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Three Evangel students help launch English center in Thailand

September 16, 2012 | Ian Richardson

Sometimes opportunities come at us quickly, and other times they seem a long time in the making. Depending on which team member you ask, the service trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand that three Evangel students took in June and July of 2012 was a little bit of both.

The trip had its origins in 2010 when Evangel student Brandon Cadwell, now a senior, felt God calling him to go to Thailand. However, because of the demands of his job, he did not have the time to invest in such a trip. It was not until November of 2011, when his employment situation changed, that the opportunity Brandon was waiting for arose. His schedule had opened up, and, after months of waiting, he was now prepared to fulfill the call.

For assistance, Brandon approached Dr. Gary Martindale, associate professor Biblical Studies, who has been in charge of sending Evangel students to Southeast Asia since 2001. Martindale agreed to help make arrangements for the trip.

“He told me to see if I could put together a team,” says Brandon. “So, I went door-to-door on my floor during a Saturday morning and asked each guy what they were doing during for summer and if they would be interested in going.”

After some consideration, two of Brandon’s floormates, Andrew Henderson and Joseph Saucedo, both now sophomores, decided they wanted to go.

Evangel students in Thailand

Evangel University students (from left) Andrew Henderson, Joseph Saucedo and Brandon Cadwell spent two months in Thailand this summer.

“My suitemate, Brandon Cadwell, knocked on my door at 9 a.m., and asked if I wanted to go to Thailand for the summer,” says Joseph. “After a lot of prayer, I felt God confirmed my decision to go.”

Dr. Martindale conducted interviews with the team, and then, with their sights set on the summer of 2012, the trio began raising funds and learning about the language and culture of Thailand. Their work would primarily include teaching English to Thai youth, which is a service that Dr. Martindale says fulfills a practical need while building relationships and opening the door to share the gospel.

“In these cultures knowing English is a way to elevate one’s social and economic status. So people there want to learn English,” he says. “In a friendship and learning context, then, our Evangel students serve as a bridge between their Thai friends and the gospel.” 

Once in Thailand, the three worked extensively with Lauren Becker, a 2007 Evangel graduate and first-term U.S. missionary. Together they helped Liberty Church in Chiang Mai launch a new English learning center. The team also went into a local elementary school to teach. Along with doing service work, the team had the chance to do some sightseeing. They hiked through the Thai rainforest and up Doi Pui, one of the mountains in the area.

Immersed in such a different culture, Brandon found the Thai people to be quite inviting and considerate. “Working with the Thai people was incredibly humbling,” he says. “They are so nice and polite. When you enter their space, they, without asking, bring you water and sometimes food. They are very curious and intelligent people.”

The team also found that the Thai Christians possess a strong zeal for God, a zeal that transcends linguistic and national boundaries. “Getting to worship alongside believers in another language is one of the most powerful experiences one could ever imagine,” says Joseph.

Brandon agrees. “The people were absolutely on fire for Christ with no concern for how they were being perceived during worship,” he says. “It was incredibly powerful and moving.”

The team also had the chance to meet a fellow service team, one that was sent to Thailand by the Alliance for Assemblies of God Higher Education. The team was composed of four girls, two of whom were from Evangel. Though the two teams only worked together in a limited capacity, they stayed in the same hotel and were able to build some strong relationships with each other.

One of the team’s most memorable moments came on the final day at the elementary school. The entire school came to attend a ceremony in recognition of the team members. “They read a letter from one of the students asking us not to leave and saying that we were their favorite teachers because we made learning fun,” says Brandon. “We had about 75 small Thai children rush us for hugs, high-fives and hand-shakes. Let me tell you, there are few more precious things than Thai children hugging you en mass.”

Overall, not only did the team help get the English center off the ground, but they were able to build quality relationships with both the Thai people and each other. “I feel the trip was a success in that we all grew closer as friends and grew closer to Christ,” says Joseph. “I would describe my overall experience in Thailand as simply amazing. The missionaries were so great and the people are just amazing. I had an extremely great time while there, experiencing a new country and meeting new people. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything on this earth.”   

—Ian Richardson, sophomore English major at Evangel University (Photos submitted by Brandon Cadwell)

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