Crossing Borders

By Neil and Colleen Bradtke

Myriad thoughts and emotions are evoked by the new title of our mission magazine. There are elements of apprehension, uncertainty and even fear as we approach the unknown, but there are also elements of anticipation, expectation and excitement. That’s how it was for us as we planned for and made our own border crossing. For […]

Myriad thoughts and emotions are evoked by the new title of our mission magazine. There are elements of apprehension, uncertainty and even fear as we approach the unknown, but there are also elements of anticipation, expectation and excitement.

That’s how it was for us as we planned for and made our own border crossing.

For many years, ever since our return from Papua New Guinea (PNG) 35 years ago, we had always thought that one day we may like to have the opportunity to serve overseas again. However, time and circumstances kept saying to us, ‘No, not yet’. Then quite suddenly, earlier in the year, a time and particular set of circumstances seemed to be giving us the opportunity to go to Thailand. Well, we thought God’s planning was seriously amiss. Here we were, Neil almost 70 and Colleen not far behind, and God was suggesting we got to Thailand to teach English. Neil hadn’t done any teaching since our PNG days and Colleen hates humid weather. However, those circumstances and the timing kept saying, ‘Go’. So we said, ‘Okay, we’ll go!’

We arrived in Bangkok, a city with a population of nearly 9 million people, at midnight and were taken to Laksi Lutheran Church Centre in the north-eastern part of the city. This was to be our home for the next couple of months.

Laksi is a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Thailand. It is located some 20 kilometres north-east of central Bangkok. The congregation has been a functioning church in this area for over 30 years. In the last six months the members have completed a wonderful new complex in the suburb of Bangkhen. It is built over four floors and comprises a worship centre, communal areas, offices, counselling centre, library, classrooms for the English centre, audio room, music rooms, apartment for volunteers and the pastor’s apartment. The congregation’s outreach activities revolve mainly around counselling, English teaching and friendship evangelism.

There are two co-workers here. Wandee is the pastor who leads the congregation. She is also responsible for the counselling centre and lectures in this area at both the seminary and another university. Preda, a talented musician, is the evangelist. He takes services and Bible studies as well as undertaking myriad other tasks associated with running a church. Please pray for Preda’s three-year-old daughter, Diana. She is on a course of chemotherapy, having been diagnosed with cancer behind an eye, but the cancer has now spread to her bones. What a test of faith this is for Preda and his family. We have truly been privileged to work with and share a small part of our lives with these people.

What does our work entail? In two words: teaching English. The English program is in the very early stages of development, an initiative of the part-time Norwegian missionary at Laksi. Our task is to take her classes while she was on leave in Norway, so we feel quite the pioneers. We teach two classes of English every day at Laksi, except on Fridays, when we have a very busy day doubling classes for that day. We make a 20-kilometre journey south of here to the seminary to teach a total of four classes, two to students and two conversation classes to staff members. However, we also see our work as being ‘just friends’ to the people here and joining in the life and activity of the church. That offer of friendship has been reciprocated a hundred-fold.

Our living quarters on the second floor of Laksi are comfortable, modern and air-conditioned. In common with most Thai houses we have no hot-water system, so the showers are cold – coming to be endured. We have a basic kitchen but we go out to eat for all meals except breakfast. We eat tantalising meals in little restaurants on our street or from the street carts selling food. Our favourite restaurant is about five doors away, where we eat for the princely sum of about $5 for the two of us. The food sold from street carts is even cheaper and very good.

There was so much in it for us. As with all things like this, we came to contribute and have found we received so much more in return. Sometimes there seemed to be obstacles at the border as we struggled with our few Thai words and the people here struggled with their many more Englsih words and we all had to concentrate very hard to communicate. We have different ways of doing things and different lifestyles. However, as Christians we are no two different peoples but truly members of one family. We crossed a border but found no barrier. It didn’t exist.


This story was also published in the October 2007 edition of Border Crossings, the magazine of LCA International Mission.

If you would like to consider the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in mission, serving in practical ways, teaching English, teaching in the seminaries and institutions of our partner churches, or in local churches, you are invited to phone Nevin on (08) 8267 7300 or email nevin.nitschke@lca.org.au. For more information, go to http://www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/volunteer/

Read more stories about volunteering at www.lcamission.org.au/category/join-gods-mission/volunteers/

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