Doing Ministry in a Buddhist Context

Post a Comment » Written on February 17th, 2009     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (February 17, 2009) – In 2005, flooding destroyed a fish farm in Chiang Mai, Thailand, that had been sponsored by the Evangelical Covenant Church Department of World Mission. Damages reached $90,000 and deprived many people of steady income. (Click here to see previous story.)

Ten students from North Park Theological Seminary recently participated in efforts to rebuild the farm during a mission trip. The students also lived among the poor in the slums of Bangkok and helped host a conference of missionaries from 17 different countries.

The experiences were part of the Mission and Ministry in Asia (Thailand) class that included the two-week mission trip designed to educate students on how to do ministry in a Buddhist context. Course readings covered Thai customs and history, as well as strategies for missions to other cultures—including conflict resolution due to language or cultural differences.

While in Thailand, the students didn’t focus on leading vacation Bible school or worship services as often happens on such trips. Although they taught English to children and helped with the rebuilding of the fish farm, the students were there primarily to listen, says Paul De Neui, professor of Intercultural Studies and Missiology, who teaches the course.

Seminary student Nathan Albert, who came to the seminary from Life Covenant Church, a multi-site Covenant congregation, says the trip is helping him to make life decisions. “I am drawn to Thai culture, and it became a couple weeks of discerning whether missions to Thailand is something God may have in store for me in the future.”

Students learned the power of incarnational evangelism. “The mayor of the chum chon invited us back, concluding that Christians would always be allowed in his village,” Albert says. “A Buddhist woman we called Bah felt honored to house Christians for a week and as we said our goodbyes remarked, ‘When you come back to Thailand you stay with me. You always have a mother in Thailand.’ ”

In a world that often seems connected primarily through technology, the person-to-person ministry is vital, Albert says. “God’s love was brought to us through the Incarnation, and as the body of Christ, we must continue to be incarnate, especially in a text-message, cell phone, and Internet-crazed world.”

Albert says he gained a deeper understanding of the love of God from an eight-year-old Buddhist girl. (For his reflection on that experience, click here.)

De Neui, who is a former missionary to Thailand, says he hopes that one day all students and faculty will participate in a cross-cultural ministry trip to a different country. This was the fourth trip to Thailand offered by the seminary.

Covenant World Relief provided much of the funding for the trip.

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