the Vernon Journal

Serving the Kingdom in Southeast Asia

Filtering by Tag: Ministry Updates

Crowned with Laurels ...or Silver

The name Lori means "Crowned with Laurels", taken from a term used to give the winner of a contest a wreath on their head. It is not a wreath of leaves, but my Lori was recently "crowned" for a different honor many years in the making. For years, Lori has loved looking at the beautiful Akha headdresses on the heads of our close friends. But she wouldn't buy one.

Her reluctance reflected our ministry goal to incarnationally meet the Akha where they are spiritually, physically, emotionally and culturally. Although there were, and always will be, obvious differences between ourselves and our Akha friends, we did not want to show up and throw money around to make our outer appearance seem more seasoned, more accepted, than we actually were.

Our first truck was testimony to that, as was our first Akha home, and the fact that we didn't have a bathroom in our hut for the first year.

In the same way, we didn't want to just walk in and buy amazing Akha costumes and parade around in them as if we were Akha, we wanted to grow with our people incarnationally. Through the years we slowly received gifts of beautiful Akha bags and clothes, we purchased simple and then more ornate Akha coats and built our appearance as our language and relationships grew.

But Lori still didn't have a headdress.

A few months ago we were going through our things and came across some old US silver coins that Lori's grandmother had given her before she passed away. These pieces had new meaning to us after spending so many years inculturated with a people whose traditions lie in passing silver coins from generation to generation. We knew that we wanted to add these pieces to Lori's headdress when the day finally came.

And after 9 years of full-time service, after naming 3 children and spending countless hours laughing, crying, teaching and learning in the Akha language, the day has finally come.

We bought Lori an authentic Akha headdress (made of metal, not silver) which she will wear "out" for the first time at the Akha Outreach graduation 0n March 1st.

The process of buying a headdress is involved because once you have found one that meets your standards, it then has to be customized to fit to your head... which means more Akha community! So Lori brought out her new headdress at the Women's Conference last week and all the women joined in in customizing her crowning Akha glory.

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Even this headdress is something that we will continue to build into through the years. We will slowly add real silver pieces to replace the metal ones, attach additional silver chains and ornaments and personalize it to my beautiful wife.

But for now, our American Akha beauty is very satisfied.

My Girls Eat Worms

Life with our Akha friends has been full of adventures, from arriving at a funeral covered in mud to extracting teeth, from naming children to burying loved ones. Each of these adventures has been a part of the history we have built here over the past seven years. As we have patiently earned relational equity, God has continued to change and challenge us in ministry, and most recently He is challenging us to oversee production of Akha language media - movies, clips, music - and empower the Akha people to share their own stories and lives. We're doing this in partnership with Project Video and Akha Outreach Foundation under the banner of Akha Outreach Media. We are in the middle of dubbing a major production, the Book of Acts, into Akha, but because it is the season for bamboo worms we paused the Acts project to put together a short video to teach the lesson of James 1 which teaches about our path from Preperation to Pain to Perseverance to Perfection. The video is centered around a typical Akha experience: the gathering of bamboo worms in the early fall.

Our entire family went up for a weekend to work on this film with our Akha team of actors and production crew. In our 7 years here, we have grown comfortable eating what we like to call "exotic" foods, but can still relate to the many people who would simply call them "gross". Intestines, fat, skin, hair, blood, fermented meat, raw meat, birds, dog, bugs and worms have all become common encounters. A few of these items have become favorites, but some still require a big breath before I dive in. Bamboo worms fall in this last category.

But our girls have grown up in a world where a bamboo hut is more common than a skyscraper, and where bamboo worms are as much of an annual experience as a turkey at thanksgiving. So it is through their eyes that I want to share with you the joy of eating bamboo worms:

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT2KYsaMlQc']

VernonVidcast #1: Furlough, Family and Framerates

It has been over 2 months since our return to Thailand and we've hit the ground running. The soundroom is nearing final completion and the Akha Outreach Media projects are beginning to take off. These projects, along with homeschooling, family events (2 birthdays and an anniversary) as well as our village ministry, pulling teeth, and designing book layouts have been keeping us busy. Take a look and listen to our video update for a few of the highlights:

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGlu0wXdJmg']

Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us, feel free to drop us a comment below or a message on facebook so we can stay connected to you!

Paul and Lori Vernon 2011 Update

Paul and Lori Vernon Ministry with the Akha This image was created for an introduction/update printing we are about to do, but we thought that it would be a great thing to share with all of you here as well.

