Thai Believers Eager for Franklin Graham Event

By   •   November 19, 2013

chiang mai

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! –Psalm 8:9 (ESV)

In the lush mountains of northern Thailand, 400 miles north of Bangkok, the bustling city of Chiang Mai houses close to 200,000 people, with an urban sprawl of more than one million.

With its green mountaintops, white waterfalls and colorful tribal villages, Chiang Mai—and the surrounding province of the same name—can’t help but declare the majesty of God’s creation.

Nov.22-24, in this beautiful and ancient locale, thousands of people will gather together to hear the Gospel at the Abundant Life Festival with Franklin Graham.

The Festival will be a chance for a growing group of Thai Christians to share their faith with friends and family who may not have a good understanding of who Jesus is and why He matters.

“I’d say there’s an indifference to Christianity,” said Chad Hammond, director of Asian affairs for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “They don’t view it as a threat in Thailand. In India and some other places, Christianity is viewed as a threat. Here, I think there’s just an indifference. A lot of people are Buddhist because their parents are Buddhist, and it’s just part of the culture.”

Chiang Mai Night Market ,Chiang Mai, ThailandAlthough a lot of Thai people haven’t had much exposure to Christianity, Franklin Graham’s name is recognizable in many parts of Thailand. Franklin is president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), named after his father. He is also the head of the international relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse.

“There is an appreciation [in Thailand] for humanitarian relief,” Hammond said. “Franklin is known for Samaritan’s Purse and humanitarian aid. They had major flooding in Bangkok and other areas a few years ago. I think there’s a respect for Franklin because of that help. That then gives him a platform to share the Gospel.”

Thailand is one of the few countries where Billy Graham never preached at a Crusade, but the BGEA has been active in Thailand for more than 30 years. In 1978, a BGEA representative took part in evangelistic meetings in Bangkok. Additional visits to the country occurred in 1980 and 1987.

In 1993, the BGEA held its first Crusade in Thailand, led by associate evangelist Robert Cunville, in Chiang Mai. Four more Crusades followed in Udonthani (1998), Meg Pun-Lon Village (1999), Huay Pa Pao Village (2002) and Trang (2002).

The Abundant Life Festival this month will mark the first time Franklin Graham has preached in Thailand.

“There’s a lot of anticipation,” Hammond said.

For months, the BGEA has been working with church leaders in Chiang Mai to train believers to share their faith, invite neighbors to the Festival and counsel new believers who respond to the invitation to accept Christ.

Local leaders have recruited popular musical groups from all over Asia, including Boy Peacemaker, Bee, Doe and Korean pop (K-pop) artists Lim and 3rd Wave, who will all perform at the Festival. The BGEA has even had support from Australian evangelist and motivational speaker Nick Vujicic, who is well known in Thailand and is helping spread the word about the upcoming Festival.

United in Christ

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. –1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)

chaingmai3In a country where just one percent of the population is Christian, you might expect the small group of Christ followers who live there to stick together. But that hasn’t always been the case in Thailand.

In fact, two of the most influential Christian groups in the country—Church of Christ Thailand (CCT) and Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand (EFT)—have a long history of division.

Over the last few years, however, the bond between the two groups has been strengthening, and the upcoming Festival has led to new opportunities for unification.

“The unity and the partnership that they have is something that they’ve never had before,” Hammond said.

The leaders of the two groups are actually co-chairing the Festival together.

This past summer, during a large training event to prepare counselors for the Festival, the leaders of CCT and EFT approached the BGEA and asked to hold a joint communion service. The meaning and symbolism of breaking bread together in the name of Jesus deeply moved the 150 Christians who were gathered there.

“The two of them did communion together, and it was so powerful that people were weeping,” Hammond said. “The division between these two groups had been so strong over the years. It just kind of amazed us, just watching the Holy Spirit work in these leaders.”

If the communion service is any indication of what to expect during the Festival, Hammond believes great things are in store.

“People are talking about what happened in Chiang Mai when the leaders came together,” Hammond said. “We’re just giving all the glory to the Lord with that. God is working in their hearts and continues to do that.”

Encountering the God of Hope

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” –Isaiah 52:7 (ESV)

During the three-night Festival, which will be held at Chiang Mai’s 700th Year Anniversary Sports Complex, believers will be praying that many of their fellow Thai will hear the Gospel and allow it to change their lives.

Those who respond to Franklin Graham’s invitation will have immediate support from their new brothers and sisters in Christ. But when they go home to their families, they may not be greeted with enthusiasm.

“In the United States and in the West, often times when someone becomes a Christian, their parents are Christians. They throw a party,” Hammond said. “Over here, they are not met with approval but often disapproval. You can be disowned from your family.”

Knowing that cultural ties to Buddhism run deep, the Christian community in Chiang Mai has plans to embrace the new believers and help them in their new walk with God.

“One of the things we’re doing is working with the churches to prepare them for new Christians, so they can assimilate them and take care of them,” Hammond said. “And we won’t leave right after the Festival. We’ll be here in January, February and March.”

The Festival is happening at a critical time for the Thailand, when there are a number of concerns on the minds of the Thai people.

Poverty is rampant in many areas, and its effects reach from the largest cities to the smallest villages.

“Sex trafficking is a big issue here,” Hammond said. “And one of the main causes is poverty. Girls will leave their villages and move to the bigger cities to provide for their families. They’ll get involved in the sex trade. There are families that actually encourage their daughters to move to the city and get into the sex trade in order to provide money for the family.”

