the Vernon Journal

Serving the Kingdom in Southeast Asia

Filtering by Tag: Akha Outreach Foundation

A Heritage of Ministry

Paul and Lori VernonTen years ago this week was the first time we arrived in Thailand. As two young, wide-eyed, newlywed college kids we first set foot in the nation that we knew God had called us to serve. We had come to Thailand to visit a fledgling ministry to the Akha people and assist them with some land planning. But the reality was that we were taking the first step of obedience to the call that God placed on our life. We continued to travel between the United States and Thailand over the next five years; leading teams and growing in our relationship with each other and with the ministry to the Akha. Finally in 2005 we moved here full-time, and Akha Outreach Foundation had grown and matured in its ministry. By this time the ministry here was serving the Akha with three ministry focuses: House of Joy, a children's home for orphaned and high-risk kids; Akha Bible Institute, a training program for young emerging Akha leaders; Akha Outreach Services, a ministry to Akha villages and churches.

Earlier this month Akha Outreach Foundation celebrated it's 10th year of ministry. Nearly 2,000 Akha men, women and children came to participate in the event and to celebrate the heritage of ministry that Akha Outreach Foundation has fostered.

The 10-Year Anniversary celebration was a beautiful event that was well worth the months of preparation that we put into it by printing books, images, pamphlets and banners, editing videos, and coordinating visitors. It was amazing to see what God has done over the past ten years. Former drug addicts leading their villages in worship. Men and women who had been witch doctors and mediums smiling with the joy that comes with the freedom of the gospel. Christians from multiple denominations and backgrounds laughing, singing and eating together.

Akha Outreach - A Heritage of WorshipAkha Outreach - A Heritage of EqualityAkha Outreach 10 Year Celebration - A Heritage of FamilyAkha Outreach 10 Year CelebrationAkha Outreach 10 Year Celebration - A Heritage of Honor Akha Outreach 10 Year Celebration - A Heritage of CelebrationAkha Outreach 10 Year Celebration - Heritage of LearningAkha Outreach 10 Year Celebration - Heritage of Friendship

But as exciting as the look back was, and as encouraging as it has been to see what God is doing, the most exhilarating thing is that the vision for ministry to the Akha is just beginning. The barriers that have bound the Akha for generations are being broken, but this is just the start. As God leads the Akha into freedom, the barriers that exist between individuals, villages, regions, and nations are being broken. The rice is ripe and harvest is coming.

Akha Outreach Media: First Project

Introducing Akha Outreach Media My facebook and twitter updates have recently been dropping clues of an impending Akha media ministry, but now that we have an actual project in production I thought it would be nice make it official in our Ministry Updates here on the Vernon Journal as well. For years we at Akha Outreach Foundation have dreamed about getting a soundroom / media center up and running in order to create and produce Akha language content: audio teachings, a/v dubbing, worship cds, literacy training tools, and original video (clips and full length features); that would glorify God and advance His Kingdom among the Akha people. Those years of dreams are now becoming a reality! We have had some very exciting relationship developments with a subgroup of a highly respected linguistics and translation agency (link unavailable due to closed country concerns) that will provide financial packages enabling the purchase of high-end sound equipment, cameras, Mac computers and software to empower Akha leaders with the tools needed to share the gospel through these media in the Akha language. These packages have not yet been sponsored, but we are confident in God's timing and purpose for this project and are prayerfully waiting for Him to move.

We have also been blessed by a relationship with a wonderful group of believers in Singapore, who have purchased a high-end microphone, hd video camera, soundboard and computer for us to begin our media recordings. (This group has helped serve Akha Outreach in many other ways as well, but this is a media post so I'll stick to the point). Additionally, we are discussing our vision with church partners in Colorado and Idaho and are considering having a team from America come out and construct a sound room.

But, we're not just sitting around waiting for our vision to be fulfilled. Using our existing tools, we're in the process of producing our first Akha Outreach Media project, moving ahead with our vision and without a sound room. We are producing an Akha worship cd and have prepared a room for recording by taking dozens of mattresses and piling them up on the walls and floor in order to have clean enough sound to record a distributable album.

