God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give away and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…Be still, and know that I am God…The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:1-3, 10 & 11
Isn’t this what we are facing today? The whole world is in trouble. Every day the news is filled with updates on Covid-19. The more you read, the more you feel depressed. No place on this earth is “safe” anymore. There’s no human being who can handle or keep control of this pandemic. We can only turn to God, who is our strength and refuge. That’s why at the end of this Psalm, God is telling us to be still, and know that HE is God. He is with us and He is our fortress.
The Golden Triangle
In the Golden Triangle, there is no exemption from the virus. As of today (April 8, 2020), Thailand has 2369 confirmed cases, Myanmar 22 and Laos 14. There are a few cases in Maesai, the city where we live, but we’re both healthy and safe.
The Thai government has announced a state of emergency since March 26. Now the whole country is under curfew from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. The land border between Myanmar and Thailand is also closed until further notice.
This year became a very special year for Bethel Bible Institute (BBI). It was the very first time we had to cancel graduation. Every year, graduation day is a huge event for the school. It usually attracts 1,000+ people. Typically, a graduate’s whole church or village will come to see them graduate. So, it was a little bit disappointing for the graduates this year. However, we arranged a very creative inhouse graduation with no guests, no outsiders, but only teachers and students of the school. The ceremony was held outdoors on the beautiful campus. The ceremony was very warm and creative. It felt like a family holding a special ceremony together. We prayed for each other and a big banquet followed. Praise the Lord, in the midst of the Covid-19, HIS name is lifted high.
BBI has also cancelled all the summer mission trips. There were three teams altogether, one to Myanmar and two in Thailand. We were originally going to join the Myanmar team with a SENT team from Canada. The team planned to go to the Northern Shan State, but it had to be cancelled. At that point, we suggested that the SENT team from Canada postpone their trip to a later date. After praying, the team members decided they were still coming as planned. A pastor came to teach and two members came to do other work (of course we changed the whole schedule accordingly). After they arrived, the Covid-19 situation became more serious. The rules and guidelines from the government developed every day. In the end, the pastor managed to finish his teaching and leave, but the two members needed to cut their trip short by six days. They needed to change their flights and re-book air tickets. Their last 24 hours in Thailand made them feel as if they were fleeing the country. Praise the Lord, they have now arrived in Canada safe and sound!
BBI is currently on summer vacation (mid-March to midMay). Most students have gone home. This is the very first time in 50+ years that students could go home during the summer months. Normally, they would need to fulfill their internships during this time. Due to Covid-19, the school decided to cancel all the summer internships. There are about 15 students staying at the school and including all the teachers and family, we have around 40 people still on campus. We have locked up the front gate and have suggested that no one comes in or goes out of the school unless it’s really necessary. Thank God we still have a big campus to walk around if needed. We spend most of the time in our residence. The students are still assigned to do chores around the campus. This is the time to do maintenance around the school campus. We’ve also started to grow our own vegetables – thanks to the students doing all the hard work. On Sundays, we hold a worship service on campus.
The recruitment of new students was supposed to take place next week. Due to the circumstances, we’ve postponed it to a later date. The new school term will begin on May 12, 2020. We’re not sure if we can start the school year on time. The teachers from overseas who were scheduled to come and teach in May and June have already cancelled. The school will soon decide how to handle the classes. It’s not easy for us to teach online because a lot of students may not have the internet or the internet isn’t stable in their hometowns, especially for those who come from Myanmar.
Other than BBI, Covid-19 has also affected other ministries here. Operation Dawn and other drug rehabilitation villages will not be accepting new people into the village for the time being. Some bigger churches have also started online Sunday worship services. However, churches located in remote or mountainous regions aren’t able to hold online services. The internet isn’t stable in those regions and many seniors don’t have cell phones or other media devices. Therefore, pastors may need to visit individual families to do worship with them during the week.
Other than Covid-19, the air pollution in the northern part of Thailand has been very bad for the last couple of months. Today in Maesai, the air pollution is at “368”, while Toronto is at “17”. The air quality is so bad because in January and February, farmers (both in Thailand and Myanmar) burn their farm fields to prepare to plant new crops. Also, there has been no rain for the last 4-5 months. The land is dry and a lot of places are short of water. We’re praying for heavy rain so the air pollution may clear up. The rain is also much needed for the crops.
Chinese Ministries Team
As for our Chinese Ministries Team, Germany’s confirmed cases have escalated and now have exceeded 85,000 so all meetings and Sunday worship for the 4 locations where our CBM field staff are all joint and online. Conrad will have the opportunity to share at one of the worship services at end of April.
As for China, CBM started a relief fund for China in February. Praise the Lord, with the love from our Canadian brothers and sisters, we’re able to help China deliver food and daily necessities to 180+ families. May God use these circumstances to make people turn their hearts toward God.
Our Personal Family
In regards to our family, our son and daughter-in-law (Terrance and Michelle) are now in Edmonton. They have returned from Asia and have just finished their 14 days of quarantine. They will stay in Edmonton for a few months before they move back to Toronto. Our daughter and son-in-law (Elaine and Michael) are in Toronto. Michael is working from home and Elaine is applying to new jobs, since schools are closed and substitute teachers aren’t needed at the present moment. All of them are safe and healthy.
We also invite you to watch the CBM calling either on Facebook (Canadian Baptist Ministries) or CBM website (cbmin.org), you will hear the latest updates from our colleagues around the world.
- Pray for God’s mercy. May this Covid-19 be over soon.
- Pray for heavy rain in Thailand, especially for the northern regions of Thailand. It will clean up the air pollution.
- Pray for BBI and all the teachers and students, especially for those students who went home for the summer. Pray for the new school term. May God’s will be done.
- Pray for our physical, spiritual and mental health, that we stay strong and steadfast in God’s love, so that we can help other people when needed.
- Pray for all the field staff of our Chinese Ministries Team. May God grant them good health and energy when they are providing support to their communities.
May the peace of God with you all.
Conrad and Fiona Kwok