Theology, Calling, and the Thai Language

Our Thai language study has been coming along nicely since our landing here in 2012, especially considering my keen ability to immediately forget anything I hear or learn. However, as you can imagine there are frustrating times where it seems we will never achieve true mastery, or if we do, its going to take yet another five years.  At many points I’ve lamented, “Why can’t Thais just speak Spanish?”

Despite these frustrations, we occasionally come across some really cool things.

So now for a quick Thai morphological study.

Thai is a monosyllabic language, which means that generally each word is made up of only one syllable, and then these syllables are combined to create new compound words.

Sometimes these combinations don’t make a lick of sense.  For example the word “responsible” translates to rab bpit chawp (รับผิดชอบ), and individually these syllables mean: receive, wrong, like.  Of course, naturally, put these disparate words together to make “responsible,” NOT!

However, in other cases, individual syllables come together to make complete sense and end up being really cool.  Amanda came across one such word a couple months ago.

“The Will of God” is translated naam pra tai (นำ้พระทัย), and each of these syllables means water, *word designating divinity, and prestigious word for heart.  This again might sound random, but looking to another word for clarification will help.  Naam jai (นำ้ใจ) means water and heart, and when put together it creates the meaning of generosity or kindness, as if someone’s kindness flows from their heart like water would from a spring or river.

So when Thai Christians think about the word naam pra tai, or the Will of God, they think about God’s heart flowing out from within Him.  God’s heart is that his people be at the center of his will.  Some might turn this into a difficult question, asking things like “Should I move to the mission field?” or “Did I make a mistake becoming an accountant?”, but the answer is quite simple.

According to Scripture, God’s will is that you love Him and love others(Mark 12:30-31), give thanks to Him (1 Thess 5:18), free yourself from sin (1 Thess 4:3), and spread His name across the world (Mark 16:15, Psalms 105:1, Acts 1:8), among many other things.

God lays it out pretty clearly in his Word.

None of this is easy to do, especially when we try to do it through our own meager strength, but God isn’t in the business of trying to confuse you.  God’s heart flows freely and clearly to you through his Word.  Stop garbling the message with silly questions that only distract you and freak you out.

I believe everyone needs to seriously consider moving to the overseas mission field for ministry, as it is seriously, sinfully, and shockingly understaffed, but the more basic questions should be these:

  • Are you loving God?
  • Are you loving others?
  • Are you thankful to Him?
  • Are you working alongside the Holy Spirit to continually sanctify your heart from sin?
  • Are you actively and passionately going “into all the world and preaching the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15)?

Consider these questions and allow the Holy Spirit to encourage or convict where necessary, just as He has done in my own heart.

Leave thoughts, comments, and perhaps what God has been doing in your life in the comment section of this post.

Why You Need a HighRise T-Shirt

At HighRise, we are concerned about your wellbeing.  We pray that your families are well taken care of, fed, sheltered, and clothed…  In fact, our commitment to keeping clothes on your back beats so deeply within our hearts that we want to sell you T-Shirts.

In Job’s time, it was the wrongdoers who would “spend the night naked, without clothing” (Job 24:7).  Are you a wrongdoer? Well, yes, of course you are (Romans 3:23), but that doesn’t mean you have to be naked.  In fact, your wife will certainly appreciate it.

HighRise is fundraising to establish its official foundation here in Bangkok, Thailand. The Thai foundation will enable the ministry to grow, and it will give HighRise the capability to work more efficiently.

Through September 10th, 2017, HighRise is selling T-Shirts to help contribute to the needed lawyer and government fees associated with starting a Thai foundation.

Click HERE to get your shirt!

Global Missions for National Churches

One of the most important things I’ve learned since moving to Thailand in 2012 is that more help is needed.  I’m convinced that the unreached world is direly understaffed, both by missionaries and national workers as well.

However, this statement deserves a qualifier.

The truly effective missionary empowers the national workers to reach their own people.  A ministry will struggle when foreigners take this responsibility exclusively upon their own shoulders.

Or, to put it more bluntly, a Thai Christian does my job better than I can.

No foreigner can give a stronger testimony than that of their local counterpart.  In our case, a Thai Christian will reach their friends, family, co-workers, and classmates infinitely better than I ever could.  Even if I had flawless language skills, my ability to reach the Thai people would still be deficient.

Regardless of my intentions, everything about how I look and who I am screams “I’m a foreigner who is trying to change you and your culture.”  Naturally, people get turned off by that.  A Thai Christian does not have this same hurdle.  They speak the same language, have similar cultural backgrounds, and come from the same tribes.

So this begs the question, where does this leave us as missionaries?

