Thailand Copy

ประเทศไทย

The Thai smile
Thailand is a wonderful country. It is one of the most famous holiday destinations in the world. Thai food is delicious, the nature is stunning, and the people are friendly. The Thai are known for their smile. You might easily know someone who has been there – or you have even been there yourself. Over the past decades Thailand has been visited by millions of tourists every year, many of them Christians.

Thailand is easily accessible – at the same time very unreached with the good news of Jesus Christ. In Thailand there are 84,929 villages. Out of those 80,447 (95%) do not have a consistent Christian witness.

In this context, OMF Thailand exists so that every Thai person should have the chance to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Tons of Opportunities
At the same time the Lord has been at work here steadily and over the past 60 years the number of Christians in Thailand has doubled about every 15 years. The Lord is at work!

Do you have a heart to share Christ but don’t quite know whether you would fit?

There is virtually no talent, educational background, interest, passion which could not be used to reach out to Thai people! Whether you are a passionate story teller or a quiet, deep thinker, whether you are the person deeply caring for the plight of the marginalized or an engaging sport enthusiast, whether you are a tech nerd familiar with the latest trend or a steady, no-nonsense admin person… No limits to what the Lord can use to reach out to the Thai! But are you ready to serve in Thailand?
Easily accessible – but very unreached
Thailand is often overlooked because it is so accessible. How could a place be unreached when millions of people travel there every year? Less than 0.8% of the population are Protestant Christians. Among the majority of the population, the 63 million Thai Buddhists, this percentage goes down to 0.5%. You will be challenged to find another people group of such a size with so few Christians.

Another reason that Thailand is often overlooked as a important mission field is because many believe these friendly people are hard to reach with the gospel. Thailand has not (yet) seen the large-scale turning to Christ some other countries have seen. It does take perseverance and diligence to get to a point of being able to meaningfully share Christ with Thai people.
Are you ready to serve in Thailand?
Whatever your background, education, age, etc, is not so important.
But what you need is:

A simple Jesus-joy and deep conviction: there is nothing better than knowing Jesus Christ and nothing more important than following Him.

A solid identity in Christ, with no need to prove to yourself and others how great a Christian you are. We are here to serve, not to build our ego! You don’t need to be great. Remember the jars of clay? (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) That's what we need to be, which leads to the next point...
Are you ready to serve in Thailand? (cont.)
The humility to learn, grow, adapt and be flexible. The star doing something in Thailand is neither you nor me but the Lord! Be ready to be surprised!

Perseverance and discipline – which in the crucible of cross-cultural ministry are often more significant than special talents, or knowledge, or experience.

A willingness to lay down your life in service for the Lord. This means investing a significant part of your life to reach the Thai. Cross-cultural ministry to reach an unreached people group is not done in a brief stint or neatly manageable project. “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies…” Jesus once told us (John 12:24).
Simple logic: Get help to the most needy
When there is a famine we try to get food to where people die of hunger - we don’t ship it to a place where people have plenty to spare. When there is an epidemic spreading in a country we try to get medication to those in dire need of it – we don’t hoard it in a city where no one is affected. That is simple logic, right?

But that logic often evades us when looking at the spiritual need in this world. The Lord Jesus gave His Church the mandate to bring the great message of His grace and mercy to all the peoples on this planet! Whether we fully understand the ins and outs, the why and how, does not matter that much. We are under order. It wasn’t just a suggestion. As we obey, the Lord is leading.
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Who we are

What we aim to see happen: Our Vision

We all have a picture what a ‘church’ is. In a cross-cultural context it is important to have clarity what exactly we try to see established. What we aim to see happen we have outlined as:

Our vision is to see a movement of indigenous, biblical churches reproducing among their own people in Thailand and reaching out in mission to other peoples.

 

What we exist for: Our Mission

Our mission is to glorify God by the urgent evangelization of Thailand.

We do all it takes to communicate the life-changing message of Jesus Christ to Thai people, make disciples, and see these new Jesus-followers gathered into communities of believers wherever they live. Some would call that Disciple Making Movement (DMM). Some would call it ‘Church Planting Movement’ (CPM). 

