In early August we attended our first YWAM Thailand staff conference. Every two years more than 200 staff (over half of them are Thai) come together from all over Thailand for five days of teaching, worship, and encouraging each other in our lives and ministry. This year was the first time this gathering has met in Issan, the Northeastern region of Thailand. Issan people have an exceptionally strong cultural identity, and although the region is the largest in Thailand, Issan people tend to be looked down on by other Thais, in part because the Northeast is the poorest region economically. One of the marks of Issan people is their music – amazing, distinctive and a strong mark of their culture for which they are very proud. Several times during the conference Issan worship bands played music they had written in Issan style. One night the time of worship became an Issan dance party – one of the older Issan men on staff was one of the first to run up to the front and start dancing…proud of the music of his people, and excited to worship Jesus in his “heart-language” and style. It was beautiful to see Thais and foreigners singing and dancing together…and no one wanting it to end. It was a delightful glimpse into the passion and creatively of not only Issan Thais, but also of our God who made all of these cultures that make up His world!
|Pii Boy’s House|
One of our highlights for the week was heading upcountry to our good friend Pii Boy’s house. Pii Boy comes from a small village about an hour from the main city in Issan. Twelve of us packed into a van for the hour-long ride out of town to go meet Pii Boy’s mom, sister, nephew, neighbors, curious local children, several chickens and a handful of ducks. We sat in Pii Boy’s mother’s backyard and enjoyed the peacefulness of Issan village living – quite different from our fast-paced Bangkok life! The whole experience was really a treat for us. Meeting people from all over the country, we made some amazing new friends who are living joyful lives of sacrifice in service to Jesus and the Thai people. And we knew just enough Thai to get some of the little jokes from the front that were made in Thai but didn’t quite make it through translation into English.