There are a number of Akha cds existing today, but they generally follow the tendency of the region to go with a Karaoke-style format (lead singer, 5 locations, dreamy superstar poses, band in background scattered throughout a field, etc.). While we are accustomed to these productions, and have even grown to enjoy them, the goal for this album is to keep the focus away from the musicians and really stress worship. To accomplish this goal, we are recording four 5-song sessions with 15 voices joining together in corporate worship. We're using a single microphone and two pickups for acoustic guitars and everyone is simply standing in a circle in the room and worshiping God. It sounds simple enough, but getting 15 voices and a few musicians to sound good together is not easy; and to add a further challenge we've chosen the voices and musicians for their hearts for worship rather than for their vocal and musical proficiency.

We're going to be distributing this cd throughout Southeast Asia to various Akha villages and hope that it promotes, facilitates and ushers glorifying worship wherever it is heard. Recording five songs in one take, using amateur musicians and an untrained production crew (read: me) we are guaranteeing ourselves a large number of technical glitches, but that's part of the message we're spreading to the Akha people: Worship God together with whatever you have. We're thrilled with how things are going and I am taking in too much information far too quickly, but even if all this falls apart we are having a wonderful time worshipping our Saviour together.

Here's a sample from our sound tests, I'll make sure to post again when the cd is available. Listen, and join in worship... and while you're listening, pray for me, my crew and our worship team that God would work through us throughout this process.

Excerpts from Akha Outreach Media's in-production cd: Worship Together! Tiqkawv lof-ehr jaceu ma!

Session #1 Sample "Believe on the Lord" [audio:http://vernonjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/Akha.jaceu_.sample.mp3|titles=Akha.jaceu.sample]

Sound check "Hosanna" [audio:http://akhaoutreach.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/team-soundcheck.mp3]

If you have any sound/music/production skills and want to give me some pointers I'm all ears. Or, if you just want to let me know what you think please drop me a note in the comment section below.

How Can I Become a Missionary?

We get a lot of emails and questions, mostly from people in America, asking how they can become missionaries to Thailand or other nations in the world. I'm a proponent of missions, and encourage anyone and everyone I meet to seek the missions call in their life. So, for those of you who hear the call, I want to exhort you with these words today. The principles behind becoming a missionary are straightforward: receive a call from God, seek direction from God and obey in each step. However, there is no consistent series of events on how these principles unfold. Through the Foursquare Church we have guidelines and an application process by which someone can become a Foursquare missionary, but, even with guidelines and processes, each story is unique - as ours testifies.

But becoming a missionary is much more than applying, interviewing for and accepting a job position. Becoming a missionary is aligning yourself with the identity God is calling you into. As we have grown in our experience in the field over the past five years, we have noticed a few patterns that are visible in the lives of long-term, successful missionaries. These patterns reflect what I believe is the identity of a missionary, and are things that we are hoping to see transformed into in our own lives. I want to share 4 of those patterns here today.

This is really for those who feel called into missions in some way, if that's not you, I recommend you take a look at some of these posts instead. Also, before I share with those of you who feel called into missions I want to make a few assumptions as to where most of you are coming from:

  • You know God and can connect with Him
  • You're confident you've heard His call to missions
  • You don't know what to do next

If these assumptions are true for you, then the following patterns should be helpful as you seek your commission into missions: Pattern 1, Pattern 2, Pattern 3, Pattern 4.

Pattern #1: Patience

There are a lot of life events that lead up to our call into missions: most importantly our conversion to Christ and our connection with the living God. Whether our conversion, connection and call occur as one instantaneous event (see Paul on the road to Damascus) or through years of laborious lessons, once we receive our call to missions the next step is the same for everyone. The first lesson we learn after our call through in the process of becoming missionaries is submission to God's Timing - or, the more difficult word, patience.

I'm going to use the Apostle Paul, perhaps the greatest missionary after Christ, to help me with this pattern:

Galatians 2:15-18

When it pleased God... to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.

For three years Paul knew that he was to go preach Christ "among the Gentiles". For three years he did not even go up and speak to the Apostles, the original "Missionary Sending Agency". But for those of us who feel called to long-term ministry to "the ends of the earth" it might get worse:

The chronology of Paul's ministry is not known with any certainty, but from Galatians 2:1 [Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also.] it seems likely that more years went by before he begun active mission work (Orthodox Research Institute)

Here's the big news missionaries: God doesn't need us to save the world, God just wants us to obey Him (I Sam 15:22). I know the fire that burns in the heart when we hear that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. I know how that stirs us to hop on the next plane and never return. But the call to missions is a call to obedience before it is a call to action, and the first step in obedience is learning how to wait for God's timing.

