By Laura McKillip Wood
Nathan and Amy Randall moved to Thailand less than a year ago, but their adjustment to living among different cultures has happened throughout their lives. Nathan grew up in Australia. Both of his parents are Americans, but his father served as the minister of a missions-minded church in Perth. Nathan returned to the United States to attend college at Cincinnati Christian University. There he met and married Amy. They worked in churches in Texas and Ohio before returning to Australia and taking a ministry at a church near a state university in Perth.
Although they considered their work in Australia to be pastoral ministry and not traditional mission work, they served people of different cultures, many of whom were from Asia. That contact with the international community helped prepare them for moving to Thailand. “We came out of that setting with a real love for the beauty of other cultures and a desire to see them captured by the gospel,” Nathan asserted. He added that seeing the relative ease with which Americans and Australians can access the gospel drove their desire to minister to an unreached people group. “In Thailand, most know absolutely nothing of who Christ is and have no real way of finding out.”
Language Learning & Cultural Adjustment
Nathan, Amy, and their children are currently based in west-central Thailand in the town of Tak and serve with Worldwide Evangelization for Christ (WEC). WEC missionaries focus on planting churches among unreached people groups. The Randalls are currently in the middle of a year of language learning. They see the importance of investing their time and energy into learning Thai now, at the beginning of their ministry. “A lot of things would make more sense if we could just communicate better. We wouldn’t order fried red pork and come home with red ant eggs, for example. We’d be able to get things done a whole lot quicker, we’d be able to better fellowship with friends at church, and we’d be able to share something of the gospel.”
After their first year, they will move out of Tak and begin working as part of a team. “We hope to really connect with the existing workers and to complement their church-planting ministry.” Since WEC is an international agency, it recruits people from different cultures to work together on the same team. The Thai team is made of representatives from nearly a dozen different countries and a variety of generations. “Obviously, we all see things very differently.” One thing they do agree on, though, is the need for Christ in their new home.
The Randalls knew that moving to a new country would provide them with plenty of different experiences. For example, they expected that the weather would be hot. “Tak is one of the hottest areas in a very hot country,” they said. However, there have been things they did not expect. “We knew life would be different, but we forgot that life would be different all the time. There’s no letup at all. Having a good support system of people who have ‘been there and done that’ has been incredibly important for helping us to adjust and settle into this different life.”
One challenge they’ve faced happened only a short time after they moved to the field. The teacher they’d arranged for their children suffered an injury that required her to move off the field for treatment and rehabilitation. A temporary helper came to Thailand for only a few months, but she will return home soon, leaving the Randalls and other families on their team without a teacher. Through this experience, they’re learning to trust God to provide.
Lessons from Abroad
The Randalls may have only been in Thailand for a short period, but they’ve already learned some valuable lessons. They’ve learned the value of flexibility. In a culture unfamiliar to them, they must daily adjust to a great number of unknown variables. They’ve also learned the importance of humility. To someone considering cross-cultural ministry, they advise, “Be willing to admit that you don’t know everything . . . and that sometimes, you really don’t know anything at all!” They’ve seen the need for perseverance, learning not to give up even after repeated attempts. “Most importantly though, we’ve seen the need to maintain a deep and trusting relationship with God. We can find joy in communion together with the Lord, even when everything around us seems to be impossible.”
Laura McKillip Wood formerly taught missionary children in Ukraine and now works in the academic office of Nebraska Christian College in Papillion, Nebraska. She and her husband, Andrew, have three children (lauramckillipwood.com).