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Local missionaries trek to Thailand

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From Feb. 1 to Feb. 16, Witness and Work missionaries from the Lower Yakima Valley traveled to Mae Tang, Thailand to help build the shell of a house for a children's home director that has spent the past five years living in a garage. Pictured in front of the home are (front row, L-R) Travis Kovacevich, Lynette Shepherd, Katie Herndon, Martin Forschimer and Ruben Carrera; (back two rows, L-R) Norma Sonnichsen, Ben Sonnichsen, Jan Grimmius, Mary Brawdy, Dave Brawdy, Rick Herndon, Shawn Wilkerson, Steve Hiatt, Curt Mehrer, Carrie Fiedler, Al Fiedler and Carel Hiatt.

GRANDVIEW - A group of 17 missionaries trekked to Thailand in early February with one goal in mind: build a house for a director of a children's home. And, as is the case with all missions, of course more came out of it.

The group was comprised of several Grandview Church of the Nazarene members and two area doctors, including Grandview physician and Prosser resident Dr. Al Fiedler.

The group spent a considerable amount of time working on the house in Mae Tang, Thailand, where Fiedler says the director had spent the past five years living in a garage. The foundation had been poured, and while the men put the walls up and laid mortar, the women painted metal struts for the roof. The team also dug two septic holes in the ground behind the home before completing their work.

Fiedler said the mission was a Witness and Work mission, with 75 percent of the time spent witnessing to others about Jesus Christ.

While there, the group experienced several different things, including a call for help from another children's home in nearby Prao Valley. The mission had run out of food.

"While we were there, the missionary got a call because this home had run out of food. I thought maybe the Lord had us come here at this time, at this place (to experience this), so the whole team went and visited," says Fiedler. "When we got there, there were about 50 kids there, all barefoot," he said, adding that the children then performed for the whole team.

At that point, Fiedler asked the director of that home how much it would cost to feed the children for a month. The answer was more than $200. Prosser physician and missionary Dr. Ben Sonnichsen then took of his hat, says Fiedler, and out of the pocket change of the missionaries came enough money to feed the young children for two weeks. Fiedler than promised the director that when he got home, he'd send money monthly to feed the kids for six months.

What Fiedler really would like to see in the Prao Valley is the building of a church. "There's people and there's a pastor. All they need is a building," says Fiedler. "Whoever has the wisdom to build a church there will build a church there."

Fiedler said one of the reasons there are so many homes for children is because the Thai government doesn't provide schools for children that live in tribes up in the hills. Some are orphans as well.

One aspect of the trip he found particularly moving was crossing the border into Burma, where Americans are, at best, barely welcome. "They kept our passports at the border to make sure we'd leave," says Fiedler.

While there, they visited a boys and girls home called Heavenly Grace and one 10-year-old boy struck Fiedler's heart. "He said the reason he was there is because the rockets came in and his parents went (at this point, the child demonstrated his parents being blown up, complete with sound effects)," recalls Fiedler.

The children at Heavenly Grace sang "Jesus Loves Me," for the missionaries, which pleased Fiedler because it demonstrates a foundation for Christian learning later in life.

Another highlight of the trip was teaching kids in Mae Tang simple games, like kickball. "That was one of the most exciting things to me. They were so excited and caught on so fast," he said. In fact, very early on the girls formed their own team against the boys, which the missionaries hadn't intended.

Included in the trip was a tour of the children's dormitories. "Man, it was primitive," he says.

Another experience that stood out was trekking up into the hills to visit a Lahu tribe. "We went up to the top of this hill, and you go up there and right there is this Nazarene Church. When it was first built, first a few people came, then more, then more, and now everybody in the village comes." The church, he said, is called "Casheh."

The missionaries stayed for church services. Following that, Thai missionary Sam Yangmi asked for prayer for his wife, Lumae, who wasn't feeling well. The group gathered in a prayer circle, and pretty soon, others began to raise their hands, asking for prayer from the American team.

Fiedler's uncertain as to when he'll go for his next mission trip, which will be his seventh. He's considering delivering rice in Cambodia.

Fiedler said that in order to go on a mission trip through the Church of the Nazarene, membership to that church isn't necessary. In fact, he adds, one doesn't even have to be a Christian. The goal, he said, is that hopefully, when people travel and work on the missions, it will spurn a way of life through Jesus Christ.

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