Let me draw a crude analogy. When training a dog to eat on command, the dog is not obedient if he runs to the food the moment he sees it. The obedience is when the dog knows whats in the bowl, but it willing to "Sit! Stay" until the Master says "Go!".

God powerfully revealed the calling to Thailand in my life when I was 18, but I wasn't released to move to Thailand until I was 27, and am just now beginning to see the buds of fruit in ministry at 32. In 14 years I've had a lot of struggles with God as I told him how much I wanted to go and to serve and to do... and His silence told me to wait, and to trust the call He had laid on my life. But I found that each time that I waited; that I was silent; that I was still, my faith in God and my trust in His perfect timing grew.

I've seen good friends who have a call and anointing on their life for missions step out before God's timing arrived, and when all their plans crumbled around them they were broken and lost faith in their call. New life springs from brokenness, and I am confident that God will bring their vision back from death, but I am grateful that God carried us through the waiting period to see His timing fulfilled.

Pattern #2: Service

The world is full of opinions and voices. You're reading one right now. What the world lacks is humble servants*.

Humility: being able to know your gifts, talents and skills without thinking more highly of yourself than others. It is not humility for me to say "I'm not any good at tennis", it is simply truth. It is also not humility for me to say "I can't throw a curveball", which is a lie I throw a pretty mean curveball (or did 12 years ago), lying to be humble is false humility. True humility is recognizing your gifts without thinking highly of yourself because of those gifts (Ph 2:3).

Service: working for the benefit of another. Service involves a willingness to do things that you are not gifted in (Ex 4:10), or that you are not passionate about (I Cor 9:19-23). Service involves allowing others to do things that you could do (Luke 9:1-2). Service is exemplified by obedience, not by gifting.

Let's look at what Paul has to say on the subject again:

I Corinthians 9:19-23

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;  and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;  to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

Paul understood as well as anyone who he was and how he was gifted. He knew his strengths and often walked in them. But he was willing to humble himself, to be whatever it took for the sake of the gospel.

The fields we are called to don't need pastors, evangelists, teachers, or church planters. God has prepared His body with all the parts that are needed - and they're already living there. However, the local pastors, evangelists, teachers and church planters already living in the field need servants to come in humility and help them shine like a "city on a hill". This might mean that we missionaries serve as pastors, teachers, evangelists, or church planters or any other role for a season, but those roles are taken on to serve and to lead the church until it is healthy enough to take on those roles itself.

The world needs Kingdom servants, and servants of the Kingdom will win the world.

* The term "humble servants" is a reference to the teachings of Beth Barone, a woman to whom I am indebted and grateful as she has been instrumental in challenging me, my view of God, and my understanding of the Bible.

Pattern #3: Authority

The most important effort we can make before arriving on the field might be to spend time developing meaningful relationships with our local church and pastors.

Nearly every missions agency has a requirement for a local pastor to sponsor or to write a letter of recommendation for a prospective missionary. The requirement exists because these agencies have the foresight to understand that if pre-sent missionaries have already developed authority relationships in their home culture they are much more likely to succeed on the field.

Trusting leaders is a step in the growth process of Christianity. Haphazardly tossing leaders aside because they offend us (and they will because they're not perfect) is not maturity. Growth is shown when we trust God enough to allow ourselves to trust, and be hurt by, spiritual authority. That connection to God must exist first, but God leads us to serve under [imperfect] men and women wherever we are.

If our goal truly is "Service" than this is the reality: if we can't serve under the spiritual authority that is in our home church (or if we are unwilling to put ourselves underneath a spiritual authority), then we will be of no service to the church on the field.

Harsh words? Maybe. Let me soften them:

The church is full of broken people. The liturgy and culture varies from church to church, but the fact that church is filled with imperfect people does not. If we can't serve broken people and serve under broken leaders in America, we are exemplifying pride, and are probably interested in furthering the Kingdom of Ourselves instead of the Kingdom of Heaven.

You're right, that didn't get any softer. Sorry.

So lets go again to the Bible, where the Apostle Paul has some more great examples in I Cor 9:19-23 and Rom 13. Look them up, but the verse I want to highlight is in Hebrews (which may or may not have been written by Paul):

Hebrews 13:17

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Ultimately, our response to human leadership reflects our faith in God. Do we trust God enough to submit to the (fallen, broken, imperfect) authorities that God has established in the church? Do we trust Him enough to know that those leaders must give an account for their decisions to God, and it's not our role to judge them, but to "obey them so that their work will be a joy"?

