ON MARCH 19, 2005, 57 Methodists from Singapore witnessed three very significant and historical mission events in Chiangmai, Thailand – the Ordination Service, the Formation of the Methodist Mission in Thailand (now known as Wesley Methodist Church in Thailand), and the Dedication and Opening of the Muang Thai Mettakij Foundation Centre.
After more than 10 years of mission work in Thailand, the Methodist Missions Society’s recommendation of forming a Methodist Mission Conference was accepted by the Council of Presidents and Bishop Dr Robert Solomon. This formation was the second national church structure that The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS), through the Methodist Missions Society (MMS), has established since 1991. The first significant milestone was the official formation of the Mission in Cambodia in January 2004 by the joint efforts of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church (UMC), Korean Mission, French/Swiss UMC, the World Federation of Chinese Methodist Churches and the MMS.
Missionary outreach has been one of the greatest blessings of the MCS since Methodism was planted in Singapore 120 years ago. Through James Thoburn and William Oldham, the first Methodist Church was instituted in February 1885.
And in the same vein, the MCS was now able to multiply internationally. Indeed, the world is our parish!
Organised by the MMS, the Celebration of God’s Goodness in Thailand was held from March 15 to 20, 2005. In conjunction with the main celebration, two programmes were conducted simultaneously – Golfing with a Mission and Vacation with a Difference. These programmes were mainly organised for anyone who wanted to explore going into a mission field.
Most of those who went were participants of the Vacation with a Difference programme. On their arrival in Pornping Tower Hotel in Chiangmai, they were given a brief introduction on the mission works in Thailand by MMS Director, the Rev Dr Clarence Lim. On March 16 and 17, the group visited Sanphranet Methodist Church, Shineforth Methodist Church, Genesis Methodist Church, Santi Methodist Church, Maeyamin Methodist Church and Sankoyam School.
Sanphranet Methodist Church was adopted by Charis Methodist Church in 1998. Located at its premises is the Sanphranet Vineyard Childcare Centre where there are 16 children. The participants gathered for a simple session of praise and worship led by Pastor Prasarn before moving on to Sanphranet Methodist Church’s outreach arm in Sansai District — Shineforth Methodist Church.
Adopted by Barker Road Methodist Church in 2004, Shineforth Methodist Church has a regular Sunday service membership of 35 people. Sitting together in this new Muang Thai Mettakij Foundation Centre are the Sansainoi Vineyard Kindergarten and the Mettakij Home.
The group then visited the Sankoyam School where Mrs Dorcus Ang (of Paya Lebar Chinese Methodist Church) and Mrs Bull-Wong Yew Yin (of Barker Road Methodist Church) were teaching in an English camp from March 15 to 17. Along with MMS Missionaries in Training, Mr Leong Seng Kok and his wife Sharon, they taught Basic English to 55 primary school students.
Immediately after lunch, the group had to travel 120 km north to the Huey Paraai Village where the Yellow Lahu people worship at Genesis Methodist Church. Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church adopted Genesis Methodist Church in 1998. The young Pastor Somphan took the group to higher ground where the new church, estimated to be built at a cost of S$12,000, will sit on. It was heartening to learn that all the villagers are Christians. They treated us to a simple dinner, cultural songs and dances around the bon fire.
The next day, the group travelled up further north along a bumpy road to Santi Village, where there are 770 Red Lahu people. Mr Lyndon Gan of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church introduced the group to Santi Methodist Church which was adopted by his church. Pastor Ca-suh, a Black Lahu, told the group that 11 of 15 households are already believers. Even a former witchdoctor had become a Christian!
The group then visited Pastor Amnard at Maeyamin Village where they were greeted with songs and dances by 11 girls. As this is a very poor village, the group presented to the Village Head some gifts.
While the group was whisked from church to church, five other delegates — participants of the Golfing with a Mission programme — were teeing off in three of the best golf courses in Chiangmai.
On the fourth day, both groups visited the local product and handicraft industries like leather, gem, silk and bird nest factories. There were also visits to the Elephant Camp and Orchid Farm. At the end of the day, everyone was treated to a traditional long-table Kantoke dinner with a cultural show.
Finally the fifth day – the most important day – arrived. The Formation of Wesley Methodist Church in Thailand and the Ordination Service in the morning was well attended by about 400 people. The event was held in the sanctuary of Shineforth Methodist Church.
Bishop Dr Solomon preached and encouraged the congregation that God had chosen them to change the world around them. Several congratulatory greetings were received from the three Annual Conferences of the MCS, The Methodist Church of The Union of Myanmar, The Methodist Church in Korea, EFT Northern District, Church of Christ in Thailand, Bangkok Bible College, Northeastern Bible College, Payab University and the Bible Society of Singapore.
The Rev Henry Yeo and the Rev Prasert Pornkiratikul were ordained as Deacons while Pastor Ca-suh, Pastor Pisut, Pastor Prasarn, Pastor Sanit, Pastor Somphan and Pastor Supachai were presented as Licensed Pastors.
The Dedication and Opening of the Muang Thai Mettakij Foundation Centre in the afternoon was held under the large open-air marquee at the basketball court. Among the five distinguished guests were the Governor of Chiangmai, Mr Suwat Tantipat, and the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Singapore Embassy in Thailand, Ms Teo Lay Cheng. The Chairman of the Muang Thai Mettakij Foundation Centre, Mr Suchad Chianranussati, thanked the guests for their presence and, on behalf of the Foundation, donated 400 packets of white rice and 400 pieces of blankets to the Governor for distribution to the community.
Bishop Dr Solomon addressed the 400-strong crowd with the parable of the mustard seed – small beginnings, lasting results.
After the cutting of ribbon and the unveiling of the plaque by Mr Suwat Tantipat, Bishop Dr Solomon and Ms Teo, the centre was officially opened.
Kam Leong Heng is the Church Relations and Communications Executive of The Methodist Missions Society.