There are also concerns about the future political situation in Thailand. But in the midst of these uncertain times, Thai Christians are praying the Abundant Life Festival will give their fellow citizens a purpose and a hope like never before, as they encounter the living God of hope, Jesus Christ.

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18 Comments

  1. Marta De Jesús Rodríguez says:

    I LOVE it will Pray And believed For The súper best!

  2. Dinkar says:

    Good News! May God bring complete Revival ,pray for the meeting and men of God Amen

  3. Danny Brown says:

    I have been a missionary here for 20 years and am a little disappointed in how little the Thai culture and people ministering in the area of music have been ignored in this outreach. Thai people have little understanding of English. Most of the people that will be performing music or leading worship do not sing in Thai. There are a few Thai artists added as almost an afterthought but the greater amount of musicians and artists are from Korea and American.

    God has been moving in Thailand for many years now and there is a well developed network of ministry through music that is written in Thai and worship leaders as well. I’m very disappointed to see that not one Thai worship leader will be leading worship and that not even on person singing Isaan Christian music, which is the most popular music in Thailand, will be included. There is a tendency for American organizations to overlook the local culture as being less valuable than translated English or, in this case, even Korean pop culture. This outreach will no doubt be a success because of the Graham foundations having the local church involved but where is the Thai worship music and Isaan music. Thais cannot worship in English and most translated songs are a poor imitation of the songs written in the language itself. Of course they will clap wildly and applaud famous pop musicians but that does not mean they’re being ministered to on a spiritual level. Why is American and Korean music lifted up as being the standard when there is a wealth of worship music and Christian music expressed in the Thai language, thereby communicating a special way to it’s people through their own culture?

    1. Lynn Stepp says:

      Danny, We are sorry that you are so upset. This article is the first one about the Festival and is an overview. Each day of the Festival will be talked about in detail as it is happening. I know that every effort is made to represent the culture of the country that a Festival is held. Please pray with us that God will bring wonderful things to the Thailand that you love so much. Blessings, BGEA Internet

  4. ปิยะวดี กิจวรรณ says:

    How can I find this in Thai language Thanks for your kind and I hope to get their with my kids

    1. Lynn Stepp says:

      Here is the link to the Thai language site. http://alf2013.org/home/en/

  5. Sharon Uber says:

    This is most wonderful news! May God remind us to keep constant in prayer for this special opportunity!

  6. Vera chard says:

    I will be praying for Franklin and all the workers involved.Will pray for a spiritual awakening among the Thai people as Gods word is preached.Agreeing in prayer for a mighty harvest of souls!!God Bless!

  7. luis david arevalo yaruro says:

    quisiera ser un gran evangelista

  8. Sherry Bench says:

    My son has been teaching in Thailand and has married a Thai. She is not a Christain and needs the Lord. I have been praying for her and she be reached. She has went to church with us when she comes here andseems interested. My son needs to find a church that both of them will be happy in, my son does take his little girl with him when he can go. They are buying a house and I’m praying that they will find a church closer than the church downtown.

  9. NOILTON says:

    UM POVO QUE REALMENTE PRECISA DE DE DEUS

  10. Sha, Tha Lei Wah says:

    This make me feel needing to write something. I grew up in Thailand, in very restricted refugee camp(UMP). I am not Thai people, neither citizen. My one of The Karen ethnic people originally from Burma, Karen State. I was born in Thailand after my parent fled homeland, from civil wars.
    I had lived in Thailand almost 20 years in refugee camp. I did not like Thai people very much, and I was kind like hate them, even I have been a Christian. I’ve seen the oppression, humiliation and various approaches of discrimination on my people and other country less ethnic groups. I just don’t like the spirits of this country. Sometime I felt life our life meant to be slave and have to happy with it. (I HAVE SO MUCH TO EXPRESS BUT I WILL STOP HERE)
    After 20 years lived in Thailand, the pooprtunity opened to resettle in Canada, by God grace. Since I came to canada, I feel like I am a human the first time. After all those I did not have a chance to enjoy the meaning of human right.
    Since I have lived in Canada, God began to deal with me and fix my heart. God convince me to love him and his jealousy drive me to him. I have to be consistent with my believe, so I begin to love and Thai, and even my enemy who attacked us to flee our homeland. Now I have to love them. That is the only way and the only change. I can understand the logic of unforgiving, because of the cross of Christ.
    I can do not much, except praying for Thailand and Burma great revival. I also have prayed that God must turn this two nations completely to Christ. This is the only way. I can’t hold my tear when thinking about the oppression, humiliation, various discriminations and demeaning on the poor, the ethnic groups and refugee. God must move in Thailand and Burma.

    1. Rita Burleson says:

      Dear Siste ,Sha, Tha Lei Wah You are the perfict person to plea to Our Lor for the people I have no idea of as I was born in The U,S.A. , TO FORGIVE WAS MY BIGEST STRUGGLE but I did [ as you] learn from the word how to pray first then the forgiving came. You are right where you need to be and if not for the past you[ like I] could not have the compassion you have lor those people.I will keep you in prayer as I to pray for them .Thank you for your message to us,I hope it touches many hearts to pray and support F Ghram…God Bless you Sha, Tha Lei Wah . love you In Christ.