Again, we must be connected with God, I'm not advocating serving under a leader that God is directing you away from! It's true that authority can be misused and there are times to step out from underneath an unhealthy authority, but we must also remember David, who was called to continue to serve and honor Saul. The response of a mature believer is to have such a firm trust in God that we can submit to human authority and council that God has introduced in our lives.

I hear a lot of pre-sent missionaries say that they don't like the way that church is done in America so they want to be part of something new on the field. I understand the sentiment, but if we're unwilling to work with people who are doing things differently than we would, are we really ready to work with others? The pre-sent missionary who cannot trust the Father enough to respect and submit to authority is not ready to take on a position of authority in the church.

In our lives we've been fortunate. We were commissioned by our home church, we have been sent by Foursquare Missions International and we serve under Akha Outreach Foundation here in Thailand. Going through the requirements of these three groups took (and still takes) time and energy, but it provides a crucial covering that has kept us in good standing when the "honeymoon" period ended and the difficulties of ministry set in.

Bottom line: if we surround ourselves with Godly leaders and see what we can do to serve them and to impact our church family positively for the Kingdom we will be well equipped to serve the leaders on the field to which we are called.

Pattern #4: Giving

As I sit here and think of five or six of the missionary families that I respect the most, all of them are characterized by giving. In fact, missionaries usually fall into one of two categories: those who are always worrying about funding and support, and those who are willing to give the shirt off their back, the roof from over their heads and wheels from beneath their feet at the shortest prompting of the Lord.

I'm not advocating that you give all you have to the next person you see, this goes back again to your ability to connect to the living God, but if He asks us to give can we do it? Do we hesitate? Are we Matthew, who walked away from his fortune, or are we the rich young ruler?

It is a tremendous step of faith to quit our jobs and trust that the Lord will provide for our needs, but we must be careful not to fall into the trap of poverty, which believes that we do not have enough to give. Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". Powerful words. Not blessed are the poor, but blessed are the poor in spirit. If we can shed our love for money, if we can realize that nothing changes if we lose all that we posses, then we are poor in spirit. Then we will see seasons plenty and seasons of nothing, but we will always be living with a heart willing to give, even to death. (Remember the widow and Elijah?)

Paul stands out again, as he shows us how to be a missionary:

Philipians 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

As we see the missionaries here in Thailand who challenge us, who call us to the next level in our walks with God and with man, we only see men and women who are givers. Givers of time, givers of money, givers of possessions. Givers are often hurt by takers, leeches who seek their own comfort. But obedient givers will continue to give, even to the leeches, if they are prompted by the voice of the Lord. True givers are willing to give no matter the cost, no matter the pain.

Powerful things happen in the spiritual realm when we challenge the kingdom of darkness, and that kingdom is shaken by selfless giving.

What am I missing?

Ok, fellow missionaries (pre-sent, actively serving, retired) these were my thoughts and observations. But I'm so limited. I live in a specific part of the world, I have few credentials, I have few years of service and I have a specific calling. I need your voices to help make this complete.

  • What have I missed?
  • What have I gotten wrong?
  • What do you agree with?

Please join in the conversation below...

Not Swine Flu

Over at Akha Outreach Foundation's children's home "House of Joy" everyone is battling the flu, not Swine Flu or H1N1, but a pretty nasty bug by its own account.flu Over 80 of the 150 people on site have gotten a flu that keeps them in bed for four days. You can read all the info over at Dan's site, The Edge.(While you are there, subscribe to his rss feed in your feed reader to keep up with all the news from the children's home). We are off to the village today with Erick Olsen who is visiting us on his way back to America. We are armed with boxes of medicine to restock our Akha clinic for the onslaught of flu cases we expect to see up there as well.

Despite all our running around during the last two months, we are all in great health but covet your prayers of protection from the flu and for continued recovery from the jetlag that we're still dealing with from Germany.

Akha Women's Retreat - 2009

In January, I had the honor of participating in the annual AOF Women's Retreat. While any women's retreat is a blessing and allows for the women to "get away from it all," this is especially true for Akha women who labor from morning til night, working in the fields, carrying water and firewood, cooking the meals, and hand washing the clothes & dishes! My role in the event was mostly "observer" with a little bit of "translator" and "photographer" thrown in. For one of the sessions, we were blessed to hear from an American friend, Marlene. Having been a family counselor for many years, she shared out of her expertise about the different stages in a woman's life. This is an important topic for Akha women, because in traditional Akha culture it's generally considered taboo to talk about things like menstruation or menopause, which often leaves women unprepared and scared when natural changes occur. In any case, I was elected to translate for this session.

