Dear Friends and Family:
Greetings from beautiful Thailand. The four days back in the US was a blur for Bruce and the jet-lag very reaI. It was not helped by the fact that we (all three of us) got on the plane and flew literally half way around the world where day was our night and night was our day. We have tolerated that jet-lag better than our derrieres did the 15 hour flight from Atlanta to Seoul and the 5½ flight from Seoul, Korea to Chiangmai, Thailand! Having left RDU early Thursday morning, we got into our room at the Suan Bua Resort on the outskirts of Chiangmai shortly after midnight on Saturday morning (or was it noon on Friday? Our internal clocks certainly didn’t know!)
This 33rd Continuing Medical and Dental Education conference has been one of the great highlights of our ministry each year. The commission is a ministry of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations. This conference in Thailand invites medical missionaries from the Middle East and Asia. This year, we have 576 attendees (including 121 children). There are over 90 faculty members over the two weeks and there are attendees from over 40 countries. It has been very busy this first week.
We spent the first two days just resting, trying to overcome jet-lag and enjoying the warm Thai sunshine. The grounds here are beautiful and the Thai food very enjoyable. Old friendships were rekindled as people began to trickle onto the conference grounds and new friendships made. On Monday, the pre-conference courses hit full stride. Bruce was involved from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM on both Monday and Tuesday. Monday, he joined the rest of the Life Support team to teach Pediatric Advanced Life Support and Tuesday he taught Advanced Cardiac Life Support. Tuesday night, the conference officially began with the full contingency having arrived.
Bruce was again the coordinator for the worship service this year (this will be the last year as he gives others the chance to serve next year). The official day starts with a worship service. Our Spiritual Life speaker is Dr. Marc Erickson who was a missionary physician in Somalia and a pastor for the past 30 years in Milwaukee. He spoke last year in Kenya. The worship leader is again Michael Thompson (from Aurora, IL) who does a phenomenal job – he is one of the most understated but gifted worship leaders. We appreciate how he guides the worship without taking center stage and eclipsing the Lord. One of our greatest pleasures is just to sit in front and listen as all these missionaries from closed countries raise their voices in song and worship. Bruce has also been able to sing with the choir. We appreciate the willingness of our home church to loan the choir music and it has been a great blessing for all. Each evening, we have another community meeting. During that time, we have reports from the missionaries on three of the nights, a special David Stewart lecture one night, a children’s program one night and communion the last night. These are scheduled over the two weeks. Those missionary reports are both awe-inspiring and very enlightening. This year, the David Stewart lecture was Dr. Marjory Foyle, the mother of so called “member care” – the care of missionaries. She is 91 years young and her delightful British accent and life-long stammer made her presentation on how God has overcome difficulties in her life totally unforgettable. Her talk was entitled, “Shall not the Judge of the earth do right?”
Our days are very full. Each day, Sean goes to the children’s program. There are 29 volunteers helping to run the full-day program for the 121 children. He is very active and by mid-week, his leg muscles were aching. That is now getting better. Micky goes to the Spouse’s program (usually 40 – 50 participants) which consists of both Bible teaching, arts and crafts and other speakers on a variety of topics. They also include some day-trips to various sights. After the day’s program for both the children and women is over, they then have “Mom’s school” and Sean does schoolwork until bedtime (with time out for supper and the occasional break). Bruce has very long days. He does his extensive e-mail and PAACS work first (getting up at 5:30 AM or so), meets with a small group of attendees at 6:30 to discuss the previous days sermon, has a hurried breakfast and then goes to coordinate the morning worship. He is busy with either one of the seven lectures each day, meeting with the CMDE leadership, networking with some of the speakers and missionaries (still working for PAACS even here in Asia), or whatever else comes to hand. When the lectures are over, he taught Basic Life Support from 4:30 to 6:30 two of the three afternoons this week. He did practice with the choir the one free afternoon and enjoyed performing with them one evening. A quick supper and he is off to coordinate the evening service and help with the audio-visual duties. After the service is over, it is time for bedtime (and often Micky and Sean are already asleep).
Saturday, the breakneck schedule continued until noon when everyone scattered. We breathed a sigh of relief when the break came. In past years, we have joined the various tourist activities (botanical gardens, elephant safaris, cultural events, the night market and the like) but this year, we decided just to rest and spend some time with each other (we literally may go the entire day without seeing each other except to wave). Bruce is still recovering from a bad cold that hit him the first day. We spent some time at the pool and Bruce coordinated the “movie night” Saturday night for those who were not off campus. We had brought two Christian movies from home and we showed them in the auditorium.
The real value of this meeting for us is the people themselves. These people are our heroes. We wish we could tell you the stories of these faithful missionaries who sometimes literally are laying their lives on the line to proclaim the gospel of Christ. Most labor with little awareness (they are in creative access countries after all) except in the halls of heaven. They do so year after year. We can’t tell those stories unfortunately – partly because they are so numerous and partly because to do so would literally threaten their ministries and lives.
We do enjoy getting to meet the Christian academic faculty here too. We had the pleasure of meeting an African-American female pediatric surgeon here, Dr. Andrea Hayes-Jordan. Andrea is the Director of Pediatric Surgical Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas and is world-renowned for her unique treatment of a rare pediatric abdominal tumor. She feels that God is calling her to involvement with medical missions and is exploring her options. Of course, with our great need for pediatric surgeons within PAACS, Bruce was glad to talk to her and give her some ideas (Bruce tried to avoid the “God loves you and I have a wonderful plan for your life” – but it was a great temptation). Bruce did encourage her to visit the BethanyKids pediatric surgery fellowship program at Kijabe Hospital in Kenya. As an alternative, Bruce encouraged her to consider involvement with the PAACS Commission.
Her husband, Darin Jordan, was also here and his NFL physique (even at 48 years of age), personality and Super Bowl ring made a great impact with the awe-struck children (and adults). Jordan was a linebacker who played six seasons (1988-1994) with Steelers, Raiders and 49ers, winning Super Bowl XXIX in his last season with the 49ers.
We have four more conference days before finishing on Thursday afternoon. We leave Friday morning for the long flight to Sydney, Australia. We look forward to giving you the report on the second week next weekend. We are thankful that the worst of the craziness is over for us personally and look forward to enjoying the time and the wonderful people who surrounds us.
Praise and Prayer:
- Please continue to pray for encouragement, strength and empowerment of all who are attending this conference.
- Traveling safety for all who are leaving the conference this week.
Yours in His service
Bruce, Micky and Sean