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Fuel on the Fire: New Sparks of Faith in Southeast Asia

By Tom and Candice, workers in Thailand

It’s with joy that we share about a new team that has formed in spreading the gospel in a restricted access country in Southeast Asia! Although the RMM team is based in Bangkok, God has consistently led us to a neighboring country since the beginning of our work here. This year, it’s been thrilling to see God orchestrating the formation of a national “sister” team and to bless that team in any way we can.

There is a registered church in this country and good things are happening within the church. However, leaders tend to exert a great deal of control – in part because the church needs to limit their activities to stay in the good graces of the government. In the last year, our friend Lan began meeting with several men, who like him, were frustrated by the lack of opportunity to work within the structures of the church. They began praying and talking about what they could do independently.

Lan came to know Jesus in Bangkok through a miraculous series of events and briefly studied the Bible with our group back in 2011. After which he returned to his village. At that time, he didn’t know other believers in his area and didn’t have a clear idea of what God would call him to do. He immediately began sharing his faith, and subsequently, family members and others began to believe. We have stayed in touch with him since then – discipling him from a distance and through visits. He also began to connect with other believers scattered in nearby villages. In time, God brought him a group of men looking for a way to share their faith in unreached communities. Lan became the leader of that team, made up of subsistence farmers and construction laborers.

In January 2017, Tom, the RMM Asia Regional Director based in Bangkok, visited Lan and his team: Lan, Puu, Saen, Wong, and Lot. A few more members joined after the seminar for prayer and encouragement in team member homes. During the seminar they studied the life of Elijah and were impacted by his story. The team noticed that Elijah was faithful in serving God but he also got tired and discouraged. They could identify with Elijah who brought an offensive message to Ahab. When they claim to know the creator of the world they offend the Buddhist/animist belief system. “...when we all pray together, it’s like throwing fuel on the fire."They saw how God provided for Elijah step by step just as he does for them. The team talked a lot about the things that are going well and their struggles. Each man shared from scripture and the group spent a lot of time praying together. They like to pray all together out loud and Saen said “when we all pray together, it’s like throwing fuel on the fire."

During their time together Tom also heard more personal faith stories of each team member. It was a tremendous encouragement to hear how they each came to faith and later joined the team. Nearly all the team members grew up Buddhist and came to faith as adults.

One member, Putorn, had a son who was bitten by a snake and was healed after believers prayed for him. Later he saw a Bible, and because he liked reading, he picked it up. He read John 1 and had a “conversation in his heart.” He’d always been a Buddhist and even ordained as a monk, but he never knew where he would go when he died. In reading the Bible, he saw that God loved him and that gave him “hope in his heart.” He has grown in faith mostly outside the official church, by going out and sharing with others. Currently, Putorn and his wife have planted watermelons in a place near three villages. People from each of the three villages are learning how to plant watermelons and also learning about the Bible. Recently a village religious leader sat and listened the whole time he was sharing the Good News.

When Saen came to faith, after believers prayed for the healing of his daughter, people told him he was following the “foreign religion” and criticized him for continuing in belief even when his daughter was not healed. When he had the chance to study the Bible, he felt inferior to the other students who were more highly educated. His daughter still has not been healed from a serious mental/emotional disorder and must be confined in the home. He says he needs the encouragement of the team and observed that even Jesus had a team. He said, “I want to see fast growth, but God is patient.” He has a heart for development work and wants to see the team and other believers pooling resources and knowledge. The team sees agricultural development as a key that could open the door into many of the unreached villages surrounding them.

Puu was the only member of the team born into a Christian family. As a teenager, he raised fighting roosters. After being baptized at the age of fifteen, he became more serious about his faith and has served God ever since. He said he “stopped talking about chickens and started talking about God.” He appreciates the vision of the team because he wants to be sharing, not just joining the “system” of the church.

Like Puu, many of the other team members have experienced resistance from the registered church. Naan, the newest team member, shared that he became a Christian after he prayed for his wife to be released from jail (she was with a friend who was transporting drugs). After a few hours, she was released and he trusted in God. He had only studied through fourth grade, so when church leaders talked about sending him for more training he didn’t want to go. But God told him the church needed more leaders. When he returned, he found it hard to serve in the church because he had to wait on the pastor before he could do anything. The pastor warned him not to try and discouraged him. Now he thanks God that he has found the team. He said, “In church, you only listen and go home. Now I have energy and encouragement to go visiting.”

Tom and the team spent several days following the seminar visiting a few of the team members’ homes and sharing and eating together. For supper they went to Saen’s house, joined by most of their wives, and it was good to see the women getting involved. They are limited by having young kids at home, but they seem very supportive of the team’s work and enjoy participating as they can. After a meal of duck and sticky rice they went around the circle and shared words of encouragement and then had a time of prayer.

From Tom’s perspective, the team is working very well together. They have a lot of camaraderie and joy as well as deep, supportive relationships. There does not seem to be any sense of competition or desire to control. They all believe in the vision and are individually called. They have a strong desire to work together. The team talked about spiritual gifts and roles; they will talk more about personal strengths and weaknesses as well as goals for the upcoming year in their next monthly meeting.

They recently formulated a vision for a ministry plan in which they lay out four key steps for their work: evangelism, follow-up/pastoring, disciple-making, and sending out. It’s especially exciting to see them thinking that far down the road – recognizing their responsibility to send out workers. They wrote the following statement: “In the case that some people have a burden for going out (to areas that are close by and areas that are far away) for a short period or long-term, according to our vision, in the future we will send people to: our local districts, to other districts, to other provinces, to other areas of the country, to neighboring countries.”

One tool the team is using, because literacy is limited, is audio Bibles. From donations through RMM, our team has been able to provide the team with Bibles on solar powered players. These are then distributed to new believers and seekers in villages who have no Bible or who cannot read.

Prayer Requests:

  • Pray for this humble group of men and their families, who are so open to God’s leading.
  • Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide them in how to share, how to use development as a tool, and how to share their resources.
  • Pray that God will protect them from danger and authorities, and help them maintain a peaceful relationship with the registered church.
  • Pray that many new people will come to know Jesus as the Good News spreads.
  • Pray that God will provide for them in the midst of an economic struggle.
  • Pray that the RMM team will be wise in sharing resources and creative and helpful in supporting the work.
  • Praise God for an organic, natural movement led by workers from the harvest!

Give an Audio Bible

Are you interested in purchasing audio Bibles to distribute among this group and other communities where literacy is limited? Each audio Bible costs about $26 when bought in bulk, so tell your Bible study group, Sunday School Class, Vacation Bible School, family, or others about this cause and see how many Bibles you can fund together! Just donate the money to RMM with the specification that the gift be used for “AudiBibles.” Help us in making the name of Jesus known in all nations.