ROCKPORT?Nine church members from Coastal Oaks Baptist Church in Rockport traveled in July to Thailand where they handed out Bibles to Chinese tourists as part of a Southern Baptist mission effort called the Southern Cross Project.
Kevin Kennedy and his wife, Michelle, led the team, one of several Texas churches?Fielder Road in Arlington and First Baptist Church of Farmersville were the others?to participate this summer in the Thailand mission.
“Handing out a Bible sounds like a simple thing, but Chinese people have less than a 1 percent chance of ever owning a Bible,” Kennedy said. “God touches you knowing that you are giving them the word of God.”
Kennedy said the team prepared for the trip by listening to language CDs with 15 different Mandarin phrases.
“It’s funny how you prepare to answer in Mandarin, and then you hear ‘Thank you,’ and you’re thrown off.”
Most of the tourists were very humble and very gracious, Kennedy said.
The team told the tourists they would receive a free gift when they returned from their dinner and that Jesus loved them.
“It amazed me how you could tell which of the tourists were already Christians,” Kennedy said. “They smiled with joy and wanted more Bibles to take home to their friends. You could tell from their glad and joyful continence that they were believers.”
Kennedy said whether or not the Chinese tourists would take the Bibles largely depended on whether their tour guides would tell them to take them or not.
Therefore, the team greatly prayed for favor with the tour guides. While many tour guides encouraged them to take the free Bibles, some did not because in China, bringing certain anti-communist materials such as Bibles into the country can put a person in jail for three years.
Kennedy also said the Holy Spirit was at work through their prayers as they passed out the Bibles.
“We saw that there was a large building where in the middle path people were passing out materials warning the tourists not to pick up other materials while they were there,” he said. “We prayed that they would not take the steps to the middle, easier path but that the tourists would instead walk the ramp, avoiding the middle. All but 30 or so tourists walked down the ramp. God really put up a wall in front of the stairs.”
The team also visited the slums not far from where they passed out the Bibles.
Kennedy said the Thai people who lived in the slums were genuinely happy to see them.
“One of the ladies on the trip brought 100 friendship bracelets she and her friends had made to give to the children in the slums,” he said. “I was surprised when even the adults wanted them as well.”
Twenty to 30 of the people in the slums made professions of faith while the team was there. They were encouraged and excited to be discipled by the pastor and other members of the church near the slums.
“The new believers were all excited to get trained in discipleship and to grow in Christ.”
Kennedy said the girls in the slums have little chance of ever living a life different than that of a bar girl when they grow up. Many, he said, are sold into sexual slavery as early as the age of 3.
“We were concerned that we did not see a girl who we had grown attached to when we were there the year before. We then learned she was living not far from where the church of the pastor we were working with was.”
Kennedy said they found out she was learning to dance and was getting the chance to hear about Jesus. He said for a girl living in the slums, it was one of the best places to be.
“We had the interpreter tell her that Michelle prays for her everyday.”
Though Kennedy and his team went across the world to change the lives of others, he said they found that it changed their own lives instead.
“One of the ladies on the trip changed her college major during the week she was there,” Kennedy said. “She had been planning for years to major in music, but God planned to change her major to English (so she could teach others) and called her to missions that week.”
He said the greatest message he received from the trip was the need for more prayer.
“I came away with the determination to keep my prayer life going, to really pray without ceasing.”
Kennedy, who is completing the International Mission Board’s application process, said he had thought about just packing up and going to Thailand independently or through another sending agency.
“God showed me that if I had not led this trip, the whole team would not have been blessed as they were,” he said. “It really shows that God can use you in every season of life.”
For information on the Southern Cross Project or other short-term mission trips, contact Tiffany Smith, SBTC missions mobilization associate, at 877-953-7282 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.