ASI Members in Action:
Darry and Ginny Campbell, Lake Union
Over the past 10 years my wife, Ginny, and I have had the privilege of going on 8 mission trips to Thailand. Most of our work has been done in the cities of Chiang Mai, Lampang and Lampun. On each trip we have been blessed to work with Pastor Soonthorn Koonswang and his wife Soonpong. Pastor Soonthorn was the pastor of the Chiang Mai church during our first two trips and then was transferred to the Lampang church.
The one thing that stands out the most about Soonthorn and Soonpong is that everything in their lives seem to revolve around spreading the gospel. They leave their home early in the morning and return late in the evening. They visit the local hospitals and schools. They visit sick people in their neighborhood. They spend several hours doing radio broadcasts. They hold classes to teach some of the unskilled church members and local villagers skills such as making soap and arranging flowers. They have been trained in the NEWSTART program and hold seminars to share the health message.
After Soonthorn was transferred to Lampang in 2003, he invited me to come there and hold an evangelistic series. At that time, the Lampang church had about 14 or 17 members and were meeting in the carport of the pastor's rented home. The children met under a tree in the front yard.
We rented a room at the local convention center and held a two-week series. We had a regular attendance of about 200 adults and about 80 children. Each night we presented portions of the NEWSTART program along with my evangelistic sermons. Ginny and other members of the team conducted the children’s programs. We held two series at the convention center, the first in 2003 and the second in 2004. We baptized several new members with each series, and the church membership was up to about 45 or 50 members. At that time, the church had acquired a nice parcel of land, and we held a fundraiser to raise money to build a new church building.
Following the construction of the new church, I held two additional series at the church, adding more members each time. It was interesting that Soonthorn and Soonpong had generated so much good will in the community that when we held our evangelistic meeting, the local Buddhist temple lent them the extra chairs that were needed to handle the overflow crowd.
Since many of the church members are poor and unskilled, we discussed ways that we could help them to gain skills, earn income, and at the same time spread the gospel. It was decided that we would purchase bakery equipment and teach the members to bake healthy whole wheat bread. We brought this as a project to the Lake Union ASI chapter. The LUASI chapter provided funding so they were able to purchase a mixer and ovens and other associated equipment. Soonpong taught several of the church members how to make wheat bread, and they then began selling some of it to earn wages. They also started passing it out as part of their health program.
One of the people who was introduced to the NEWSTART program and was using the wheat bread was a lady who happened to own a local radio station. She was so excited about the health message that she offered to rent time on the station so that Soonpong could share the health message to a larger audience. They negotiated for 3 hours of broadcast time a day for $300 a month. They presented this to their mission board, but were told that the mission could not afford it. They had permission to do it but they would have to raise the funds on their own. An Adventist businessman from the Chiang Mai church offered to pay half of the cost if the Lampang church would cover the balance. The members are mostly poor and they could not afford even that small cost. So for the first several months, Soonthorn and Soonpong paid the balance from their own merger wages, even through this eventually led to them having to give up their personal family vehicle since they couldn’t afford to do both.
During our next evangelistic series in Lampang, Soonthorn presented this burden to us and we were able to supply funding for the next couple of months. In April of that year, we presented this as a new project to the LUASI chapter and they provided enough funds to keep the broadcasting going for the balance of the year.
By the end of the year, the Thailand Adventist Mission was so impressed with the response to the radio broadcast that they decided not only to fund the broadcast but to actually purchase the radio station and relocate it to the church compound. This was completed during our last mission trip in February 2009.
In August, Soonthorn reported to us that they had 10 new people attending the church in response to the radio broadcasts. Many people are calling or writing to request more information. Earlier this year Soonpong was presented a special gift from the Royal Princess of Thailand, the daughter-in-law of the King, in recognition for her work with the Lampang Cancer Center and for her efforts to improve the health of the local community.
Ginny and I will return to Thailand in February 2010 to conduct a short reaping series in both Chiang Mai and Lampang.
“The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).