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Fifty years, fifty countries: Thailand

Tearfund | 16 Nov 2018

To mark 50 years of Tearfund, we’re sharing about 50 countries where we’ve worked, celebrating God’s provision and power to transform, and praying for each of these nations. This week we’re in Thailand.

Thailand is known for its beauty and is often referred to as the ‘land of smiles’, due to the friendliness of its people. But it has its problems too, with more than 12 per cent of the population living on less than £1.45 a day.

Tearfund first started working in Thailand in 1979, helping supply emergency aid to refugees from Laos and Cambodia. Today, we work through one partner in Thailand, focusing on issues including livelihood. Empowering local churches to be agents of change in their local communities is another priority for our partners, as demonstrated in Mae Chan district, northern Thailand…

Untapped potential
Despite Thailand being predominantly Buddhist, there are a number of churches, especially in the north. Traditionally, the primary purpose of most Thai churches is to preach and convert, with little emphasis on practical action.

‘They don’t focus on holistic ministry like Jesus Christ does in the New Testament,’ says Kaiwan Nirattikun from our partner, Mekong Minority Foundation (MMF). ‘This has led to many churches being ineffective, with little growth and impact.’ Tearfund’s partners are passionate about seeing this change, through our Church and Community Transformation (CCT) work, inspiring and equipping churches to bring material as well as spiritual transformation in their local communities.

The leaders of Pa Du Church in the rural north were sceptical of this approach when they first met our partner staff. Most of the leadership team were against trying CCT. Only the pastor and his assistant were on board, and Kaiwan says this was primarily because they viewed it as a good training opportunity! ‘They didn’t understand the concept,’ he says, but they agreed to give it a go.

Potential released
As the Pa Du Church are progressing through CCT training, the pastor and the wider congregation are coming to see the power of the CCT approach to tackling poverty, and are recognising their own God-given potential and calling to bring about change.

Through CCT, the church agreed that illiteracy is a significant problem for the wider community. Most people in Pa Du are unable to read and write, meaning prospects for earning income are extremely limited. Filled with confidence and motivation as a result of CCT, the church leaders went to government officials, and raised the issue. As a result, new literacy classes are now being run by local government, to benefit some of the most vulnerable.

Another issue the church is tackling is land rights. In the past, villagers have seen their family lands taken over by wealthier, more powerful people from other districts, and have felt unable to do anything in response. Working together, the church, village chief and wider community are putting a stop to this unfair practice. Today, the government has officially allocated this land to the villagers, protecting it from being taken over.

Such is the impact of the church now, it is viewed very differently – seen as a source of strength and practical help, integral to the wellbeing of the community.



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