More than half of Prachinburi Church's 130 members are Compassion-assisted children and their families. Many Compassion youth teach Sunday school classes and lead worship and Bible studies.
Prachinburi Church wasn't built in a day. In fact, when Pastor Chalermehai Chai Sombat and his wife, Monitha, began serving at the 6-year-old church in 1995, there were only a few dozen members and no community outreach.
As Pastor Chalermehai and Monitha began visiting families in the surrounding city of T. Na Muang, they were shocked at the conditions they found especially those of the children living in poverty. Boys played in raw sewage that ran down the streets. Teenage girls were left to raise their younger brothers and sisters while their parents looked for work. Nearly a third of the children they met had never attended school and never would.
A Difficult Battle
But what the couple found most frustrating was the complacency among their church members and the other families they met. The Christians were without hope that they would ever escape poverty. Pastor Chalermehai and Monitha struggled to find a solution to help their church.
In 1998, Pastor Chalermehai believed he had found an answer through Compassion International, which wanted to open a child development center in T. Na Muang. Pastor Chalermehai was certain the program was just what was needed to jump-start his church. But to his surprise, several members voiced their opposition.
"Those who disagreed back then did not understand how child ministry could impact our church's growth, and they only wanted to focus on ministries for the adults," Pastor Chalermehai says.
Families Come to Christ
In the end, more church members voted for the center than against it, and in 1999, the TanPra Porn Student Center(TH-641) opened with 50 registered children. And with each registered child, Pastor Chalermehai had the opportunity to share Christ with family, neighbors and friends.
"Previously we had no reason for entering their houses, but child visitation gives us a good reason," he says. "By means of child visitation, we could know whether their guardians were ready for the gospel. If they were, we would ask for permission to start a fellowship group in their houses." These small groups were ideal for reaching out to the largely Buddhist community, and many parents began attending church with their children.
The student center has now grown to more than 275 registered children, 35 of whom have committed their lives to Christ, including Suwalak Thahad, a 15-year-old raised in a Buddhist family. When Suwalak first accepted Christ, her family opposed her decision and threatened to kick her out of their home.
"At that time, I was so stressed and I only prayed to God," says Suwalak. "They now do not oppose me as strongly as before. I have also asked my mom to come to church, but she kept refusing until recently. I was very glad she decided to come, because my greatest hope is to see my mom get saved."
A Unified Church
Each Sunday, as Pastor Chalermehai leads his church family in prayer, he smiles at the dozens of children who crowd into the pews with their families. After years of perseverance, he knows that God has blessed his church's commitment to the children of T. Na Muang.
"There is unity in the church. Now we have different people from different backgrounds staying together, which I think is good for our long-term growth," he says. "Our members are more enthusiastic about the change than ever before. I feel that God is doing a miracle."
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