I hate to report this, but we still are not able to return to Thailand due to the restrictions in Thailand.
In our last prayer letter, I asked for you to pray our attempt to try to get back into Thailand at that time. That didn’t work out. Here is what is hindering our return as of today:
- Thailand is still closed to international visitors (see notice I included from the Thai website)
- Our visa and work permit have since expired due to not being able to get back into Thailand to renew them. Meaning, we are no longer in any kind of privileged position (as compared to a typical traveler without a special visa) to get into Thailand that our visa/work permit previously afforded.
- Our Passports are still stuck somewhere in the system. We attempted an expedited process, but it has been months now and we still haven’t received them back.
Our Duffle Bags?—still packed. Our Plane tickets?—still cancelled, but reusable, at least!
When will Thailand open?
Good question. Thailand has taken some steps to open to certain special cases of certain types of visa holders, but right now ‘volunteer’ and ‘religious’ visa holders are not permitted to enter Thailand.
In addition, last week the government added an additional exclusion clause to their website specifically for applicants in the USA seeking permission to enter Thailand due to the recent rise of COVID cases in the States.
Not being able to return has been difficult in some ways for those back in Thailand. While they have been faithful to stand on their own, our work was not complete when we left for furlough. The church was very young and full of new Christians that were Buddhist only a few years ago.
Leading a church is difficult anywhere, much less a young church in a 99% pagan culture. And this is only complicated when you are a young Christian yourself, and also fairly new to leadership. So, the ministry has been both messy and difficult in some ways for them — I hope you can try to empathize with their situation and pray for them in that spirit. And pray for us, as 1) we try to help from afar and 2) try to get back asap.
Furlough can actually be good for the ministry, as it gives opportunity for time of testing and proving that allows a young church to feel the weight of responsibility and rise to the challenge, but coronavirus has extended this period of testing beyond what anyone expected and has sort of fertilized the already difficult challenges they have had to face while learning to stand on their own. God continues to sustain them and the church until today, and for that we praise Him.
There is actually many positive things I could have written about, but I wanted to share some of the challenges in this letter and ask that you pray for them especially in these days. It is difficult to be stuck here and watch them struggle there, but we trust the that the Lord has purpose in these things.
Yours for the Gospel in Thailand,
Philip & Lori Bassham
(Claire, Grace, Emma)