An unusual crop from South America has been helping to support church growth in Southeast Asia, as Intercede International's Eliud Herrera relates in the following story.
On my visit to Thailand in December 2014, I met with Brother Kitikoon Prasertsee, the leader of Intercede International partner ministry Thailand Strategic Outreach. He shared with me some exciting news about the ministry. In one of the churches visited he showed me a plantation, a vineyard plantation.
Then he asked me if I knew what it was. I confessed my ignorance, and he told me it is Sacha Inchi, and then he asked me again, do you know where it comes from? Again a nodding came out of me, he laughed and said it comes from South America, exactly from Peru. I am a Latino, so we laughed together. Then he started to share about the project with me.
It is called The Agricultural Sustainability Project-Sacha Inchi Crop. This plant produces a seed that not only is the riches source of Omega-3 on the planet, but is also rich in protein and fiber. The intention is to train every possible Church of the ministry in the planting, and production of this seed, and then the ministry will commercialize the seed.
Prasertsee explained more, "since April (2014) we have signed a contract with a buyer in China in order to sell all of our Sacha Inchi nuts/seeds that we anticipated to grow to them. We since then have encouraged churches and Christians to grow these nuts/seeds so that our local churches and Christians can start supporting them and have funds to do outreach programs and plant new churches.
"We now have mobilized Christians in four nations, namely Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar (formerly Burma), to grow these nuts/seeds. It is estimated that around 750 churches in these four nations have now started to grow these nuts/seeds with us on their lands or their members' lands."
At the moment of my visit the first cargo was on its way to China. The goal is that every church will be self-sustaining to continue planting the spiritual seed of the Gospel to every tribe and nation in the land of influence of Thailand Strategic Outreach.
Another tool used by the ministry is the radio; Mekong Radio is one of the ministries of TSO and is registered as a private Christian radio station in Northeast Thailand. The radio station began as a way to provide a needed service to the community-broadcasting local events and service bulletins while also sharing the Gospel with these least-reached areas of Thailand.
The ministry's radio has been broadcasting Christian programming in Northeast Thailand and the surrounding areas for the past decade. Programs are developed by the ministry workers to reach specifically to the people groups in the region.
Due to the religious persecution in the surrounding countries and the economic persecution of Christians in Thailand, the radio ministry has opened the door for secret believers in many countries to listen to Christian programming without the threat of persecution. Secret listeners to the radio station even include some government officials and Buddhist monks.
He continued telling me, "We would like to expand our coverage. We believe this can open the way to share the Gospel of Jesus, despite previously closed doors. In this way the local churches can act as the radio station headquarters and utilize time slots to invite the community to church evangelism events. We are praying for partners to join with us and help sponsor a Christian radio station in seven more villages by the end of 2015. Each station costs around $5,000 for the equipment."
Another vital part of the ministry is Mercy Christian School. Mercy Christian School was started in order to give an opportunity for educational development to disadvantaged children in the Nathan and Khemarat districts of the Ubonratachatani province in Northeast Thailand.
Around 80 percent of the children attending the school are from Buddhist homes with 60 percent of these becoming Christians through the ministry of the school. Some of the children travel upwards of two hours each way by bus to attend the school.
The students wear uniforms and are known for their respectful behaviour and their high educational achievements. The school is giving hope and a future to rural Thai children whose parents are largely poor farmers. The school is in urgent need of scholarships for underprivileged children whose parents can no longer afford the cost of the bus ride to and from school every day.
Equipping New Leaders
Pastors and Christian Leaders receive Biblical training in Nonprasert, Thailand at Mekong Bible Institute and Seminary. Currently there are around 50 students on campus with another 80 students in satellite campuses in other parts of Southeast Asia.
Mekong Bible Institute and Seminary offers a Bachelor's degree (four years) in Bible Theology, a Bible certificate (one to two years), and a diploma (three years), the latter being mostly used for non-accredited training in other locations.
There are eight teaching professors with additional classes taught by visiting professors. The Bible Institute and Seminary serves a strategic role in preparing the next generation of ministry workers to reach Southeast Asia with the Gospel, as well as preparing the churches to resist erroneous doctrines from within the church and endure persecution from outside the church.
The Bible Institute and Seminary has an immediate need for scholarships for needy students from Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. Please pray for the effectiveness of these future leaders of the church in Southeast Asia.
The ministry also has been supporting the persecuted church in Southeast Asia since 1994. TSO missionaries assist with advocacy to international organizations, immediate financial assistance, and specialized training. This has encouraged Christian leaders to stand boldly even when their homes and property are confiscated and they are thrown into prison for their faith.
A village of refuge has been set up for those forced to flee their homes under the threat of death, to provide temporary housing and safety. In addition to this, support is provided for the families of pastors who are imprisoned or martyred.
God is moving in Thailand Strategic Outreach's ministry. Prasertsee's final words for me were: Please Intercede for us in Canada. Let the brethren know that we covet their prayers, and that we need their financial support to continue planting the seed, both, the heavenly one, and the one that comes from South America.
Credit: INS- Intercede International, Fort Erie, ON.