October 29, 2022, was a very high Sabbath for us. The Thailand Adventist Mission (TAM) president, Pastor Niratisai Aipan, officiated as we celebrated the organization of the Khon Kaen Seventh-day Adventist Church in our new building, overflowing with church members, friends and special guests. No longer a group or company, we were now a church. It has been a long journey, but God has truly blessed the people of Khon Kaen through a chain of grace over many years.
During the ceremony, I was asked to recount how the Khon Kaen Seventh-day Adventist Church came into being and through whom. Of course, only God can fully tell this history, for only He has been here from the beginning working through His Spirit to draw the people of Khon Kaen to Himself.
From what I have researched about the recent SDA presence, it seems that in 1969, a Thai man named Choen, a member of the Chinese SDA Church in Bangkok, married a Christian lady and moved to Khon Kaen, where there was no SDA church. Choen prayed, asking God to send church planters.
His prayers were answered when the TAM president, Pastor Rangsit Satayawaksakul, sent Sri Lankan Global Mission pioneers, pastors Christie and Malki Pererra, to serve in Khon Kaen from November 1995 to December 1997. They served God by passing out pamphlets and teaching free English classes. Together with Choen and Dr. Julius Ndegwa’s family, they formed the first SDA group to meet in Khon Kaen.
Chutikarn, a Thai Buddhist lady who studied English with the Perreras, had children she later sent to study at SDA schools in Bangkok and Singapore, where they not only developed a better command of English but also learned about Jesus.
When the Perreras left Khon Kaen in December 1997, Pastor Kasem Laoken and his wife Samorn arrived to continue the work. He baptized some of Chutikarn’s children a year or two later—the first new members added to the Khon Kaen SDA group.
Next, Pastor Niratisai Aipan and his wife Tippawan served in Khon Kaen until 2007, followed by Pastor Winai Wajanaphaasuk and his wife Somphorn, who led four worship groups, one in Khon Kaen and others in neighboring provinces. They held Sabbath services in Khon Kaen city twice each month. During this time, the church struggled.
In 2010, Pastor Wanlop Intachai and his wife, Thongmii were called to minister in Khon Kaen. While her husband traveled to the other distant SDA groups, Thongmii stayed and led regular worship services in Khon Kaen city every Sabbath—at times, she says, literally preaching to empty chairs. Over time, the early Khon Kaen members began to attend more regularly.
Pastor Wanlop and Thongmii prayed that God would send AFM missionaries. That is when TAM approached AFM. Pastor Ricardo and Alicia Palacios (2011-2016) answered the AFM call to go to Khon Kaen along with their teammates: Danielle Koning (2013-2016), Robbie and Kelli Doss (2013-2014), Christopher and Shannon Sorensen (2014-present), and Kyle and Cindi Tumberg (2014-2022).
In 2016, Pastor Wanlop retired, and Pastor Apisit and Isayaporn Poorinantawong arrived. In January 2018, Pastor Bruce and Dorothy Hayward, our AFM field directors, made Khon Kaen their base of operations, so we claim them as our teammates, too. Then in 2019, AFM sent Pastor Claudette and Rene Aleman, who presently serve here. Finally, Pastor Wekin and Wichuda Pratyawong came to replace Pastor Apisit in May 2022.
According to God’s providence, this chain of gospel workers grows longer every year. Were I to name every student, short-term missionary, and all the lay volunteers that God has sent to Khon Kaen over the years, this article would fill many pages.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus said, “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together” (John 4:35-36). That describes the work in Khon Kaen perfectly. So does Paul’s statement: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).
Dear friends, Shannon and I and our children have been so privileged to be a small link in this long chain of God’s grace that has been at work here for more than 28 years. We love the Thai people and still have big, God-sized dreams for them. Through your generosity, many Thai people in Khon Kaen are beginning to see more of Christ than they had ever hoped for or dared to ask. All glory be to God! Thank you all for your faithfulness in praying for and supporting us and God’s work here.