Movement
Our vision is not simply to see one group of believers established here or there. We want to see these new churches network and spread in a movement across the nation of Thailand! Churches in that movement are indigenous, are truly Thai, not just some foreign import. Thus we are to work in a way appropriate for the Thai context. But to be biblical is equally (or more) important in such a movement. At times that can be in tension with being culturally appropriate. And then that important factor of reproducing: in all we do we need a 2 Timothy 2:2 mindset: not just doing things ourselves, but always building up others, carefully assessing what is really reproducible in the local context.
Church planting and Discipling
Every Thai person has to have the chance to hear and experience the Good News of Jesus. And every Thai person has to have the chance to become part of a local fellowship of believers, be integrated into the Body of Christ, the Church. That is what we broadly call 'church planting'.

Towards that end we engage in a broad range of ministries depending on a person’s gifting, interest, experience, language ability, and also depending on the need in a given context. We work closely with the Thai Church and at the same time have a clear focus according to our vision.
Years and Years of Service
OMF has been working in Thailand since 1951. Over the course of that time we have had the privilege to serve in a wide variety of areas and ministries. For many decades a significant part of OMF Thailand ministry has been to provide medical care for leprosy patients while at the same time proclaiming the gospel. Many churches and a number of different organizations have grown out of these efforts.
Partnering with ministries
Some organizations that we helped start are now independent such as the Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand (EFT), Associated Churches in Thailand (ACT), Bangkok Bible Seminary (BBS), Phayao Bible Seminary (PBS), Ban Nok Kamin children homes, Manorom Christian Center, Thai Christian Students (TCS), the Christian Learning Foundation (CLF), Chiang Mai Theological Seminary (CTS) and Kanok Bannasan Publishing House. But we continue to work hand in hand with (and under) our Thai brothers and sisters in a number of these ministries.
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What makes us tick: Our Values

Dependency on God

We depend on God to speak to us through His Word, and that He listens to us when we pray to Him. We seek to encourage our members in God’s Word and prayer through our regular meetings and our fellowship. We depend on Him to give us fruit in our ministry in seeing Thai people won for Christ. We depend on Him for our daily needs and income. Our financial system strives to strike a balance between our individual trust in God’s provision and our corporate responsibility to share with one another.

Strong identification with the National Culture

We strive to identify as much as possible with the Thai culture by becoming proficient in the language, using appropriate Thai mannerisms, dress codes and body language, as well as living at a standard which will enable us to minister effectively to the Thai around us. While being culturally knowledgeable, we may at times choose to be counter-cultural in order to reflect Kingdom values.

Focus on Church Planting and Evangelism

We maximize our effectiveness by striving towards our vision of reaching Thai people for Christ and seeing a movement of biblical, indigenous churches that will then reproduce and reach out to others. As a result we seek to have the majority of our members working in church planting or in ministries that enhance and empower that vision.

Reproducible Models of Ministry

We seek to use methods and means that can be reproduced by and taught to the Thai Church wherever possible. With Thai Christians we do evangelism and church planting that they can continue when we leave. We therefore think carefully about issues that affect the continuation of the ministries that we start such as which methods we use, how much money we use, how we will train others to continue what we have started and the standard of living that we adopt as Christian workers.

Member Care and Development

We want all our members to be effective in ministry and healthy in all areas of life. Member care and development consists of God’s care of us, appropriate self-care, mutual support through “one-anothering” and organizational care and development structures.

OMF Thailand seeks to provide appropriate support, care and development to our members through people, places, programmes and procedures.

Ministries: What we do

Missions means to provide drinking water in slums, rescue victims of sex trafficking, develop better income for poor farmers, help prostitutes to leave that trade, fight corruption, care for the HIV positive, provide justice for marginalized and education for the
underprivileged.

Yes. But that is only one side of the coin…  

To just focus on these things would not be holistic. If there ever was a person with a truly  holistic ministry focus, then it must arguably have been Jesus Christ himself. As he did we also must see the physical needs and address these as we go – but at the same time have that fundamental perspective which Jesus put into this question: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” All the plights outlined just above are not the worst thing that can happen to a human being! Thus, holistic ministry or integral mission always has to include and even build on that message that Jesus came “to seek and to save the lost”.

As a consequence of that OMF Thailand does not aim to champion in addressing this or that social issue or felt need and build it into a specific stand-alone ministry. What we aim at is addressing these issues as we go along, as we share the message of Jesus, in the context of sharing the Gospel, caring for the soul. So, one team might be involved in giving shelter to a person coming out of prostitution or help a poor farmers develop organic fertilizer. Another team might come across different issues and thus provide basic care for shunned HIV patients or help neglected kids with a homework club.

