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Mission Trip Allows Students to Explore Thai Culture

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND (July 19, 2010) – The first two baptisms at the Amnuay Suk camp were a 70-year-old new Thai believer and American teenager Maleah Grauer, who was on a mission trip earlier this month with other Evangelical Covenant Church high school students.

The mission trip that ran July 1-13 was the second following CHIC 2009, which included a special focus on ministry in the Asian nation. The camps are among the projects sponsored by a special offering received during CHIC that raised more than $109,000.

Covenant missionaries Randy and Cheryl Bevis hosted the group. Eleven participants – including four leaders – came from First Covenant Church in Anchorage, Alaska. Several high school students from across the country joined them. See additional photos below.

Grauer, who formerly attended the Anchorage congregation, now lives in Korea where her father, John Grauer, serves as a U.S. Army chaplain. First Covenant Youth Pastor Phil Cannon II performed the baptism.

The Thai convert (top photo) is the father of a church planter who also runs a small motorcycle repair shop in the village. Following the service, everyone sang “Amazing Grace” in their own language.

“We were excited to see two baptisms in this place and hope that many more will happen as we use the camp for reaching out to Thai people,” says Bevis.

The main project for the week was to get the camp’s soccer field planted with 3,200 pieces of sod, backfilling a water tank and hooking up pipes to irrigate the field with water from the tank. They also planted grass to stop erosion. The lower photo shows the group assembled on the just-completed soccer field.

The work was exhausting, made even more so by the sweltering temperatures and high humidity. Planting the grass involved de-rooting high blades of grass, cutting them into smaller pieces and then planting them into holes dug by hand.

The students also visited Garden of Hope in Chiang Mai, which seeks to rescue teens from sexual trafficking and help prevent men, women and children from being exploited. While there, the students met a former brothel owner who recently converted.

Sarah Ago, director of children’s ministry at Hillside Covenant Church in Walnut Creek, California, is spending three months serving as an intern director for the ministry.

Grauer wrote she was taken aback that “sexual exploitation is such a huge issue here in Thailand because it is considered both economically and culturally acceptable. I had never realized how much more money prostitutes make compared to other people . . . I had not realized before how much pressure women are under to support their families and therefore so easily get caught up in the sex industry.”

The mission team spent a day at Grace International School where Cheryl Bevis works, where they spent time working with students. They also joined the staff in visiting a government-run home for the elderly.

The students did have time to participate in several tourist activities that helped them more fully experience the culture. In a blog post, one student wrote of riding elephants to a site where the group went whitewater rafting, which she described as a “surreal experience.”

The students also toured a fish hatchery, worshiped at a house church, and visited a Buddhist temple. They even were able to participate in an international event that demonstrated how passionate people can be about sports and how one well-known company seems to be popular almost everywhere.

The group joined 2,000 Thai people to watch the World Cup finals at 1:30 a.m. on a big screen at an event sponsored by Coca Cola.

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