Some members of the Thailand team during a team building meeting in October 2015 in Huntington, Ind. Hover on the image for more details.
Thailand: Serving an unreached people group
Thailand is the biggest initiative we’ve launched in missions since 1987, when we partnered with Hong Kong Conference to plant churches in Macau.
What’s the Team?
In 2016, a team of ten persons from three countries was preparing to relocate to Thailand and begin ministry. By spring of 2017, they were all in place–from Hong Kong, the US, and Honduras. This international team is a reflection of the global nature of Christ’s church today.
It started in August 2016, when Brian and Rachel Glunt and their three young children moved to Thailand. They are from Emmanuel Community Church, a United Brethren in Christ congregation in Fort Wayne, Ind. Brian worked in the printing industry while Rachel had the very important fulltime job of “mom.”
Two other team members, from Hong Kong Conference, arrived in October 2016: 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 graduated in May 2016 from the Institute of TESOL Studies at Huntington University. She’s also a talented pianist. Lai was also very involved with college ministry and her church, and graduated with an education degree focused on young children.
Milton and Erika Pacheco arrived in the spring of 2017. They are the first missionaries approved from Honduras UB Conference to serve on another continent. Milton, who worked for Habitat for Humanity in Honduras, holds business administration and seminary degrees and is a singer/songwriter. Erika served with a local ministry and is also gifted in music.
Paula was the last member of the team; due to security reasons, we can’t talk much about her online.
Julie and Lai completed their two-year agreements, and returned to Hong Kong in June and October of 2018. Julie now works fulltime as the missions outreach person for Hong Kong Conference.
After close to 200 years of Protestant missions in Thailand, the ethnic Thai is still an unreached people group (to compare, ethnic Thai: 1 Protestant in 500; ethnic Vietnamese: 6 in 500; ethnic Khmer majority in Cambodia: 8.5 in 500; ethnic Lao: 10 in 500). Many new mission groups in Thailand have worked with ethnic minorities who, for a variety of reasons, have been much more receptive to the Gospel. That has been UB’s own focus in the northern mountainous areas in the past, where we have two churches.
However, knowing the dearth of mission focus on reaching ethnic Thai and the great need for the Gospel among them, our team will be focused on serving and reaching ethnic Thais, many who are Buddhist with some elements of folk religion.
“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 and long-term investment 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. The building was 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. UB Global and Hong Kong Conference shared the costs.
The initial plan was to renovate the building to fit our needs. However, there were too many problematic issues. Instead, the decision was made to tear down the building and construct something new. Construction began November 1, 2018.
Through this property, the team intends to serve the local community by holding classes and outreach events that meet local needs, whether that’s learning a language, practicing a skill, learning a sport or music, etc.
Chiang Rai is poised to quadruple in size during the next decade. The confluence of rivers and border to other SE Asian neighbors means more trade.
The semi-conductor business is moving north from Bangkok to get away from flooding. The Chinese completed a major highway linking Bangkok with southwest China, going through Chiang Rai. All of this will lead to significant growth. Only God knows the full Kingdom potential and possibilities in this region. We hope the UB initiative will be a small part of seeing that become a reality.