God is good! We have more great news to report.
TMM (Thailand Methodist Mission) has just opened a second church this year through the Pioneering Pastors Program. This church is in an unreached sub-district in Chiang Rai called Mai Ya, and it is the hometown of Pastor Jerron. Pastor Jerron and his wife, Pastor On, were the first church planters we worked together with when we first came to Thailand. They planted the church at Bowin, which was our first church plant, and they have worked hard to form Bowin church into a strong congregation. They have both had the vision of planting a church in Pastor Jerron’s hometown for over 2 years, but we asked them to wait until Bowin was strong enough to be self-supporting and there was a leader to replace them. They were faithful in agreeing to do this, and the time has come for them to pursue their vision because Bowin is strong. The church now has their own building; they no longer need to rent. And Bowin church has a new leader in Pastor Amnut, who previously was a pastor intern at this church.
Pastors Jerron and On are very excited about their new ministry in Mai Ya. Before Pastor Jerron was a Christian, he served as a Buddhist monk in the Mai Ya. When Sherri and I went walking through the town with Pastor Jerron, everyone remembered him and greeted him. He already has many strong relationships here in Mai Ya to build upon as he now seeks to share about the Lord Jesus Christ with the same people that years ago he served as a Buddhist monk. God has placed a great burden on the hearts of Pastors Jerron and On for the people of Mai Ya. Mai Ya sub-district has 17 villages with over 11,500 people, with no church in the sub-district until now. Now the sub-district of Mai Ya has a church, and this church will make an eternity of difference here.
Pastor Banya, his wife, Amporn, and their son, Sadudee, joined us and Pastor Jerron in traveling to Mai Ya for meetings for pioneering this new church. While in Mai Ya, we had the privilege of meeting Pastor Jerron’s old friend, Abbot Tahp. Abbot Tahp and Pastor Jerron served as Buddhist monks together years ago at the Buddhist temple in town. Now Tahp serves as the abbot of a small Buddhist temple on the hill beside the town. Abbot Tahp was pleased to see his old friend Pastor Jerron and responded positively to Pastor Jerron as he told of his plans to come up and plant a church in town.
There is already a small group of believers in Mai Ya, and this group has been calling out to Pastors Jerron and On for the past year to come pioneer a church in their village. One of these believers is named Ben, and she has offered her large house to be the place of worship for the church. It is impossible to miss Ben’s house, which is painted fluorescent pink and shines brightly against the neighbors’ homes which are all earth toned. Then when we entered the house, it was all pink inside as well. Sherri and Ben both must have received lessons from the same home decorator. It is all very bright and cheerful.
Ben and her best friend Pen (the names sound alike except for you say them with different tones) are strong in the Lord already. They study the Bible every day through correspondence and it showed. Their Bibles were frayed from use, and their spirits were vibrant with the love and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ben and Pen hosted all of us at Ben’s home for two days, graciously preparing delicious meals for everyone. Ben and Pen also received a vision from God that their village needed a church, and they were to open their home to be used as a place of worship. Ben even had a pulpit built and placed in the living room of the pink house. This pulpit was a symbol of their faith that God would lead a pioneering pastor to join them. Ben and Pen were overjoyed that God made a way for this to happen by leading Pastors Jerron and On to lead this new church. We know God will bless this new church at Mai Ya, for He has ordained it so.
We were pleasantly surprised on our last day of meetings in Mai Ya to have a group of believers from a church from a different sub-district came to worship with us and to give their blessing and encouragement. This church is a Presbyterian church, and we were truly edified by their excitement that Pastors Jerron and On would be pioneering a new church in Mai Ya. We worshipped and prayed together and ate a meal together as well. The fellowship of God’s people is truly sweet.
Members of the Presbyterian church in the neighboring sub-district came to visit with us and the believers of Mai Ya.
TMM is supporting Pastors Jerron and On with monthly support as well as a financial grant to help Pastor Jerron open a barber shop in town to help him support his family and also help the church to become financially self-sufficient. Church planting and economic development always go hand-in-hand to form strong churches that can stand and multiply on their own.
Please pray for Pastors Jerron and On; they have much work to do and many relationships to build as they share Christ with the people of Mai Ya.