Yet, this leaves a missionary with a great deal of responsibility as a trainer, equipper, mentor, discipler, pastor, teacher, evangelist, and just about anything else.  A missionary is capable of contributing to God’s work in any culture across the world, but a missionary must prioritize the development of the pre-existing church.

The indigenous churches are the backbone of Christian influence in any nation or culture, as they will be there long after the missionary retires, moves home, or just plain burns out.  The church will reach their own people, and a missionary can make a world of difference in helping them do that.  But when a missionary tries to do the local church’s job for them, we can’t expect any significant success, and in many cases this just leads to burnout or outright failure.

HighRise is in the business of supporting the indigenous church, and we would appreciate your prayers in doing this as well as possible.

 

 

One Year in Bangkok!

August 5th, 2017 marks one full year that the Degler’s have lived and worked in Bangkok.

We’ve been able to experience quiet a bit, which has helped inform and fill our dreams and vision for HighRise Ministries in Bangkok, Thailand.

Our original objective for this first year was to study Thai, learn about other ministries in the area, find a church for our family, and explore options for our own future ministry in Bangkok.

So I’ll give you a quick update on each of these objectives, and then I want to share a little about what’s next.

Thai Language Learning – If any of you have ever tried to learn a second language, you know that its one of the worst things we can put our minds through.  Unless you’re a polyglot, your mind is stretched to the point of breaking, and at the end of the day your brain feels like pudding.  Nasty, rotten pudding.

For us, we are getting there.  We can read, write, and speak, which sounds great, but its still frustrating, and we need more practice.  Random unknown vocabulary will regularly derail our conversations, and a quick or mumbling speaker always begs the question, “Say what?”  So we will continue our language learning with conversation and classroom study.

Meeting Other Ministries – We’ve had the chance to meet many different ministries in the area.  Its been great to see the work other missionaries are doing, where they have succeeded, and where they have failed.  We’ve been able to learn about what kind of ministry would stand the best chance at reaching the people of Bangkok.

If you’ve ever talked to us, you know that we aren’t interested in reinventing any wheels, so this has been exceedingly helpful in directing our future efforts.

Finding a Church Home – Finding a church for our family to attend regularly and get plugged into has been a little more difficult than we anticipated.  We took childcare for granted, and we quickly learned that wrangling Desmond during an entire church service actually initiates more sin than just skipping church all together and watching Charles Stanley on the boob tube.

We jumped around looking for a place that fit our family, and after a year, we think we’ve finally found one.  Thank you for those who have been helping us pray for an answer to this problem, as we’ve felt disconnected from any community.  We hope to begin a small group with people from this church and to continue to build our Bangkok tribe.

Options for the Future – After reading books on missions in Thailand and seeing many different ministries in Bangkok, we’ve been able to learn quite a bit more about the Thai culture, how Thais best receive the gospel, and what other ministries have been doing to reach the Thai people.  Its an entirely different blog post, but we’ve learned first hand just how difficult it is for a foreigner (or as we’re called, farang) to effectively share the gospel with a Thai.  This is true for any foreigner in any culture, but this has emphasized the absolute need for us to support the people who actually can make an impact on Thais: Thais.

Looking ahead we are going to continue our study of Thai, which means we might occasionally be in a classroom, but I’m convinced that we just need loads of conversational practice.  We are also beginning conversations with the local Thai pastors in our area.

Our goal is to support them and their congregations in whatever they need to be discipled evangelists of their own people.

Within the next couple months, we will update you further about how this is going and how we have been able to help pastors and congregations.

Leadership & Emotional Intelligence

This past week in the leadership class we studied emotional intelligence and how it affects our lives.  Whether we are in an official leadership position or not we are influencing others through emotions.

  “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.” -Dale Carnegie

Drawing heavily from Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and Primal Leadership by Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee, our class talked about the importance of recognizing, understanding, and managing our own emotions.  The students were able to give examples of when they’d felt a particularly strong emotion but failed to manage it properly.  We were all able to see how emotions, when not managed, affect those around us, including the people we are intended to lead.

From there, we moved a bit further by discussing how we can recognize, understand, and influence the emotions of those around us.  Sometimes this can be as simple as recognizing the sadness of a friend, understanding why he or she is feeling that sadness, and becoming the sensitive person your friend needs.  In a leadership context, this means being aware of your team members and speaking authentically to resonate with their emotions.

Its tempting to fall into the rut of to-do lists, meetings, and budgets all the while believing that emotion has no stake in a board meeting or the day-to-day activities of running an organization. However, this simply isn’t true.  Our emotions and how we handle them have everything to do with the success or failure of our leadership.

