Five questions with Thailand team members Preston and Kristin Coursey
Preston and Kristin Coursey and son Killian serve with CMF’s urban poor team in Chiang Mai, Thailand, reaching out to the poorest of the poor in juvenile detention centers and under-resourced villages in the hill country of Thailand. They were in our Indianapolis office recently and answered five questions about their lives and unique ministries.
Both of you grew up in Christian families. How did your childhood experiences impact your decision to serve cross-culturally?
Kristin: I grew up in Kenya as the daughter of CMF missionaries (Greg and Becky Johnson), and saw everywhere around me the great need for Christ as the long-term solution to life’s problems. For example, I work with women incarcerated for trafficking. Laws and structures help with that problem, but only to a point. The real solution is changed hearts.
Preston: I grew up in the church in Atlanta and was baptized when I was young. But after a situation with a bully at school my relationship with Christ grew much deeper and I connected with our church youth group. That’s what ultimately led me to be serious about God.
How did the two of you meet?
Preston: I went to college at Georgia Southern University and met Kristin, who graduated from Milligan College, when we were both serving as short-term missionaries with Globalscope in Bangkok, Thailand. When we got back to the U.S., she enrolled at Georgia Southern to do her master’s degree. We started dating and got married two years later.
Even though you serve on the field together, you each have specific ministries that you do on your own. Tell us about those.
Kristin: I work with young women in a juvenile detention center. Most of them are there for trafficking, either people or drugs. I teach English and Bible studies, but my main purpose is serving as a mentor for the girls. We try to create a compassionate environment with stable adult role models for the girls. They need someone to listen and care.
Most of these girls come from the surrounding villages and are pushed into trafficking by their families to add to the household income. This is pretty common among the poor.
Preston: My two main ministry focuses are a Disciple Making Movement study group with five men in Chiang Mai and a community development program in the village of Chiang Dao, which I run with two of my national partners, Montree and New.
The development program is a farming micro-enterprise that I raise funds to finance. A lot of this centers on teaching them how to keep track of their expenses and budget their profits. This is a new concept for them; when they have money, they spend it, and don’t think about saving any to start their next crop. To them, budgeting is “foreign technology!” I’ve been using Proverbs to teach them wisdom, and I especially like to emphasize Proverbs 13:11, which is about the importance of managing and being disciplined with money. I tell them, “This can change your life!”
What does a typical week look like for you in Chiang Mai?
Preston: Mondays are my office day for preparing lessons and spending time in prayer. On Tuesdays I drive to the village, which is more than two hours away. This gives me time to do discipleship and planning with Montree and New in the car. Wednesdays are usually for paperwork and errands. We have a lot of work to keep up with for our visas and work permits. On Thursdays I have my DMM study with the guys, four Thai and one American. In the afternoon we go over and teach English in a local elementary school and hold an after-school Bible club for the kids. On Fridays we have our CMF team meetings or meetings with other partners and missionaries. And Saturdays and Sundays are for family and church.
Kristin: Right now, much of my time is devoted to taking care of our three-year-old son Killian. On Tuesdays I teach at the juvenile center and Thursday is my office day to deal with paperwork, finances, and communications with our partners – all the things that go along with being a missionary!
What are your plans for your next term of ministry?
Kristin: I’m expecting our second child, so we’ll return to Thailand with a newborn. So at least for the first year I’ll be focusing on being a mom of two kids.
Preston: I’ll continue working in Chiang Dao but hope to transition some of my work there to community health. I’ll encourage the villagers to think about how they can help their community. If they come together and find ways to get sustainable income, then they can address the problems of poverty that lead to human and drug trafficking.