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Back to My Small Town Roots: A New Opportunity in Thailand

Many of you already know Dan* quite well! He’s been with RMM for 41 years as a worker in Nicaragua, Ecuador/Costa Rica, South Asia, and now Thailand. He is a visionary and a pioneer and God has given him many opportunities to serve, disciple, mentor, and begin work in new areas. Although you may already know him, he has recently moved to a new area of Thailand, and we wanted to give him the chance to talk about his new work and new area.

Dan, can you explain in general the work of the Thailand team in Bangkok and how you decided to make this move to a new area (Kanchanaburi)?

The team in Thailand works in pioneer church planting among the many people of Thailand and the surrounding countries. Most Thais are Buddhists. Our team looks for people whose hearts have been opened to the gospel message by God, and through them we establish fellowships of believers who will reach their own people for Christ. Our main task is to disciple those who come to faith and whom God is calling to be leaders. So far the team is limited to Bangkok and, through Lao people who have come to faith here, the team visits and encourages believers in Laos. Kanchanaburi is on the Thailand Myanmar border and offers the opportunity to reach both Thais and different people groups in Myanmar.

What is Kanchanaburi like? How is it different from Bangkok?

Kanchanaburi Province has both plains and mountains and a lot of agriculture. It is also a place many tourists visit. The only city is Kanchanaburi Town, two hours west of Bangkok. The rest of the province is rural with small towns. So, it offers quiet and beauty and is very different from the hustle and bustle of the huge city of Bangkok. The people of the province are less rushed. After living in cities for the last 20+ years, it is good to get back to my rural, small town roots.

What is your day to day work like there?

I have taught English at the local high school in Thong Pha Phum, a town five hours northwest of Bangkok. I offer to teach high school students free of cost so they can improve their conversational English skills. Although I don’t have many students, those who do come are very eager to learn. I also have a class for high school teachers one day a week. Beginning the last part of January, I teach conversational English to college students at Mahidol University Kanchanaburi at their campus in Sai Yok, two hours away from Thong Pha Phum. This work allows me to make relationships with local people in a natural way and will hopefully lead to people open to the gospel message. Because half of the people in Thong Pha Phum have their origin in Myanmar, the work could eventually lead us to that country, in the same way that we’ve been led into Laos.

What is your vision for this region?

Kanchanaburi is largely rural/small town with an emphasis on agriculture. Many of those people coming to Thailand as mission workers from Nicaragua are also from rural areas and would fit naturally in the towns and communities of Kanchanaburi. If a team of Nicaraguans could be built, they would find natural ways of relating to the people in the province with the goal of starting fellowships and training leaders. There would also be a place for North Americans if they would answer the call to come.

What parts of your life and work right now do you find the most challenging?

Although I am getting to know some people in Thong Pha Phum and at Mahidol University, I don’t yet have any close friends. So I sometimes feel lonely and a bit overwhelmed by the challenge of starting again in a new place. There are also many obstacles to the fulfillment of the vision to see churches being formed among the Buddhists of the province, so it is easy to get discouraged. The biggest challenge seems to be how to mobilize missions’ candidates from Nicaragua and the US and how they could get visas to stay in the province. And since it would take a long time to establish a lasting work here, there is also the challenge of finding people to commit their lives long term (10+ years). I myself am getting along in years, so any lasting work would depend on others committing to the work long term.

What is the typical way you get around?

I travel by local bus–from Bangkok to Thong Pha Phum, to the university and back and anywhere else I need to go in the province. I walk around town to the market and to school. If we would begin work outside Thong Pha Phum, I might need to get a motorcycle.

What are some of your favorite things to do for fun?

I enjoy talking with people and going to local restaurants. Thong Pha Phum is a quiet town with “nothing to do” really except meet with people. I have gone to local restaurants with the high school teachers and some friends and also with students and teachers at the university in Sai Yok. I hope to go camping and visit some of the local national parks, mountains, hot springs, waterfalls, caves and other.

What is something that Thai culture has taught you and that you want to internalize?

Moving to a place where I knew no one previously left me at a loss how to do even the basic things. Thai people are often very helpful to an unknown person who comes to live among them. In Thong Pha Phum, many people have offered to help me in many ways, from giving information about where I can rent a room to where I can find things I need to buy. Most people do not know English, but when they find out I know basic Thai, they are very helpful. Plus, the town feels very safe and friendly.

What is the most recent prayer that God has answered in your life?

God is rebuilding our team in Thailand. With the arrival of Nixson and Rhonda* and Jonatan* in late January and the anticipated return of Tom and Candice and their family in July, our team is once again increasing in numbers. It is an answer to prayer.

How can we pray for you?

That God will lead me to people open to the Gospel in Kanchanaburi Province, that he will confirm where the place is that I should live and work, and that he will form a team of dedicated workers for the province.

Thank you for your prayers of encouragement and leading for Dan!

*Last names omitted for security