Odd ducks and other mysteries
By Jeremy & Dee Anne Freeman, Cross Cultural Workers in Thailand with OMF
To be frank, our impression of missionaries was that they were usually ‘odd ducks’: folks who were nice enough but a wee bit unusual. Jeremy and I both grew up respecting the work of missionaries, and loved hearing their stories of tribal church planting work. However, we never ever imagined that either of us would hear a call to work cross culturally with that international team of misfits. Doesn’t our God have a marvellous sense of humour?
After university, we joined the fleet of educated professionals striving to pay off our student debt, buy a house, and maybe even start a family. As active members of our church, we led a homegroup, helped within the worship and children’s ministries, and also funded several local and overseas missionaries. We did our part, and rested comfortably in the place that God had planted us.
Yet, God had other plans for our next decade. After two separate short-term mission trips with our church to North Thailand, the Lord touched both of our hearts in individual, unique ways to show us His leading to come work in Thailand. After our return, we spent the next 5 years wrestling with and eventually preparing to (finally) listen to God’s invitation. We were committed but made firm plans to return after no more than 5 years.
Working with a hill tribe alongside OMF Mekong didn’t unfold as we anticipated. We discovered that God works in the mysterious open doors we don’t expect, in the ‘chance’ meetings that turn into God-ordained relationships, and through His leading, guiding and providing each and every step of the way.
We have now lived and served in North Thailand for over 5 years now and have no imminent plans of return to New Zealand. We serve within our local Thai neighbourhood as well as at the large international school not far from our home. Our ministry is focused on reaching the Northern Thai, and we do that in practical ways as God leads: hosting board game nights, spending time consistently with café/shop owners plus individuals God places in our lives, partnering with local Thai churches to support their outreach events, helping fill gaps at church, and just being willing and available to jump in whenever we are invited. In addition to mentoring 2-3 high school students while coaching basketball voluntarily over the last 4 years, Jeremy recently accepted a full-time teaching position in Humanities for 13 and 14 year old students. Half of his students are Northern Thai, and God has clearly opened this door to further Jeremy’s ministry opportunities on campus.
The biggest open door, however, has been through our children. Our girls – Cora (9), Gwyneth (7), and Lena (3) – continue to be a key instrument in the ways that God uses us here in Thailand. We’ve had very open and honest conversations with some of the Thai families connected with our children’s’ classes about how we do family, why we are living and working here, and matters of faith. Riding scooters alongside our kids is a great way to meet and have conversations with our neighbours. Getting lunch at the local café inevitably leads to a conversation or two with other customers and/or workers. It is the sort of ministry that can be transplanted anywhere, bridging cultural gaps through having time and care for whomever God places in your life. You don’t need a fancy degree or to be an expert evangelist. All the Lord requires is a willing, open heart actively looking for and following His leading. Perhaps, a small tendency of ‘odd duck’ helps.