Having lived in this part of the world as a child, I enjoy driving through the countryside of rural North Eastern Thailand. This year I had the enjoyment of visiting with two very different teams from our Baptist family.
The first was in April; a team from the Dream Centre, South Auckland. Pastor Chris Sola and nine others travelled with me to Kalasin. Included in the team were Samoan, Maori, Cook Island and Tongan, a truly Polynesian experience. The Thai people are small in stature, so when a team of Polynesians arrive in the city of Kalasin, or a small village in the rural corners of the prov¬ince of Kalasin, they stand out.
The second team, travelling with me in July, was GLIMPSe 2013, a team of nine Pastors, including three Pastoral Leadership students from Carey Baptist College.
Ian and Colleen Robertson led our Thailand team as they transitioned from living and working in Chiang Mai to resettling and setting up work in Kalasin, something we felt during 2009 and 2010 that God was leading us toward.
Back then we discerned very clearly that God wanted NZBMS to be Thailand, but the location was up for grabs. God led us in a wonderful way to the North East of Thailand to work with the Issan people, the poorest people of Thailand. The province of Kalasin had the least number of Christians in the country and we met a local Pastor who had a heart to plant churches in every village in the province. The team of Ian and Colleen, Illka and Maree and their family, and Peter and Lynley felt compelled to follow God’s direc¬tion and, in December 2010, moved to this far flung rural outpost.
Kalasin, a province of 1 million people, is estimated to have only 400 believers (0.04%). Most are very poor and have never heard of Jesus. Some of those who are Christian live in villages where they are the only believer. They discovered Christ when they went away to cities like Bangkok for work. Now, they may have a bible and that’s it.
Some are rejected in their communities. They have no fellowship, no one to talk to, and often times their faith dwindles and eventually they return to what they used to believe. Within Christian circles, Issan has been referred to over the decades as a missionary graveyard – a hard place where next to no fruit is seen. Ironically, my parents became Christians in this part of the world, but that’s another story.
With our partner organisation, we serve the local church in Kalasin in their church-planting endeavours. Our role a background one, looking for ways we can support their efforts. Previous forms of church planting by foreigners have not worked in this region and we believe local Christians are better suited to planting churches than we are. However, they need our support, encouragement and help.
Sadly, in 2011 Illka and Maree and family had to return to New Zealand leaving two couples to continue to support the struggling and poor local church. Then, in 2012, Ian and Colleen, due to medical reasons, also had to return to New Zealand.
In many ways it has been incredibly discouraging to see families come back to New Zealand without anyone to replace them. The people of Kalasin are in desperate need of our help, they are in desperate need of Jesus, yet we don’t respond.
I have personally taken three teams of people to this region and there have been visits from a number of our churches over the last three years, yet the stirring of God has been apparently missing. Why is that? God has clearly led us to this place of need, yet no one has raised their hands.
I often lament this situation. Out of frustration I have wondered whether I give up my job to go and live there myself, the potential is huge… but I’m not called to go… but some out there in our Baptist family are… where are you?
We are now left with one couple to carry on the work of our whole denomination. But let me tell you about Peter and Lynley. Parents and grandparents, this couple have been so faithful. They’ve been in Thailand for a total of eight years now and have a huge heart for the people of Thailand. They connect with the Thai people easily and just love sharing their lives with them.
This couple are such awesome people to work with. They admit that they are not the type of people to sit in meetings and get all excited about vision, strategy and planning and so on. They would prefer to leave that to others. They just say, “Tell me what to do and where to do it.” Then they just get on and do it. It’s a leader’s dream to have people like them in your team. But they need people to join them and carry the work on to the next level.
In July, the GLIMPSe team spent some time with Peter and Lynley praying and ministering to them as a couple. The Holy Spirit was especially present and there was a real sense that God wanted them to be the anchor for a new season. Peter and Lynley are happy to be the last ones left and they have no current plans to return to New Zealand permanently. But they could do with some help.
So can I ask… who will go and join them? The need is huge, the workers are few. Can I ask you to commit it to the Lord and step out? Step out in obedience to the call to reveal the Kingdom of God to the people of Kalasin.
Don’t be surprised if in failing to respond to God we come and tap you on the shoulder.
If you want to discuss this further please contact Neil Perry, Team Leader tranzsend on 09-526-8442 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He would love to hear from you.
Peter Mihaere is the General Director of The New Zealand Baptist Missionary Society (NZBMS) – New Zealand Baptists Reaching the World.
With Permission From: General Directors Blog NZBMS