Thailand

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Thailand, 2006. World Factbook map

Introduction

Thailand (formerly Siam) is a country in Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Burma. The country is a constitutional monarchy. The largest city in Thailand is Bangkok, the capital, which is also the country's center of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities.

Thailand is the world's 50th largest country in terms of total area, with a surface area of 513,120 km2 (198,115 sq. mi.), and the 20th most-populous country, with an estimated population in July 2010 of 65,998,436. About 75% of the population is ethnically Thai, 14% is of Chinese origin, and 3% is ethnically Malay; the rest belong to minority groups including Mons, Khmers and various hill tribes. The country's official language is Thai. Its primary religion is Buddhism, which is practiced by around 95% of all Thais.

1990 Article

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) began involvement in Thailand in 1960 by placing workers at the Prae Christian Hospital. Later that year, two Pax volunteers began work at an experimental farm in Chiang Rai. From 1963 to 1975 MCC had no programs in Thailand. In 1975 two MCC workers from Vietnam began working in Thailand with the Church of Christ in Thailand. In 1979 MCC began working with Indochinese refugees flooding into Thailand (job creation, social services, peace concerns, agriculture and education). The MCC office in Bangkok also provided logistical support for MCC work in Indochina. There were eight MCC volunteers in Thailand in 1987.

2017 Update

The first Anabaptist witness in Thailand came in 1960 when Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) began a modest connection. Over the next 15 years, MCC placed some PAX workers (American conscientious objectors on alternative foreign service) and bought handicrafts for sale in North America.

MCC commitments in the region grew significantly during what the Vietnamese call “The American War.” In 1975, in partnership with the Church of Christ Thailand (CCT), MCC began to provide refugee assistance, explore opportunities for placing teachers and engage in agricultural development. It was hoped that MCC might be able to help the CCT to discern the role of the church in Thai society in regard to human rights advocacy, as this had not been a strong point of the church. The MCC presence in Thailand continued sporadically over the next few years.

Brethren in Christ World Missions personnel made an exploratory trip in 1986, followed by the commissioning of a missionary couple in 1987. They were able to secure employment at a technical institute on the outskirts of Bangkok. Their mandate within this self-support model was to pursue cross-cultural relationships through which to share the gospel and encourage the development of indigenous leaders through discipleship.

In 1990, Eastern Mennonite Mission (EMM) assigned a worker to begin exploratory work. A church planting team came together in 1992 as Skip and Carol Tobin made a 10-year commitment. By 1995, they were ready to position themselves among Lao-speaking Isaan in one of the least-reached provinces in rural Thailand. The highly contextualized Life Enrichment Church, with its small worshipping groups and fully empowered local leaders, emerged and continued to spread into new villages and districts.

Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services International (later MB Mission) similarly made an exploratory trip in 1991. The pioneer workers they sent shortly after this trip made the decision to move to Nan Province in Northern Thailand to work with the Khmu. The Schmidts and their teammates developed a ministry focused on village evangelism, education and agricultural development. Ongoing connections have put them in a position to see a sweeping movement of people coming to Christ among the Khmu along the Thai-Lao border.

None of these new Anabaptist entities ended up working under the CCT, despite the good relationship that MCC had nurtured over the years. Each agency forged its own way forward with new partners and visa platforms. The Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand emerged as an ally and a voice encouraging church planting across the country.

In 1998, the General Conference Mennonite Church (COM) sent a Canadian/Lao couple to work with the EMM team. After one term, they launched their own church planting work in another location in Isaan under Mennonite Church Canada Witness.

In 2000 Mennonite Brethren Mission and Service International (MBMSI) organized a missions team of three couples, known as Team 2000, to begin work in Chonburi, Thailand. These three couples launched an orphanage and church plant south of Bangkok. Various ministries and social programs were established, including ESL classes and a ministry to HIV-AIDS orphans. After the devastation caused by the December 2004 tsunami, a number of MBMSI teams worked to construct new homes. After several Mennonite Brethren congregations were planted in Thailand, a conference, called the Thai MB Foundation, was formed and officially recognized by the government in 2009.

Around the same time, the Myers, new leaders for the Brethren in Christ work, arrived. At EMM’s invitation and encouragement, they launched a work in Ubon Ratchathani’s provincial capital city, only 50 kilometers from the EMM team. In addition to developing highly compatible visions for ministry, the proximity proved providential, enabling the teams to support one another through times of tragic loss.

Meanwhile, Mennonite Mission Network sent workers to another location in Isaan and Rosedale Mennonite Mission (RMM) is strengthening their presence in Bangkok with second-generation leaders from Central America who are emerging from RMM’s long-time commitments there. Virginia Mennonite Missions has also recently engaged as partners with the Life Enrichment Church to see a missional outpost formed among the Isaan in Bangkok. A group of conservative Anabaptists has built up an Anabaptist mission training school – the Institute of Global Opportunities (IGo) – in Chiang Mai. Thus, at least in Chiang Mai, Anabaptists are known for their head coverings and large families, not to mention zeal for the gospel.

In 2020 there were four Anabaptist denominations in Thailand:

Denomination Congregations
in 2009
Members
in 2009
Congregations
in 2012
Members
in 2012
Congregations
in 2020
Members
in 2020
Hmong 20th District of the Church of Christ in Thailand 28 2,017
Khmu Mission 430 60,000
Life Enrichment Church 16 144 16 159 16 165
Thai MB Foundation 8 514 8 800 20 1,600
Total 24 658 24 959 494 63,782

Bibliography

Mennonite World Conference. "Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Churches Worldwide, 2009: Asia & Pacific." 2010. Web. 28 October 2010.  http://www.mwc-cmm.org/en15/files/Members 2009/Asia & Pacific Summary.doc.

"Thailand Mennonite Brethren Foundation." Mennonite Brethren Herald (February 2014): 7.

Tobin, Carol. "Life from a graveyard." Mennonite World Conference. 13 July 2017. Web. 10 April 2021. https://mwc-cmm.org/stories/life-graveyard.

Wikipedia. "Thailand." Web. 28 October 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thailand.


Author(s) Brenda Stauffer
Richard D. Thiessen
Carol Tobin
Date Published April 2021

Cite This Article

MLA style

Stauffer, Brenda, Richard D. Thiessen and Carol Tobin. "Thailand." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2021. Web. 15 Jun 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Thailand&oldid=171230.

APA style

Stauffer, Brenda, Richard D. Thiessen and Carol Tobin. (April 2021). Thailand. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 15 June 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Thailand&oldid=171230.




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Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 879. All rights reserved.


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