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Paul and Lori Vernon ministering to the Akha people of Southeast Asia

We are Foursquare missionaries partnering with a ministry in Northern Thailand called Akha Outreach Foundation. We have been ministering full-time with the Akha people of Southeast Asia since 2005 and speak the Akha language, which is unique to the 2.5 million Akha people in China, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

Our ministry began by living in a bamboo hut in an Akha village, working directly with the local Akha church, and serving the pressing needs of individuals our region. The Lord has used this experience to show us the heart of the Akha people and to prepare us for a new ministry to serve the Akha church.

The new ministry we are undertaking is called Akha Outreach Media, and will focus on the translation, dubbing and creation of audio and video content in the Akha language to equip the local church with evangelistic and teaching materials that will be distributed to the Akha people throughout the five nations in which they live.

It all comes down to this: Maesalong Akha Update

I've been trying to write an update on the story in Maesalong this morning and have been struggling to find the words. I just can't narrow down all the stories into a cohesive update. So instead of finishing that post, I began catching up on the emails that have been piling up on my task list. In one email, I'm connecting with a family that we have never met but has contacted us and has been praying for us along with their church. As I shared with them, a little bit of the background of our ministry I wrote the following paragraph, and felt that it would be good to share this paragraph with all of you:

... We've seen a lot of death on the way. We've seen our ideas of what ministry looks like crumble. We've seen everything that we had "saved" lost. We've lost a baby through a miscarriage. We've seen our Akha church family torn apart by leaders who don't understand Kingdom Authority.

The Washing of FeetBut we've seen life as well. We've seen God keep us in Thailand when financial arguments said it was impossible. We've seen Jesus minister through our hands and feet when we were called to keep our mouths closed. We've seen the birth of our beautiful daughter Abigail, and await the birth of our second daughter in October. And now we are seeing Jesus minister again as we are being called to display that the true Church does not function as a kingdom that imposes authority, but as one that humbly serves the broken children of God towards unity, in order that the lost children might see God by our love for one another.

That last statement shares the heart of where our ministry in Maesalong exists today. We are bridging gaps, [trying to be] loving to those who are hurting (read "hurting" both ways), and sharing our hearts with those who are willing to listen.

Please continue to pray for our family, for Pastor Joe, for Pastor Phillip, for our Akha mom and for the Akha of Maesalong.

Paul and Lori Vernon Media Light Documentary

A documentary created by a Media Light team in 2010 that gives a little bit of a glimpse into our lives with the Akha in Southeast Asia.

A short 5-minute documentary style production by the 2010 Media Light team in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Paul and Lori Vernon are serving the Akha people in Northern Thailand by ministering to physical, spiritual, emotional and educational needs. This documentary, produced in 2009, gives an outsider's view of their ministry and connection with the Akha people.

You can learn more about Paul and Lori and their ministry with the Akha people at http://vernonjournal.com

More information about the Akha people may be found at http://akha.tumblr.com

Boring Work is still Good Work

We have been in a season of beginnings for about a year now. As our comfort and ministry with the Akha in Thailand has grown, opportunities have come our way to expand our ministry. Since we are part of two large organizations (Akha Outreach Foundation and Foursquare Missions International), most of the opportunities we accept are through these two ministries. In the last year we have taken on a ministry to the Akha extracting teeth, a monthly training of Akha pastors and church leaders, and an Akha Vacation Bible School to both AOF and FMI villages. These projects have added on to our normal daily work within our home village, assisting our director in his projects at AOF and teaching monthly at the Bible college.

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Most recently, I (Paul) have received an opportunity to fill in for another FMI missionary who has been serving the foursquare church in the nation to the northwest of us here in southeast Asia. While this missionary is on furlough over the next 14 months, I will be meeting with the pastor from this region who is essentially in charge of reaching thousands of people from multiple people groups with the gospel.

Honestly, the work isn't that exciting. Balance sheets. Grant reporting. Emails and communication. Office work.

But the realities behind the work: 5000 salvations, 1700 water baptisms, 1200 filled with the Holy Spirit, and 40+ churches and cell groups planted all in the last calendar year. Those are exciting stories, and worth the headache that is spreadsheets and accounting.

Beyond the actual work hours, this also provides me with an opportunity to speak with, pray for and encourage a pastor who is serving the Lord in one of the most difficult places on earth. The very existence of his ministry challenges me in my walk and work with God.

So, you probably won't read to many more updates on my spreadsheet and accounting work, but I wanted to share with all of you the men and women behind the work who are shining lights in a very dark place. Please remember them in your prayers.

