Andrew and Lesley Dornan
The walled city of Chiang Mai is in the northern part of the Kingdom, 400 miles north of Bangkok, it’s known as the ‘rose of the north.’ Andrew and Lesley Dornan – along with their two sons Matty and Josh made it their home in 2008.
Andrew and Lesley met in Belgium while working with Operation Mobilisation. They also caught a heart for community development while working in the Oasis Centre in Inner East Belfast and wanted to demonstrate God’s love in a practical way by taking the skills they had learnt out into the world.
With Chiang Mai as their base, they work in the Access Restricted nations of Asia (ARNA) partnering with a mission that works in a range of countries, particularly with church communities who suffer from human rights abuses due to their faith.
What’s it all about?
To get a better idea of what Andrew and Lesley do day-to-day and what their mission entails, we asked them about their life in Thailand and here’s what they told us.
What is the principle purpose of your mission?
Through church empowerment programmes, national prayer movements, Bible delivery and development work we aim to build up and support church communities who suffer from Human Rights abuses due to their faith.
What does your mission involve?
The principal purpose of our work is to offer an holistic approach to community development by incorporating the physical, emotional, economic and spiritual aspects of health and well being into all our work and training.
We seek to empower and support the church in ARNA, encouraging church communities through community development, medical interventions, teaching, training and practical support. We do this through local networks and have a local team in each country we work in.
We are currently looking at setting up two development centres in Thailand. These will have a similar heart and ethos to Oasis, which is to show God’s love in a practical way. We want to transfer the skills and resources we have in Northern Ireland to a south east Asian context to bring transformation to local communities, many of which live with a level of poverty that is very hard to imagine in our world today.
The centres will offer training in holistic health and development and projects to reach the most vulnerable. We will bring church leaders from other areas and offer training to help them find ways to improve and transform their own community.
Another key element of our work is preparing, planning and supporting short-term mission teams and people coming south east Asia from CFC in partnership with our mission partners.
What is a typical day like?
We are involved in a range of things in our city and beyond, so every day is different and may involve training, team building, mentoring, working with children, developing partnerships and helping the kids with homework or learning Thai.
It may also include activities at Vineyard Community Chiang Mai, which is our local church, or supporting activities at the Chiang Mai House of Prayer, working with parents to be or new parents and babies, outreach and evangelism. We also travel to other countries, involved with medical clinics, meet other missionaries, work with visiting teams and prepare for team visits. We relax too, listen to pod casts from home, read and entertain, develop networks of like minded people and dream - to name a few.
One of the challenges of life on mission, and indeed in Asia, is that what we plan to do doesn’t often work out. The answer? We have learnt to be flexible and adaptable in a constantly shifting environment.
What were your expectations when you started?
We actually tried very hard not to have expectations. This is our third time living in a foreign culture so we had a better idea of what to expect and how things would go. Instead of having expectations we chose to be expectant - expecting that God would show up and lead, guide, support and comfort us in the early stages of our move here.
We recognized that despite all the training and preparation we had done, the first few years were going to be a huge learning curve and we needed to be flexible and open to whatever came our way, and we were right!
One of the funniest moments was meeting a motorbike on one side of the road and an elephant on the other, both coming the wrong way down a slip road off the dual carriageway! Nothing prepares you for moments like that.
What is it you hope to achieve?
We hope to support the church in ARNA, and transfer and multiply the skills we have learnt, individually and as a church, to empower the churches and communities we work with.
Initially this will be through setting up community centres, similarly in heart and vision to Oasis, which will be a model, which we can duplicate and then multiply in other areas and regions.
Are there any moments that you would like to share to encourage people back home and those considering mission?
One of the highlights for Lesley was taking the first CFC medical team into Cambodia and seeing the impact and love they gave to the Cambodian church.
Not long ago we were evaluating some training we had done with a Chiang Mai group over the last year and a half and the leader told us; “If you hadn’t have come and trained us I would not be here. I was ready to give up. The training you offered the team has changed us, how we relate to each other and our local community, and you cannot begin to imagine how much.”
We felt somewhat humbled by his comments and realised it was by being obedient to God, sharing the things he put on our hearts and the team being willing to respond to that which achieved this transformation. So now, we become part of their story in what God has done.
Do you have any advice for those considering mission?
Never under-estimate the value of the preparation and time that it may take before you get to the mission field. Without the preparation and healing we received in the years prior to going, we would never be able to do what God has for us now. His timing really is perfect, there are as many hurting and difficult people, and situations on the mission field as there are at home. Take the time to become one of the healers, not the hurting on the field, and trust God that he knows what he is doing.
On a practical level, try the following in preparation for going:
- Take part in a short-term mission trip
- Support existing missionaries through prayer, giving, visiting and writing
- Serve in your local church – be an active part of a local church community
- Be involved in prayer for work overseas
- Get all the healing you can, especially in terms of past hurts; these are often the things that incapacitate those who come on mission
- Ask God to put specific people groups and or countries on your heart
- Be intentional about jobs, training and development what will give you skills to work overseas.
Anything that we can do to help?
You can partner with us in a variety of ways through pray, signing up for our newsletter, supporting us through giving and fundraising so please ask for our partnership form if you would like to do this. You could join a short-term mission team. CFC has many opportunities for mission throughout the year. If you are a leader and have been on a mission trip before you could organise one to us. We can help with logistics at this end.
At the end of the day, we would not be here without the people who support us and we would love to partner with you, so why not get in touch? For more information, download our latest newsletter.
Two things that you miss?
Oh let me think, Chocolate, and…. Chocolate! Oh because I can’t count, the third one, the soft Irish rain.
Is there a particular verse that has inspired or encouraged you in our journey?
A number of years ago God spoke to us Isaiah 6, which say ‘“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"’
These verses, and ones like them, were the start of our missionary journey and are a reminder that God has planned and guided every step of the way. We realised that God takes ordinary people like us, who are simply willing to say ‘yes’ to him and does extraordinary things with our lives.
Short Term Mission Opportunities
- June 2013 - Catalyst Team (young Adults) - Zimbabwe
- February 2014 - Medical Team to Cambodia
We are taking a Catalyst team to Zimbabwe in June 2013 to work with Alan and Dorothy Graham (below) and their charity, Zimbabwe Orphan Care (ZOC) which helps orphaned children and abandoned babies in the Harare area.
As part of the "Rebuilders" community development programme in Cambodia we are planning a medical trip to Siem Reap in Northern Cambodia in February/March 2014.