Recent visitors to Poynton Christian Fellowship were Brian Burton and his wife Margaret. This special couple are missionaries on the island of Phuket in Southern Thailand and they came to share how their lives and ministry were totally changed following the tsunami in December 2004.
Brian has ministered in Thailand for a number of years, but recently he has made some interesting discoveries recently regarding his name and its link to the work he has made his life.. He discovered that an old Celtic meaning for Brian was hill or mountain. The Thai for mountain is Phuket, the island where Brian is based! Brian was born on 10 December and this date is also Thai National Constitution Day. Brian has been working most recently with the Morgan people who are sea gypsies in Thailand. His mother's name was Morgan. All this has cemented Brian's absolute conviction that God has a plan and purpose for his life!
At the start of 2004 Brian felt God was giving him a fresh vision for the church, Phuket Christian Centre. "You are going to be a Church to the Nations." He felt he should tell the church what he had heard but waited as he sensed it was too big for the church to handle. However, whilst at a conference in Singapore, and reflecting on what God had said, he suddenly heard the speaker say "There's someone here today and God has said to you that he's going to make your church a church to the nations."
With the confirmation he needed, he shared the vision with the church. The majority went with it and by the end of 2004 with 120 people, and were the second largest church in South Thailand. The people were all of one accord and on 26 December, for the first time ever, every member was in church as the tsunami struck. All were saved. Since then, out of this disaster has come something truly amazing. On Christmas Day they had hoped to add 5 to 6 people to the congregation. Within a short period of time they find themselves planting 4 new churches!
Two years prior to that date the church wouldn't have been ready for what was to come. But the people were envisioned and ready. Things started to change
Now they are rebuilding the primary school in a Muslim town. The Buddhist mayor of a local area invited them to plant a church in his area so that they could rehabilitate 74 children. He said, "We want the church to come in because they get things done. These children and their families are the core of the new church.
6 days after the tsunami struck was National Children's Day. 347 children whose school had been destroyed were going to gather together. The church felt led to buy them all presents and feed them hamburgers. As Thai children usually arrive with a friend, 700 presents were bought and 700 hamburgers. When the day arrived, 1000 children arrived and the church knew that there wouldn't be enough to go round. Recalling the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the team prayed for a miracle and as they distributed the toys, the bags simply didn't empty. Some children even asked for 2 toys so that a brother or sister at home could have one. Still there was enough to go round and 200 toys were left over after the distribution! What happened with these 200 toys marked another significant event that opened doors for the team.
They took the remaining toys to a refugee camp and gave them out. During the distribution they met a lady doctor who was also Miss Thailand and who introduced them to the King of Thailand. This led to the church being awarded a school-rebuilding project that several multinational companies had also wanted. However the King awarded the contract to Phuket Christian Centre. He then gave them the services of the Royal Thai Army as builders!
10 weeks after the disaster, they were able to give the King £250,000 towards the school building programme, money that was raised by In Care the AOG's aid agency.
In March of this year Brian's church was full of UK police forensic scientists who have a 3 year task ahead of them identifying the many thousands of bodies.
The church is planning to buy 2 new churches and the Sussex police force has offered to buy one of them! To help raise the funds they are completing a 6-day, 300 mile sponsored bike run.
The church went to visit a group of sea gypsies who had lost their homes, their boats and their livelihood when the wave struck. Amazed by the love shown to them by Phuket Christian Centre, the whole village turned to Christ. Their new found faith is simple but unshakeable and because they have nothing they are completely dependent upon God for everything. There is little wood left in Southern Thailand and these people needed wood to repair their boats. So they prayed and int he morning, there were piles of wood lying all around their encampment - the provision of God once again!
The church has now received permission to build a complete village for this group and a Home Counties County Council is providing engineers and architects free of charge! Three weeks ago, the gypsies returned to their own area and are totally trusting God for everything.
Two Swedish families were saved by the Christian Centre and the 14-year-old daughter of one family has written a book call "Don't Thank Me, Thank My Boss" (the last words Brian said to her when they departed. This book has now become a best selling book in Sweden.
The church surely has touched lives both nationally and internationally. Raising medical teams from Singapore, Malaysia and Britain, planting new churches, they see the vision that God gave Brian gradually coming to pass!