We do these things to display the love of Christ and in response for his love for us. We don’t do it on the erroneous assumption that first we need to do some ‘useful things’ before we can even mention the message of Jesus. The good news of Jesus Christ is still the best thing we can ever bring to any person, truly caring for their eternal soul. The word of God does have the power to change lives! At the same time, we do care for their physical, present needs as well. That is holistic ministry or integral missions.

The core of our ministries, what all sort of projects or initiatives fundamentally aim at is Evangelism, Disciple making, and Church planting. That can happen in verbal communication of the Gospel in personal contact or events, by visiting and praying for people, teaching the Bible in small groups, foster people to grow in their faith and continue share the Gospel. But Soccer ministry plays into that as well and so does crisis pregnancy counselling. Mind you, all the ministries and projects we do aim fundamentally at the same: people experience the love of Christ, receive truly holistic help, their life is turned upside down and they become part of a life-transforming community of Jesus-followers.

That core ‘church planting ministry’ is still very much needed. 95% of the communities/villages in Thailand do not have a consistent, Christian witness! Among the majority of the population, the 63 million Thai Buddhists, not even 0.5% know Jesus! In many cases Thai Christians take the lead. Yet we believe that we continue to be called to grassroots involvement in ministry. Firstly, because there are so many unreached areas in Thailand that pioneer work is still very much needed. And secondly, we can only equip and train Thai Christians if we have relevant experience ourselves. That is significant, as we do not just evangelize and plant churches, we also equip and train Thai Christians to do so. We seek to do ministry that it is sustainable (not dependent on outside help) and reproducible (multiplication is possible).

Leadership training at all levels is of utmost importance! This goes from modeling personal evangelism or leading a Sunday school group to teaching seminary students. The Church will only multiply to the degree that leadership is multiplied. A number of our members are involved in leadership training from informal to non-formal to formal training settings. As with other ministries: we aim at not just train leaders but do so in ways and with the resources which are reproducible – thus enabling these leaders to then train other as well.

So, church planting, huh? What exactly does that mean? What we practically do towards that can vary greatly. From help fixing the toilet of a poor granny out in the rice paddies to teaching theology to masters’ students in bustling Bangkok. From patiently explaining the reality of a Creator God to a shop owner to running an evangelistic Facebook campaign. From teaching the Bible in a cell-group to helping girls with unwanted pregnancies. From prayer walking to soccer coaching to lay-leadership training to microfinancing fishpond to distribute tracts in the market to teaching English to maintaining website posting to… you get the point. It depends on the situation of the person we meet. It depends on the abilities I have. All with one goal: people experience the love of Christ, receive truly holistic help, their life is turned upside down and they become part of a life-transforming community of Jesus-followers. Again: That’s basically what we call church planting.

Even though there are churches in all major districts of Bangkok, thousands of communities remain untouched by the gospel due to social barriers. The urban poor ministry team (RakChumchon) is reaching out to these marginalized people. A team member shares: “We build relationships with neighbors and work together with the community leaders for the common good of the people. The problems of the poor in Bangkok are very complex. They have enough to eat, clothes to wear and also mobile phones. But their life style is very unhealthy. Living among them gives us good opportunities to love and help them in a natural and personal way. We are looking for opportunities to start cell groups or churches. When Jesus reveals himself to us and we follow him, a holistic transformation to the community can happen in a sustainable way. Most of our neighbors are Buddhist. They have not rejected Jesus, but have never been exposed to the Gospel in a way that gave them a chance to understand it. They need a Christian neighbor they can get to know, observe and whom God can use to touch them.

Churches need to be planted across Thailand but leaders also need to be firmly established in the Word of God. Therefore, Bible schools and seminaries can play an important role in providing biblically grounded pastors and elders to the Thai churches, whether they serve full-time or are bi-vocational. We had an important part in starting three theological education institutions in Thailand, and continue to place staff there who can contribute to the spiritual and theological development of the students.

Sports ministry is an excellent way of connecting with and serving a community. ‘Sattha Sports Ministry’ seeks to provide the local church with a tool to reach families and their communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating an environment for relationship through the common ground of sports. While currently we use soccer (football) as the primary tool, we hope in the future to develop more ministry opportunities using various kinds of sports

There are about 2.2 million Thai students in higher education sector. Ministry opportunities are immense. Presently, OMF has student ministry in the university town of Mahasarakham (North-East Thailand) and in Bangkok is working with TCS (Thai Christian Students). Their main focus is on campus ministry but are also involved in high school ministry and graduate ministry.

