been blessed with six children who were all born in Thailand. They lived and worked among the Southern Thai people of tropical South Thailand for nine and half years until 2011, working with local church plants and training local believers through an evening Bible school and later a full-time ministry training school. In 2011 they moved to a rural, mountainous region, bordering Laos in Northeast Thailand where they labored in a very isolated and unreached area for five and a half years. These years were spent reaching out through home-centered gatherings and discipling believers to reach and disciple families. They are now living in the city of Khon Kaen and work with a house church planting network in outlying rural areas. The Isaan region of Thailand is marked by drought, poverty, and lack of education yet the Gospel is beginning to flourish in beautiful ways! Among the 18 million Isaan people, it is reported that only .27% claim to be evangelical Christians. The Stubenrauchs’ heart and vision is to disciple disciple-makers. They long to see generations of Isaan believers spreading the love of Jesus through their communities until true multiplication takes hold and all of Isaan is aflame with the grace and glory of the Living God.
We believe further training is on God’s agenda for our family’s next season of life. I began training for my certification as a Childbirth Instructor this month! I completed my training as a Doula several years ago and have wanted to pursue Childbirth Education in hopes of helping Thai women (and missionary women) understand their bodies, their births, and their amazing Creator! This dream has been a long time coming!
We are not yet sure when Thailand will begin to allow foreigners back into the country and how long we will need to be in America. We believe that the Lord is calling us to move again (on the mission field) to a place that is both strategic for reaching the unreached and also is able to provide Christian fellowship and community for our family. Please pray that Jesus will lead us to the place He has prepared for our family.
Our flight from Thailand was eerily quiet. As we passed through security in Taiwan not a sound was heard. We walked through infrared cameras scanning for fevers and trekked over sanitizing rugs for our shoes and stroller wheels. It was so strange to look at my six children wearing masks and passing hand sanitizer around and around.
If you’ve been waiting for news of our visa situation since last month’s newsletter you can rejoice with us that we were granted a 90 day visa! Our trip to Laos and our visa request was another opportunity to see the provision and love of God toward our family. Thank you for all your prayers over the months and years! God hears and changes things on earth when we pray.
I am currently writing to you from a hotel room in the capital city of Vientiane, Laos where we have come to ask for an emergency extension for our visas to stay in Thailand. We have officially lived in the Kingdom of Thailand for over 18 years now and for around 16 of those years we have had steady one-year visas. This year, after a change in our local government, the paperwork that we usually submit was not adequate. Now we are in Laos asking Thailand for a 90-day visa to get us through till we leave on furlough in March.
Some wonderful things have happened this past month! One of the most amazing testimonies was from a man in a village who was a self-proclaimed 50% Believer in Jesus! He asked our Thai team to come and pray for his brother-in-law who couldn’t walk, although he, himself, had severe pain down the length of his leg. Brian (who had never met the man) just happened to show up that day and when he walked in, the man’s face showed such surprise. He looked at Brian and said that he’d seen Brian in his dream the night before and that Brian had told him in the dream to believe in Jesus with his whole heart and his leg would be healed! The man’s leg was healed and his brother-in-law began to walk! Now this man is a great evangelist and loves to tell people about Jesus!
We’ve just returned from a trip to Chiang Mai for meetings. It was a good time of rest and refreshing for our family. Beyond our meetings, we visited an international/ English speaking church and our children were able to join in missionary kids’ youth group meetings, rollerblading outings and even went ice skating at one of the only ice rinks in Thailand. We visited the famous handcrafted, mulberry paper umbrella painting village in Chiang Mai, a limestone waterfall in the mountains, and I (MB) took our children on dates to the (Thai) French bakery nearby. We also met with old missionaries who gave us their wisdom of 50+ years on the field and we met with new missionaries who asked us for our wisdom from our 18 years in Thailand.
Listening to Isaan people worship must be one of God’s favorite sounds. It is one of ours, for sure. Isaan music is almost always in a minor key and has a strong beat that drives the song along. Yesterday, a new man came to the meeting for the fist time and brought his kaan (traditional Isaan wind instrument) and joined in the fun. It is so fun to hear worship songs sung in local dialects, with local intonation, and accompanied by homemade drums and traditional instruments.
The longer we are on the mission field the more certain we feel that missionaries need fellowship with other missionaries. Since we moved to Khon Kaen we have tried to open our home as often as possible as a gathering place for fun and food!
Brian has continued his most recent training, finding Jesus through the whole of scripture, with the band of faithful disciples. They, in turn, take their new stories and understanding of the Word to the many house church groups that they disciple.