Pastor Kasem Chansong baptizes the mother of a Compassion-sponsored child from the Santi Church Student Center. More than 80 percent of the members of Santi Church are parents or guardians of children registered in the Compassion center.
In Thailand, fewer than 2 percent of the population classify themselves as Christian. In this predominantly Buddhist country, Christian churches struggle to grow, and most Protestant congregations are between 10 and 50 members. But don't be too quick to discount the faith of these small churches for even faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains.
A Pioneer in Advocacy
In 1987, the Santi Church in Phitsanulok, located south of Lampang, had only five members. Pastor Kasem Chansong and his wife, Karpcome, felt called to minister at this broken church, and they invested their time and energy even as the growth was sluggish.
Over the next several years, the church continued to add members, largely because of Karpcome's involvement with the children of Phitsanulok. As she shared the gospel with the families in the community, she noticed that many of the children couldn't read because their families were too poor to send them to school. Karpcome became a pioneer for children's rights in her community.
Karpcome and the members of Santi Church poured their lives and time into the children of Phitsanulok. They held after-school programs at the church and provided for the poorest youngsters in the community. Although their passion knew no limits, their resources did, and the small church soon felt the strain.
Karpcome prayed for an answer to their dilemma and God answered.
An Answered Prayer
In 1989, Compassion began searching for a church partner near Lampang. When Karpcome learned about Compassion's holistic child development program, she was thrilled. And when Compassion learned of this small, rural church's passion for children, a perfect match was made. The partnership flourished, and the Santi Church Student Center (TH-617) became a catalyst for change.
"Before we started the project, less than 20 percent of the children had a chance to continue their study in a high school level, but now the ratio has increased to 80 percent," says Karpcome, who serves on the committee for the student center. "We had to work very hard to make the parents understand the importance of education and (the need to) stop exploiting their children."
One of the most difficult tasks the church faced was encouraging children in their faith while they received no support at home. The project offered camps for the families and diligently evangelized and discipled the parents and guardians of registered children. The progress was slow but fruitful, and now, 17 years later, the membership of Santi Church has grown to more than 100!
"Now, 80 percent of the church members are guardians of children in the program," says Valai Vongwanna, Project Manager. "We hope to win even more guardians to Christ and anticipate that membership could reach 200 within the year."
The Faces Behind the Numbers
Although the statistics are impressive, they are more than numbers. Dozens of students like Krissanda Somjitchob, a Compassion graduate, have seen their families come to Christ. After becoming a Christian at the center, Krissanda began to pray for his parents and share the gospel with them. As his parents saw the change in their son, they began to believe the words he spoke to them and eventually became the first child guardians to receive Jesus as their Savior.
"My son told me to forsake the idols and turn to God, and now Jesus is everything to me and I have no other gods but Him," says Malee, Krissanda's mother.
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