Thais rank very high in internet and social media usage. There are incredible opportunities with digital media. This is a newer ministry we hope to expand significantly. The Facebook page ‘Phrakhampee’ (meaning: Bible). Is one of the biggest Christian Facebook sites in Thailand. The Learnnn Platform provides a space for interested people to work through basic courses with a coach. The Bible Project in Thai provides concise summaries of Bible books for Christians and Non-Christians alike.

While a number of our workers to visitation ministry in prisons as the opportunity or need arises there is a specific Prison Ministry Team operating in Lopburi. They aim to see prisoners come to faith in God through Jesus Christ while in prison and to continue to follow the teaching of Jesus Christ after being released. The team help former prisoners rebuild their lives, physically, emotionally and spiritually, in order that they may return to stable lives in society.

Adventure Camps are run by OMF church planters based in Nakhon Si Thammarat, South Thailand. The camps started  in Krabi province on the west coast of Thailand but now camps are being run in Uthai Thani, Central Thailand also. The adventure activities create an open environment where the Gospel can be shared naturally. Another goal of this ministry is to build confidence in Thai Christian youth as well as develop a new generation of Thai Christian leaders.

This is another ministry we do want to see integrated into the daily life of our workers more than develop it into some standalone ministry. One of our workers writes: “Creation care, like many things is complex. It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the information, approaches, issues, products etc., but I also believe as a Christian I am charged with caring for creation. I have chosen not to get overwhelmed by the complexity and to start caring for creation in ways that are the easiest for me or that I am most motivated to do. My creation care journey was restarted after I learnt about minimalism and started putting these principles into action.”

In all the ministry areas we are involved in there remains a lot to be done with regard to creation care as integral part of our witness.

A crucial but often overlooked ministry area is that of the various support ministries. Members in these ministries aim to provide care, leadership and administrative support for all people working on the OMF Thailand mission, sharing the same vision and values. The support team include for example the field medical advisor, being the first contact person with regard to medical issues and doing bi-annual medical review with all our workers. The member care and personnel managers are caring for the emotional well-being of our workers and providing personal development reviews. The admin and finance manager provides crucial support in financial matters and with the visa and work permit applications and renewals. Two Mission Homes provide space for training events and/or for personal holidays.

Ministry: How we do it

Working with the Thai Church

Whenever possible we work together with the existing Thai Church. In some cases, the main ministry initiative and leadership comes from an OMF member or team. In other cases, our members work under the leadership of Thai leaders.

When ministering with an attitude of humility, servanthood and willingness to learn, the expat missionary can be a great asset to a Thai team or church. With their different background, perspective and at times expertise they can give valuable input and help discover unconsidered areas of perception. At the same time it is a privilege to learn from and be shaped by our Thai friends and co-workers.

Reproducible ministry

We want all our efforts to mobilize the Thai Christians and churches so they reproduce at every level. It is not enough that we evangelize, we must help Thai Christians do it and train others to do it. It is not enough for us to disciple, we must help them to disciple others who will disciple others. It is not enough that we form churches, we need to help the churches effectively establish other churches that establish others until the country is filled with communities of faith in Christ.

Thus we seek to use methods and means that can be reproduced by the Thai Church wherever possible. We think carefully about issues that affect the continuation of the ministries that we start such as which methods we use, how much money we use, how we will train others to continue what we have started and the standard of living that we adopt as Christian workers.

Interdependent, not just independent

It is not enough to plant an independent church. It is much more healthy for the churches and their leaders when they operate in a network of interdependent churches, encouraging and challenging each other. Thus, we want our efforts to result in healthy communities of churches. We want to see ‘church’ expressed not just on a local level but also on a regional level. Practically this is mainly worked out within the Associated Churches in Thailand (ACT) family of churches.

The regional structure

Structurally, our ministry efforts are divided into five geographical regions (Bangkok, Central, Isaan, North, South). Some ministry efforts have people in several regions. E.g. some members involved in theological education are part of the Bangkok region, others of the North region. Or student ministry is happening in the Isaan region and in the Bangkok region. Other ministries are presently only done in one region, e.g. the adventure camp ministry in the South region (though that can change depending on the manpower we have).

Being part of and identify with a geographical region is important especially in the core ministry of church planting and leadership training. In Thailand relationship is everything. It does take time but is crucial to develop deep relationships. Where trust has been built the ministry impact of a missionary is far greater and of lasting nature.

Partnering with other organizations

Besides relationships with Thai churches and organizations OMF Thailand partners with a number of other mission agencies and missionaries as well.

Resources

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