Feeding My Faith as a Global Citizen

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story by Charles McKinney

If faith and spirituality is a primary aspect of your life, then know that there are always places where you can meet others who share your same spiritual background and interests. The Internet is a great place to search for houses of worship, particularly social media sites. Once you come across places that may strike your fancy, take that leap of faith and be proactive in visiting your destinations. You never know what you may discover and how it will facilitate your success as a foreigner living, studying or working away from home. Never underestimate the power of developing a healthy spiritual and social life. Here’s my story of finding a place to worship in Thailand. 

As a disciple of the Christian faith, “church boy,” and overall spiritual person, it was important for me to find a church when I moved to Thailand for my graduate study program. Since I had planned to be in the country for at least a year, locating a place of worship where I could nourish my spirit and kindling new friendships that would keep me socially active had a top spot on my to-do list of settling in my new milieu. I visited a few churches within my first month in Bangkok: an Episcopalian one with a British pastor and then a non-denominational one with an American pastor who also did missionary work.

However, I did not feel that these churches suited me. So I kept researching online (thank God for Google SEO), and I wrote down some other churches that I wanted to visit. The International Church of Bangkok (ICB) had an appealing website and seemed to have much going on within its doors. Unfortunately, the months skedaddled and life became busier for me as a full-time grad student and part-time English instructor so I postponed or rather procrastinated on the “priority” of searching for a church home. Then one day a friend of mine (from my university) invited me to church with him. Guess what church it was? ICB. 

Perhaps it was divine intervention leading me to the place that I had intended on checking out some months earlier but never did. We attended the one-hour evening service that possessed a large young adult crowd, many of whom are single, and my friend introduced me to the pastor who was friendly and down-to-earth. He asked for my e-mail address and encouraged me to come back. From that day onward I have returned to ICB with expectancy yet never knowing who I may greet the following Sunday. The English language church truly represents its name with members and visitors the world over taking part in fellowship every week, not only on Sundays but also on weekdays for the routine Bible study classes conducted at the pastors’ homes. 

After attending the church for several weeks, the pastor invited me to join him for coffee one weekend so we could become better acquainted. I enjoyed my time getting to know him over cold beverages (neither of us care for coffee) at Au Bon Pain café one Sunday afternoon prior to worship service. This moment displayed his genuine personality; I felt like a welcomed member of the ICB village. Being connected on social networks like facebook enabled me to keep abreast on church-related news and upcoming events in which I was invited to participate. One example was the volunteer trip in which chaperones were needed to accompany Thai children on a museum field trip. Volunteerism is a phenomenal way to pay it forward in the local community when living abroad because it shows people what real global citizenship is all about.

Once summer arrived and the kids had a lengthy break, the assistant pastor asked me if I wanted to help out at the summer youth camp/vacation Bible school. With no special plans for the summer break and a chance to work with the youth, I decided to be a volunteer at the annual camp. My main role was to create a service activity for the youngsters to complete so I had them write pen pal letters for their fellow Christian siblings throughout the world. We all had a blast. Those were some of the best three days of my sojourn in Thailand. Being involved in the youth camp made my summer spectacular to say the least, and now that I teach the youth Sunday school class every month, I feel like I am really exercising my vocation because I get much joy from interacting with children and teens. 

September 15, 2013 marked the day that I officially became a member of ICB. Pastor called our names at the end of service and we each went up to receive a floral gift and an envelope with information about the church. It was a proud moment for me because this was the first time that I’ve been actively involved in a church since living overseas (which has totaled three years now). Every week I look forward to the worship service and fellowship afterwards. I never know whose path I will cross; maybe someone from New Zealand or Indonesia or Japan or Pakistan or Iraq or Jamaica or China. Therefore, I harbor a wholesome dose of suspense as I make my way to the Christian guesthouse where I assemble with like-minded folks who are diverse in many ways but equally united by our faith.
Charles McKinney

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Charles McKinney has been studying in Bangkok for 1 year. He attends Webster University Thailand as a media communications major. Planning to graduate next spring with his MA, he intends on continuing his education at the PhD level. When he's not immersed in academic life, Charles likes to travel, to write, and to ignite friendships. More of his work can be viewed via LinkedIn: http://th.linkedin.com/pub/charles-mckinney/32/5a6/582/.

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