Participants at the Thai Anabaptist conference pray for Khmu church leaders, after worship at a Khmu church in a Thai village. Photo by Sarah Schoenhals.
Prior to Lek (not his real name due to security concerns) believing in Jesus, ten of his fifteen children died. After he became a Christian, his children stopped dying. People in his village in Det Udon, Thailand, noticed.
Lek shared the gospel in his village, where several other families became believers as well. But evangelism is illegal in his country, and soon afterwards, he was imprisoned for his faith in Jesus.
While in prison, Lek continued to tell others about Jesus, and after his release, the church in his area continued to grow.
Lek was imprisoned two more times.
During these times of tremendous suffering, he remained committed to loving his enemies.
Prisoners in his country receive only the food that family and friends bring to them. On multiple occasions, Lek chose to share his rice with the prison officials.
The last time he was imprisoned, Lek was badly beaten and had severe head injuries. The prison officials thought he was dead, but he recovered.
After his recovery, the daughter of one of the officials who had imprisoned Lek was sick.
The official came to Lek and asked him to pray for his sick daughter. Lek found it very difficult to respond to this request from one who had hurt him badly, but he prayed, and the girl was healed.
Stories like Lek’s deeply encouraged those attending the second-ever gathering of Anabaptist Christians in Thailand, August 27-30, 2014.
The conference was hosted by the Thailand Mennonite Brethren Foundation at the Changed Life Center in Chiang Rai province.
Approximately 70 people participated in the event, coming from many churches across Thailand and neighboring regions. Multiple ethnicities, languages, and worship styles were represented, including Thai, Khmu and Isaan.
Mennonite Brethren Mission missionary P.K. (full name withheld for security reasons) facilitated sessions based on the Sermon on the Mount. Others shared stories of the persecution they face because of their faith in Jesus. The sharing included both the intense struggle to love enemies and the powerful witness of loving enemies.
Many attendees noted that while they had heard such persecution existed in the region, this was the first time they were hearing directly from those experiencing it.
Following the conference, Life Enrichment Church leader Somjai Panta, commonly known as Pastor Joi, expressed amazement at the perseverance of those loving their enemies, even through extended persecution and torture.
He said, “It shows that whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus will find it.”
The conference included lively worship in various languages, building new friendships, and praying for each other and the people groups served by workers in the region.
While primary attendees were local believers, there were also mission workers from Dayspring Christian Ministries International, Eastern Mennonite Missions, Mennonite Brethren Mission, Mennonite Church Canada Witness, and Virginia Mennonite Missions in attendance.
The Changed Life Center is a ministry of the Thailand Mennonite Brethren Foundation. It works alongside local government offices and schools, with the purpose of building strong relationships in the local Khmu community to help people have a better quality of life. It also serves as a regional training center for church leaders.
The first gathering of Thai Anabaptists was held in December 2011 in Borabu, Maha Sarakham, Thailand.