While it is often overlooked, Emotional Intelligence is the bedrock of leadership.  If we can work on growing our E.Q., then we will see rapid improvement in all the other attributes needed to lead our companies, teams, and families.

To anyone reading, I highly recommend learning more about you E.Q., and if you already know, take the necessary steps to develop it.  Read the aforementioned books and seek out an Emotional Intelligence self-evaluation (Like this ONE).  Or, if you want the Works, visit http://www.thelionslead.com and request more information.

Gut Check for a Mission Trip

There are many different philosophies floating around in the Christian world concerning short-term mission trips.  Mentalities range all the way from “I’m going to make myself feel good” to “I’m going to save the world.”  Obviously, both extremes are unhealthy, and neither of these attitudes has a place on the field.

Focus Outward – Expect to be Changed

A short-term mission trip can accomplish many things for everyone involved, but I can say one thing with absolute certainty, if your focus is on those you are going to serve, the result will change you.  

Take special care to evaluate yourself and your motivations before even signing up to go on that mission trip.  If you only want that “spiritual high,” you’re wasting time, money, and effort.  Stay home and dig into the Word of God instead.  If you want to feel good about yourself for whatever reason, stay home and volunteer at your church.  If you think you’re going to single-handedly change the world, stay home, take a nap, and keep dreaming.

However, your attitude should be that of a humble servant (sound like anyone we know?).  After going on dozens of mission trips all across the world and hosting dozens of mission trips here in Thailand, nothing makes a team better than a group of humble servants.  I’ve worked with the “I have all the answers” type, and they’re annoying and useless on the field.  I’ve worked with the “I’ll just read my Bible by myself while my team plans for an outreach or plays with kids” kind of folks, and while they are usually low maintenance, they are also useless.  Participate by serving those you went to serve!

The ones who get and give the most out of a mission trip are the ones who submit fully to the needs of those around them.  The full-time missionaries need your help.  Empty yourself spiritually, emotionally, and physically for their sake, otherwise you will regret not giving it, and they of all people need your encouragement!  The people you serve need to hear the gospel.  Check your fear at the door and put on the courage God gave you to deliver his Gospel.  Your teammates need your leadership, and you can be the leader that shapes the attitudes of your team.

Things to Consider

While you are being this humble servant to these people, be thinking about a few things:

  1. What’s different about this culture compared to my own?  And how is that difference affecting people’s faith?
  2. What is inhibiting the spread of the gospel in this culture?  This question will take years of observation and study to understand, so ask those who have been there. Don’t be tempted to draw your own misinformed conclusions without even having adjusted to jet lag yet.
  3. How can I help take down that barrier after I go home?  Ask the long-term missionaries on the field what you can do to help.  Again, don’t rely exclusively on your own conclusions.  Your effort might actually be having a negative affect.
  4. How will I be involved in missions in the future?  Be careful with this question. Don’t be tempted to think that if you send $50 a month to a missionary that you’re off the hook.  Sending means more than money!  Cash is certainly needed, but sending involves emotional and spiritual support as well.  You’ll also need to consider the possibility that you belong on the field yourself.

Whether local, global, sending, or going YOU were called as a disciple of Christ to participate in making his name known, so consider your own identity, skills, and giftings to effectively contribute to the mission.

“Send, Go, or Disobey.” -John Piper

A mission trip should be a blessing to everyone involved.  You can expect to connect with the people you went to serve, to lighten the burden of the full-time missionaries or help carry their ministry forward, and to grow in unbelievable ways.  Remember to have the attitude of a humble servant, and everything else will fall into place.

 

 

Leadership Classes have Begun!

It’s taken many months of preparation, but we have finally begun the HighRise Leadership and Management Course!

For the past few months, much of our time has been spent simply trying to meet students and recruit for the class.  This was a very difficult and frustrating time, as our expectations were challenged.  Up until the beginning of last week, we worried that we wouldn’t even have a single student!

However, after much prayer and worry, word began to get out and we started to hear back from friends we’d made who were going to attend and even bring a friend.  We ended up having 9 students, with a few more thinking about coming for the second class.

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For this first class, we got to know each other by giving brief introductions and a bit about where they would want to be in 10 years.  It was so plain to see that a greater understanding of leadership principles would be a key factor in reaching those goals.  Then we spent the rest of the class going over future topics and what they can expect going forward.

Then the fun started.

As always, our kids were the life of the party, and it took our full concentration to keep little D-Max from dancing on the table.

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Finally, we got a bit crazy and busted out the board games and Orange Fanta.

We are very excited about direction the leadership course is heading and the success of the Kick-off party.  Please pray that these students stick around and that they are interested in upcoming Bible studies and learning more about our faith in Jesus Christ.