Members of the Thailand team during a planning meeting in October 2015 in Huntington, Ind. L-r: Julie Hui, Brian and Rachel Glunt, Milton and Erika Pacheco.
The Thailand Initiative
Thailand is the biggest initiative we’ve launched in missions since 1987, when we partnered with Hong Kong Conference to begin churches in Macau. A team of nine persons representing three countries is has formed and is preparing to relocate to Thailand, and property has been purchased. It’s a truly exciting venture, and it will require significant resources.
In 2016, Brian and Rachel Glunt and their three young children will move to Thailand. They are from Emmanuel Community Church in Fort Wayne, Ind. Brian works in the printing industry.
Four other persons will join them to complete the team. Milton and Erika Pacheco are the first missionaries approved from Honduras Conference. Milton, who works for Habitat for Humanity, holds business administration and seminary degrees and is a singer/songwriter.
The other persons are from Hong Kong Conference: Julie Hui (hoy) and Lai Au Yeung. Julie was involved with Campus Crusade while attending college in Hong Kong, and later spent two years working in mainland China. She recently graduated from the Institute of TESOL Studies at Huntington University. She’s also a talented pianist.
After 200 years of Protestant missions in Thailand, less than half a percent of the population is Protestant Christian. Many new mission groups in Thailand have worked with ethnic minorities who, being animistic, are more receptive to the Gospel. That has been our own focus in the mountain areas, where we have 2 churches.
The initial idea in Thailand was to focus on persons from remote villages who relocate to the city for work or education, including persons from our own mountain churches. Such persons easily become prey to human trafficking. However, we have shifted a lot of attention to middle-class Thais, who are mostly Buddhist with some elements of folk religion. Middle-class Thais are largely unreached with the Gospel. The needs of minorities and the vulnerable will remain one aspect of our work in Thailand. But the more difficult, and often unrewarding, work of reaching Thai Buddhists is a clear challenge before us.
“Reaching someone in that community to become a follower of Christ is very difficult,” says Jeff Bleijerveld. “Missionaries in Thailand say it takes 6-8 years before you can lead a Thai Buddhist to Christ. That requires a lot of work as you develop relationships not only with the individual, but with their whole family and social circle.”
Our Own Place
We purchased property in Chiang Rai which will be our ministry center. It’s a two-story building located in a predominantly middle-class neighborhood, about three blocks from a major brand new mall like you’d find in LA or New York.
“Our Hong Kong churches are very aware of property issues in major metropolitan areas, and urged us to move ahead with the purchase,” says Jeff Bleijerveld. Global Ministries and Hong Kong Conference split the $100,000 cost of the building.
Chiang Rai is positioned to quadruple in size during the next decade. The semi-conductor business is moving north from Bangkok to get away from flooding. The Chinese completed a major highway linking northern Thailand with China; it’s already a major trade route. All of this will lead to significant growth.
“We don’t need property at this stage,” Jeff says, “but we agreed with Hong Kong that it would be a good idea, from a financial perspective, to nail down property and get ourselves established in Chiang Rai. Even if the property later proves inadequate for what we need, we can easily sell it for a profit.”