Tabor?s newly developed master?s program in entrepreneurial ministry leadership sent six students and one professor on a 10-day trip to Thailand from June 7 to 17.
The group visited businesses and church ministries across the country with Khmu, Thai, Burmese and Laotian believers. They visited ministries run by MB Mission, Create International and a variety of local entrepreneurs.
They spent time meeting Khmu and Laotian ministry leaders at the Changed Life Center, plus climbed and prayed on ?Prayer Mountain.? They even celebrated and participated in baptisms with Burmese Christians in the Gulf of Thailand.
One highlight was spending time at the Abundant Life Home, which provides a loving family for HIV/AIDS orphans. This ministry was the entrepreneurial brainchild of missionary Karen Sanchez, who is the mother of current Tabor student Sierra Sanchez.
Rick Bartlett, director of Theological Education and a professor at Tabor, accompanied the students to Thailand.
?This trip is a significant component in the EML program,? Bartlett said. ?I?ve been on trips like this with students on multiple continents and when taking a group overseas, I look forward to the experiential learning that takes place.
?There is nothing better for integrating faith and learning. This trip surpassed my expectations from an academic and ministry perspective.?
The EML program has, as a requirement, a course set in an international location. This course, called International Advance, offers students the opportunity to see entrepreneurial leadership in a different cultural context.
Aubrey Smith, a graduate student in the EML program, said the trip exceeded her expectations.
“Before the trip, I honestly had no expectation other than to be a learner,? Smith said. ?I knew we would be observing the entrepreneurial work of Christian missionaries and ministry leaders overseas, but I had no idea the depth in which we would observe them.
?These entrepreneurs have an understanding that their work involves seeing a vision, adapting to changes in the vision and constant faith to carry it out,? she added. ?That’s the life of an entrepreneur in Thailand.”
The experience was life-changing and spiritually renewing for graduate student Joe Wuest, who had never traveled beyond U.S. borders.
?So much of my preconceived notions about other cultures and missions were shattered,? Wuest said. ?I heard God speaking to me so clearly for the first time in years. So much of the ministry being done in Thailand resonated with me. I felt a desire to either be a part of it there or replicate it in America.
?The people in Thailand, who have accepted Christ as their Savior, have a different light about them,? added Wuest. ?They are passionate, compassionate and fearless in their desire to spread the Gospel. A desire burned within me to be more like these believers?to be more passionate about how I love others and how I help point them to Christ.?
Fellow student Lee Waldron echoed Wuest?s sentiments.
?God opened my eyes to a faith I was not accustomed to seeing,? Waldron said. ?I interacted with so many men and women who are living radically for Jesus and putting their faith in serving the Lord.?
The group also spent time with one of MB Mission?s ?Team 2000? missionary couples, now in Chiang Mai, Andy and Carmen Owen. Andy, a Tabor alumnus, told the group they would come back to the United States deeply impacted. The students realized that their trip to Thailand was life-changing.
?I am not sure at what point this occurred for me,? Smith said. ?Perhaps it was our encounter with the fearless Khmu leaders in Chiang Rai or the walk around the Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai. Maybe it was witnessing God?s powerful work within Burmese church service in Bangkok or perhaps seeing the innocent little faces at Abundant Life Orphanage.
?Whatever the experience, I quickly became one of those unsuspecting visitors who was forever changed.?
The majority of people living in Thailand are Buddhist. Many of the missionaries there are trying to introduce the story of Jesus Christ to the Thai people.
?They have a passion to see their nation come to know God,? EML student Jessica Garcia said. ?Their faith is strong, and their vision for ministry is not limited by their lack of resources.?
Some students experienced God calling them to become more focused on their faith.
?I felt God call me out of a spiritual slumber,? Wuest added. ?I heard him, rather vividly, remind me of who he created me to be. A lot of this centered around my gifts and abilities. For the past four to five years, I have felt uncertain about the path or journey I need to go on next. I believe God began answering some of those questions and doubts I had about myself.?