Good News for Bangkok
Ministry in Thailand faces huge challenges: crime is rampant, the culture is deeply Buddhist, and Christians are a tiny fraction of the population.
Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, is home to an estimated 12 million people, and only 40,000 are Christian. The city is virtually unreached.
Nui and Rawee Bunupuradah knew all this when they moved to Bangkok a little over a year ago as RCA missionaries. Nui and Rawee are ethnic Chinese with deep roots in Thailand.
Nui is from northern Thailand and is the only believer in her family. Rawee was born and raised in New York City after his parents moved there more than 40 years ago. His older brother is the only other member of his family who knows Christ. “Serving in Thailand is a critically personal matter,” says Rawee. “It is about people we love.”
The Bunupuradahs’ ministry is taking the form of leadership training and development. Rawee says, “I wear a couple of hats in our mission work: I serve locally as a leader with a small church in Bangkok, and nationally as a missionary in a team of missionaries working alongside Thai leaders across the country.”
Strengthening the Christian church in Thailand
The team of missionaries that Rawee is part of prays and seeks out key partners who want to see the renewal of Bangkok and Thailand through gospel-centered church planting.
“It is a slow but exciting day-to-day process, praying with, walking with, encouraging, teaching, counseling, and learning from the Thai Christians,” he says.
“We concentrate on how the gospel should integrate with life and work so the church is not limited to a building, but growing and expanding through encounters in relationships we have with family, neighbors, coworkers, the lady selling noodles down the street…”
Overcoming the ravages of crime
“One of the most effective ways to witness is not personally, but communally,” says Rawee. “The church is a community shedding light into the darkness, bringing comfort to the hopeless, and fixing the brokenness of Thailand.”
Crime is one manifestation of that brokenness. Thailand is a regional hub for drug trafficking, youth crime has been exploding, and sex trafficking brings in an estimated $4.3 billion a year.
“We recently visited a good friend who works in a ministry with prostitutes,” says Rawee. “Many are in their early teens and have been sent to Bangkok to work and support their family in the countryside. My friend and her team go out to the bars and talk to the girls, trying to build a relationship with them. They pray that these girls would decide to leave this life and live at a boarding house where they will receive an education, learn life skills, and learn about following Jesus.
“It takes time, and the boarding house can only serve 10 ladies at a time, but this is their strategy—to be with a few in order to go deep with their lives.
“Some of these sisters in Christ have graduated or will graduate college in such fields as chemical engineering, nutrition, culinary arts, business administration, and biblical studies.
“We are in awe of how God will use these young sisters for his kingdom in Thailand.”
Presenting God’s grace
Yet another obstacle to the gospel in Thailand is a deeply Buddhist culture. “Grace is a hard concept for Buddhists, who live out their faith through good works,” says Rawee. “A common question is, ‘What do I need to do to be a follower of Christ?’ Many people reject Christ because having faith and trusting in Jesus seems too easy.
“The church must communicate the gospel clearly and be an intentional community of believers who sacrificially love others. It is difficult work, yet we have witnessed God working in the hearts of those who hear the gospel. One evening after I shared about the grace of God and salvation, I received an email from a young Thai man, who wrote,
…after I was introduced to the Christ, I have been trying to know Him more through Bibles, movies, music, and going to fellowship’s activities. I come up with the thought that if I do as much as what the Jesus taught, then I will be good.
But after your session, I think I am wrong. It’s because of Him and the gospel message that we appreciate his grace, and then we do good. Not investing in being good and then waiting for the return. But “the first importance” is “he died for us because of our sins.”
“This young man is a believer now. We have been in a discipleship relationship for the past year. He has a great heart to see unity in the church and to see a men’s ministry formed to help the men grow in their walk with Christ.”
Honoring those who’ve served faithfully
Besides serving with the missionary team, Rawee is involved with an emerging pastors network that is focused on networking, training, and encouraging leaders between the ages of 30 to 45. “The goal is to see the next generation of leaders all over the country healthy, connected, and working together for the Great Commission,” he says.
But Rawee realizes that while raising up new leaders is critical, it’s also vital to connect with leaders who’ve served for decades. That’s why the team he participates in also works with the national church leadership of the Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand.
“These are pastors and leaders who have served Christ faithfully for 20 or 30 years. They have formed a ministry called EDC Training. EDC stands for evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. EDC gathers experienced leaders together to teach, counsel, and advise pastors and leaders in parts of Thailand that have no Christians.”
Passing the baton
“All these ministries are the culmination of God’s work through missionary service, passing the baton to the Thai national leadership and the next generation of Thai leaders being raised up by God,” says Rawee.
“Yet missionaries are still needed to help encourage and serve alongside pastors and leaders. An emerging pastor once encouraged a group of missionaries, saying, ‘Please continue the good work in Thailand. We pastors need you here because it reminds us that God still loves Thailand and desires his kingdom to come here. You are a physical symbol of hope from God.’”
Pray that hearts in Thailand will be open to God’s love and grace.
Donate to help spread the gospel in Thailand: www.rca.org/bunupuradah.
Read missionary letters from Thailand at www.rca.org/bunupuradah.