Into Indochina

We recently traveled north into the largest country, by geographical area, in Indochina to join in the dedication celebration for a local Foursquare church. As with each time we've traveled into this country, the border crossing and weaving through the crowds of "tour guides" and taxis can be a stressful experience... but once you've crossed that initial boundary of sellers, smugglers and scams typical of many border-towns, the people are truly wonderful. Despite the difficult conditions they live in (or perhaps because of those conditions) there are few other places that possess such a richness of cultures and an appreciation of the simple pleasures of life. We woke up very early in order to cross the border in Maesai by 7 am. After going through Thai customs, we crossed the bridge over the Mekong river, which divides the two countries. Once that bridge had been crossed, we found ourselves in a different world. The language, the customs, the people, the food, the vehicles and even the time have all changed. That's right, having left Thailand at 7:00 am we found ourselves in customs at Tachileik at 6:30 am, as the entire country has set it's clock 30 minutes off of the rest of the world's recognized time zones.

Abi playing with the Kids Once we had worked our way through customs and the crowd of sellers, we hired a Tuk Tuk to take us to Esther's home village to see her parents. As is typical in any Akha village, Abi quickly made herself at home, "helping" fix breakfast and playing with all the Akha kids, and (as is also typical) the villagers were all amazed to see a little "foreign girl" speaking Akha and interacting in the Akha world.

An American from Singapore showing Akha kids a Russian toy in Burma.Abi cooking breakfast with Esther's momAkha boys travelling to the fields on bicyclesEsther's grandma and and Akha girl talking with Lori and AbiEsther and her parents

After the delicious breakfast and great time in the village, we headed off to the dedication celebration for the new church. It was beautiful, and over 500 people from the various Foursquare churches in the region came down. A majority (probably 80%) of the attendees were actually hilltribe members - most of them were Lahu but many Akha were there as well. We enjoyed speaking with the pastor and Bible students from the church, but Lori and I especially enjoyed connecting with the Akha and Lahu people who came down. (The Lahu are a group related to the Akha, and although the two languages are unique and distinct, most Lahu speak a little Akha and vice versa.) Abi put on the traditional Burmese outfit that Esther had tailored for her as a Christmas present, and even wore Thanakha - the traditional face-paint of the region.

The new Foursquare churchLittle Lahu boy wearing ThanakhaGirl wearing Thanakha face paintAbi with all her new friendsAbi with her Thanakha makeupThe church celebration

In the middle of the service I (Paul) was asked to come up and give thanks for the offering, I was planning on speaking in English with a translator, but when I got up front there was no translator, so I decided to just stumble along in Akha. Once I finished, the reaction of the crowd told me that most of them could in fact understand Akha, and it was great to connect with everyone in a language they could understand - although they were extremely gracious overlooking the ineloquence of my words.

We really enjoyed our time and look forward to some great opportunities that are on the horizon to continue to build into the new relationships we have with these Foursquare churches.

Haven't We Already Been Through This??

So our truck is broken again. This time it's the gearbox - gears 1,2,3 & 5 are all a wreck. The great news is that it coincided with a loose wire that disconnected the starter, allowing our mechanic to catch it (and forcing us to stop and learn what was wrong). Best case scenario it will only cost us about $100, but the constant problems have us considering upgrading our vehicle again. So this week we will be in town, working with Aje on the new Akha reading primer. This book will be presented to all of the akha leaders (in the world!!) at the Hani-Akha conference in China around the new year.

Please pray for us!

Goodbye 2007, Hello Future

Looking back at 2007 we realize what a great year this has been for us. God has been so faithful to provide for our needs, our dreams and our future. Abi is an incredible joy. Our house/language helper Esther has been wonderful for our language and relationships. The Akha clinic has been a great ministry. Our relationship with Akha leaders throughout Northern Thailand has grown. But the most exciting thing is that God has given us a vision for serving the Akha in the near future.

Many of you have heard whisperings of future plans, and some of you have gotten the details. We still aren't ready to post the full vision of the projects before us, but want to let you know how to pray for us over the next few months.

We are about to team up with a dynamic Akha family to begin a project to help serve the spiritual, physical and educational needs of the 30,000 Akha people in the greater Mae Salong region.

This family will join us in Mae Salong in April once the father has finished his master's degree from Bangkok Bible Institute.

We are heading into this new season with excitement and trembling, and ask for you to partner with us in prayer for these specific needs:

1. Provision for staff salaries for the family who is joining us 2. Guidance in expanding relationships in these villages 3. Specific, step-by-step direction in meeting these ministry goals 4. Expansion in our language to meet the demands of ministry and relationship with this family and with the Akha people.

Thank you for your prayers, and for all of your support!

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