Listening to Pi Joon share his testimony of how he had lost almost 40 pounds in less than a year caused me to sit back in wonder and amazement. Since we arrived in Khon Kaen about four and a half years ago, I have had a burden for health ministry. The health message is the right arm of the gospel. Jesus spent more time healing the sick than preaching. Inspiration and actual experience both hold that health ministry combined with Biblical teaching yields tremendous results. Although I didn’t have any medical training or substantial experience in health ministry, I felt sure that it was God’s will for us to pursue this course, which gave me the confidence to pray and do whatever I could to help make it a reality.
Our core group of church members was small but contained a handful of people with medical training, including a doctor, a trainer of nurses and a medical student. I wanted to help them catch a vision for medical ministry, so three years ago we sponsored two of our church members to attend an OCI seminar in Jakarta, Indonesia about urban evangelism and medical missions. Next we talked about renting space at a local market to sell healthful food, but due to a lack of human resources, the idea never got off the ground. Later that year, I put in a request with AFM for a student missionary to either teach English or do health or media ministry. We prayed that God would send us the help we needed.
A little while later, I came across a DVD in both English and Thai developed by the Buddhist Study Center that contained a training program on the eight laws of health. I asked my teammate Shannon Sorensen, a trained nurse, to lead our church members in this program so they could gain a foundational knowledge of health principles that they could begin sharing. She readily agreed and began meeting on a regular basis with a handful of interested church members. As the group met, we continued to cast the vision for them and kept praying that God would send us the help we needed.
By the end of 2017, God answered our prayers for help and sent Miriam Bernstein and Karina Brinckhaus to help with teaching English and Health ministry respectively. Karina, an R.N, had originally been assigned to serve on the Palawano Project, but during the last couple of weeks of training she was asked if she would be willing to come to Khon Kaen instead. Just like that, God had provided two key helpers. Three actually, since an old Bible-worker friend of mine named Joseph McCutchen moved to Khon Kaen with his family earlier that year and got involved in our church mission by helping us develop a media ministry!
Karina quickly got involved with our nascent health ministry, and we began praying about how we could develop it. Not long before Karina arrived, the mother of former SM Melissa Guthrie told me about a program called Diabetes Undone that was being used successfully in the States to help people reverse diabetes. I told her that diabetes was a huge problem in Thailand and I was interested in learning more about the program. After Karina arrived, I told her about Diabetes Undone, and she immediately went to work with a translator to create a Thai-language version. She also began doing health consultations with church members and building a team of volunteers to train for health expos in the city. In the last year, our church has conducted three health expos in the city along with various health screenings in local parks and villages.
It was during our first health expo last year that Pi Joon committed to changing his lifestyle. Recently baptized, he eagerly volunteered to help. An avid cook, he expected to be asked to serve at the nutrition booth, but much to his surprise he was assigned to work at the exercise station. He wondered what people would think of an overweight person counseling them about exercise. Although he had his doubts, he agreed to help and also committed to change his lifestyle. Thus began his journey of exercising regularly, cutting out meat and adding lots of fruits and vegetables to his diet. As time went on, he began to see results. He felt younger and healthier, and the pounds began to slip away—almost 40 in less than a year!
Pi Joon’s transformation has only increased his zeal for service and his desire to do whatever he can to help others improve their lives. At the end of last year, he helped Karina organize a health club that began meeting every Saturday night at our school. Church members, friends, students and parents were invited to attend. At the health club Karina demonstrates healthful recipes and gives short health lectures while Pi Joon translates for her. He also makes nice fliers advertising the event and shares them on social media. Several of the health-club guests were present during our health emphasis Sabbath where Pi Joon shared his testimony.
One of the attendees was a man named Suban whom we met in January at a health expo we conducted in a village near our school. Living right next to the building where the expo was held, Suban saw a sign advertising the event the morning it began. He had high blood pressure, diabetes and impaired vision, and he had been planning to go to the hospital that day but decided to attend our health expo instead. As he went through the various stations, he told us that his health had gotten so bad that he had given up hope of ever getting better and was basically waiting to die. When he learned that we were willing to do in-home health consultations with him, he readily agreed.
For the past month and a half, Karina and Pi Joon have been meeting weekly with Suban in his home and have helped him to implement simple lifestyle changes that are making a big difference. Already his blood pressure has dropped significantly, and his overall health has improved. After only a couple of visits, Suban asked if he could attend our church, and Pi Joon offered to pick him up. As Suban introduced himself to several people, he proudly said that he was a new member! Suban has been to church twice in the past three weeks and continues to consult with Karina and Pi Joon weekly. We recently went back to Suban’s village to hold a second health expo, and he proudly brought a couple of his friends with him. Excited by the health transformations he has experienced, Suban remarked to Karina that he thinks that the advice he has been getting from doctors is wrong, and what he is learning from us is correct. We praise God for how He is changing Suban. In fact, Suban recently told us that he wants to bring more friends to our church!
I still marvel as I think about all that has transpired in the last three years. God has shown me that He is very capable of providing what we need to do the work He has given us. As we look to the future, we see much work yet to do and many challenges yet to overcome. Please pray that the Lord will continue to grow our ministry, and that He will raise up more people like Pi Joon who will open their hearts to His Spirit, have life-changing experiences and become active missionaries for Him.