A tick in the box on the other side of the world: the impact of a mentor

For IFES World Student Day 2023 we hear from Off Wichaphon, OMF Thailand Executive Director, about the impact a cross-cultural worker had on him as a student:

If you’ve ever been to a Christian camp, it probably ended with an altar call or a response card to fill out. Do you remember how you responded?

This is the story of Johnny McClean, a 17-year-old boy from Northern Ireland, who would have a significant impact on my life.

In 1987, less than a year after he came to know Jesus, Johnny went to a camp run by Youth For Christ. At the end of the camp, he ticked all the options in the response card, which included a commitment to full-time Christian service ‘whenever and wherever He directs me.’

Johnny McClean’s response card from 1987

What do you think of people who tick all the boxes on those cards? Maybe they were influenced by the special atmosphere of the camp. Or perhaps you think it’s unlikely they’d do all the things they committed to?

Yet in 1995 Johnny arrived in Thailand to serve as a long-term missionary with OMF, beginning by studying Thai culture and language. A few years later, he and his wife Ann followed their passion to work with students, so they partnered with Thai IFES (Thai Christian Student Association) and ran a student ministry in central Thailand.

Their first year of running this student centre was also my first year at university. Johnny became my mentor, teaching me the Bible, giving advice and supporting not only me but all the Thai Christian students. This foreign couple introduced us to the idea of not just sharing the gospel with our classmates, but taking the good news of Jesus across cultures too.

After my first year at university, five of us students went to Cambodia on a short-term mission trip Johnny led. We as students learned to prepare ourselves for the mission trip; saving money, praying and sharing about what we were going to do. To us, it was impossible but finally, God made it possible. After the trip to Cambodia, we continued to do missions every year during our school break. The seed of the missions was planted in my heart when God sent Johnny to me.

Johnny, Off and the rest of the student team, 2002

Now, as Executive Director of OMF Thailand, my role is to mobilize the Thai Church to respond to the Great Commission. I look back and not only see what God did in my life, but that it traces back to that moment in 1987. When a 17-year-old boy was praying and thinking about how he should respond to the gospel, having no idea how that decision would affect me on the other side of the world and what God would do 30 years later.

I’m so thankful for how God used Johnny’s obedience and dedication to the Thai people. Just like what Paul said of Jesus in Philippians 2:8, I can see this attitude in my mentor’s life as he humbled himself by becoming obedient to God’s call, continuing to love and serve the Thai people today, and inspiring me to do the same.

Editor’s Note: Today Johnny & Ann serve in Thailand with UFM Worldwide.

Written by Off Wichaphon

OMF Thailand Executive Director

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