Although I've been here for nearly 4 years, my language is not what you would call "microphone worthy". So I stumbled through the session saying things like "Do you understand me? Did I say that correctly?" and "How do you say _________?" It was like being tossed in the deep end and told "Sink or swim!" While moments like this are difficult, for sure, I'm grateful for the opportunity to step up to a challenge and find that, even if I can only doggy paddle, at least I didn't drown!

My other, less challenging, job was to take pictures during one of the craft times. My mission was to capture a picture of every woman for the slide show scheduled for the final night. As an added bonus, I got to witness the skilled craftsmanship of nearly a hundred women making traditional men's headdresses. Take a peek at the pictures to see for yourself!

Lori & MarleneAkha Women listeningAkha women sewingUsing straw to make an Akha headdressTwo Akha women sewing an Akha headdressChicken feathers used for decorationAkha woman with man's headdressAkha HeaddressesGroup photo

The Satterfield Dream Wing and an Akha Doctor

Last Saturday AOF had a monumental celebration to dedicate the new classroom / future radio studio building as well as to recognize Aje for the completion of his Doctorate. Over a thousand Akha from around Northern Thailand, Christian and non-Christian alike, came to join in the festivities; and all the Satterfield girls were here for four days to celebrate with us as well. The event was so much fun (I'm serious, we had a blast!) that I only snapped a few shots at the very beginning and during the "formal picture taking time", but here are a couple of moments captured throughout the day:

The Newly Dedicated BuildingDedication of the Satterfield Dream WingCutting the RibbonCutting the RibbonCutting the RibbonThe Graduate poses after the celebration

We had a great evening, too, but I'll leave that story for Lori to share that with you in our Baby Notes.

A Look at the Graduation

We wanted to let you all in on a few moments of the graduation on March 12th. It was a great celebration of twelve young men and women who are moving into their internships. Please remember them in your prayers as they have a large task ahead. The children sang worship songs in Akha waving banners brought by the Pearson's from Colorado. Akha leaders came down from their villages to show their support and to celebrate the first graduation, and American pastors and support team pray for the graduates.

Akha GraduationAkha GraduationAkha Graduation

Sending out the Twelve

How appropriate that the first Bible Institute has twelve graduates! Yesterday we celebrated the sending out of these 6 men and 6 women to various internships as pastors and leaders. It was an amazing time - you can see some of the moments here. Hours of Akha singing and celebration - it was a great day. I've been stuck on a passage for days now, and it gained so much more strength watching the graduation. The passage is in Mark 1, quoting Malachi:

"Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple"

How wonderful that the God who created the universe loves every one of us! It's amazing, he sends messengers to love people and to talk about Christ so that when they seek Him and encounter the Living God they have already seen what love for Christ is.

It was as if we saw the embodiment of the song "Did you feel the Mountains tremble" yesterday...

Here we see that God you're moving A time of jubilee is coming When young and old will come to Jesus... Fling wide you heavenly gates Prepare the Way of the Risen Lord!

Be encouraged, the message is going forth. This is an exciting place to be, because God is already moving so powerfully from here.

Please continue to pray for us. We have decided to move to an Akha village about an hour and a half from here. One of the men who graduated yesterday will be going up to pastor the church there and we are hoping to move there to concentrate on the Akha language and way of life. We are confident this is where the Lord is leading us, but please pray for us in this process. We will let you know more as some of the details come together.

Don't forget to see the pictures!

Home, Sweet Home!

After months of "nomadic life" we finally have a place to call our own. We arrived at the Akha Outreach Foundation (A.K.A. House of Joy/H.O.J.) on Monday afternoon and promptly began settling in. We spent our first night on very hard twin beds and decided that it was time to invest in a softer double bed. ourroom Dan (another American here at H.O.J.) and his Akha wife, Maam, took us shopping for a bed, and we were lucky to find a great deal which included a mattress pad, a set of sheets and four pillows for free when we purchased a mattress. So we've had our new bed for one night and now we're off again. We are heading out in just a few hours to spend the night in an Akha village called Doi Chang (or Elephant Mountain). I guess we're not completely done with our "nomadic life" yet... but at least we have a home base! We'll be sure to send out another update with all the details of our first night in an Akha village when we get back!.

All content Copyright 2014, humblethorn designs