By Tom Shanklin
There are two things that I felt in my heart would happen through my first trip to the nation of Thailand. First, God was going to expand my vision for world evangelism. And secondly, some seeds were going to planted that would change the nation of Thailand. This, I believe, is exactly what happened.
My flights both ways took me through Seoul, Korea. Travel time each way: about 35 hours from point to point., Including one very long 14-hour flight. Ouch!
Initially, I was quite surprised by Thailand. I was expecting another third world Asian country with extreme poverty, poor infrastructure, dirt and confusion, but instead what I saw, at least on the surface, was a peaceful, well-ordered society set in a beautiful land.
I settled into a house at the headquarters of Living Word Ministries International (LWMI), where I would be teaching in the Bible School. It was a large house with several bathrooms, and even an air conditioner in the bedroom. Ok, note to self, missions doesn’t “always” have to be uncomfortable.
When I found that the building which housed the Bible Classes and seminars was also air conditioned, I thought, “We’re on a roll!” Later in the trip, as you will see, I did get to rough it a bit.
I discovered, too, that Thai food is a light but outstanding fare, with flavors that zing your pallet and open your eyes. The tropical fruit, which seems to grow everywhere, also happily finds its way to a weary traveller’s plate.
I found a spirit of excellence and a sense of divine order in the operation of Living Word Ministries International. One missionary I talked to called LWMI’s Bible school “a well-oiled machine.” Since, coming to Thailand 24 years ago, directors Charlie and Cathy Milbrodt have seen much fruit, graduating hundreds of Bible School students, planting and constructing over 80 churches in the mountainous regions in northern Thailand, providing much needed relief to Burmese refuges, and caring for over 800 orphaned children. This experience expanded my vision of what God can do through a ministry that will steadfastly pursue their goals in serving God.
The ministry headquarters and Bible School is near Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand. There about 70 eager, hungry, Bible-ready students spend two years preparing themselves for the work of the Lord in their nation. I spent the week teaching on evangelism, not only to the 70, but also about 40 staff members, and 75 full time evangelists and pastors.
They pulled the Word out of me like a 10-horsepower vacuum pump. The teaching on evangelism was music to their ears and a drum-rolled cadence for their feet. I believe that seeds were planted in hearts that will bring a great harvest in Thailand. This bunch is yearning to win souls!
The evangelists among them are already busy preaching the Gospel, reaching villages and planting churches. Sometimes the work involves making connections, building bridges, serving the people, and breaking down walls, so the Gospel can flourish. Evangelism is not only a message, but it’s a lifestyle.
I completed the last session of the seminar at noon on Friday, packed up some shirts and pants, and headed up the mountain with a team of evangelists, musicians, and a great interpreter, and prepared my heart along the way to preach in a mountain tribal village church.
We travelled for four hours on winding roads with frequent switch-backs through lush green forested hills, until my stomach was twisted like a pretzel. At Ban Den, we stayed in a pastor’s guest house built on poles. No air conditioner here, nor screens. I slept on a thin mat, under a mosquito net. I can’t complain, though. There was a shower, and even hot water. We had great meals at the LWMI Children’s Home next door, where 42 children receive love, shelter, food and care, and are able to attend school nearby. This is one of five children’s homes operated by LWMI.
In three different villages, I preached an evangelistic message, including The Prodigal Son, Healing is the Children’s Bread, and You Must Be Born Again. This came as a refreshing to the believers and a message of life and freedom to those who had not yet received Christ. In each church, I led the people in a confession of Christ and we prayed for the sick.
On my last evening in the mountains, I preached at Schamit Vutiya (The Friendship School) in Ban Den to over 200 residential students. This school has experienced an outpouring of the Spirit in recent years, so a number of the students were quite receptive and hungry. I spoke on “The Call of God” and many of the young people flooded to the front to dedicate their lives 100 percent to God. (See cover photo.)
Much of my ministry in Thailand was among the Karen (Ka-ren’) tribe. The Karen tribal people live in a number of countries in Asia, including Thailand, Burma, and China. In Thailand, they number about 2 million people. Of all the people of Thailand, the Karen have been the most receptive. The Gospel originally came to the Karen in nearby Burma (now called Myanmar). God supernaturally prepared the Karen for his message of love. Many people feel that the Karen will be a major key to reaching Thailand, which is only about one percent Christian.
On my first flight home, I ministered to a Thai gentleman. He was seated in the window seat and I was in the aisle with another passenger between us. The man between us got tired of us talking across him, so he encouraged me to change seats with him. There was a language barrier, but using the “Steps to Peace with God” booklet with the pictures, I was able to share the Gospel with this man and lead him in a prayer for salvation. I wasn’t sure how well he understood, but it turned out he was on my second flight also, which landed in Los Angeles. There I was able to locate some follow up material in the Thai language in my luggage, which a missionary had given me in Thailand. The Lord provides!