(Article from Alliance Life magazine)
BUT FIRST, PRAY
Proclamation begins with prayer
By Sue Danneker
After you move to the target area for the new church, do nothing for three months except pray!
In July 2002, we were about to embark on a new church plant in Talingchan, an unreached area of Bangkok, Thailand. These wise words, spoken to us by the Thai pastor of the mother church and echoed by our mentor and missionary colleague Dorothy Hubert (C&MA Canada, now retired), have vibrated deep in our hearts ever since.
We followed that advice and saw the Lord move in amazing ways. Starting with one local believer and a couple from the mother church, new believers soon joined, and the church plant was able to carry on the ministry within four years.
The church was doing so well that in July 2007 we planted another church, this time in Mahachai, just west of Bangkok. There were two families in the area, all new in the faith. Unfortunately, we neglected the wise advice of “pray first” and just jumped into ministry. It was a challenge, but praise God, the Mahapawn Living Water Church in Mahachai is now growing and developing under the able leadership of Pastor Sukprasan.
In July 2015, we began partnering with Mahapawn Living Water Church to plant its first daughter congregation in the neighboring district of Baan Paeo, about 15 miles away. There are 93,000 people in Baan Paeo and yet there was no church. Pastor Sukprasan encouraged us to live in the area, and we were able to quickly find a home through the recommendation of the one member of his church who lives there.
Why We Are Here
We followed the wise advice the Lord gave us through our colleagues back in 2002, deciding to pray and do prayer walks for three months before we began any formal outreach in Baan Paeo. We asked God to give us great insight into the community and to pour out His Holy Spirit to break the strongholds in the land.
The Lord delighted us with wonderful adventures as we prayer walked several times a week through Baan Paeo. We would head out around 4:30 p.m., when it was a bit cooler, and walk until 6:30, when it gets dark. This is also the time the Thai people are more likely to be outside—in their yards, strolling near their homes, or visiting with neighbors.
During our second prayer walk, several lanes away from our home, we passed a small convenience store in the middle of the block. We continued walking, praying, blessing the people, and asking for God’s Holy Spirit to stir hearts and prepare them to come to faith in Jesus.
At the end of the lane we came upon a large shrine to various Hindu deities, surrounded by tall poles flying small flags. I thought of the meaning of the town’s name: “Baan” means “house,” and “Paeo” indicates a flag on a tall pole. These flags were originally used more than a hundred years ago, when the area was a forest, to show the hunters where to meet. Now, with canals and roads connecting the area, Baan Paeo has developed into a comfortable, small city. I prayed that one day those flags would come down and the people living there would experience God’s banner of love over them.
Isaiah 60:1–3 came to mind: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” I prayed that God’s glory would rise over the darkness of that lane.
We walked back to greet the owner of the convenience store. She asked, as many people have, why we lived there. “We have come to tell the people of Baan Paeo that the God of creation loves them and wants them to know Him,” we answered.
“Christian?” she asked. Yes, we affirmed. She excitedly told us that she listened to Christian radio every day. Some time ago a group distributed radios that receive only that channel, and the shop owner is enjoying the programs that air once a day. Mrs. Boon-som is not yet a Christian but is definitely on the way.
We did our sixth prayer walk closer to the city’s small downtown area. I had been thinking about getting a haircut and spied a beauty shop. The proprietor, Nun, was sitting outside and invited me in with a smile. “On a whim” I entered, while Ed continued to walk and pray outside.
She, too, asked why we lived in Baan Paeo. As we spoke, Nun, who was maybe my age, began showing me literature about other religions she was investigating.
She snipped away at my hair as I told her about the creator God who loved her and wanted a relationship with her. I may come out of this shop bald, I thought, but I am having a fantastic time witnessing for my Lord. In the end the haircut was nice, and she expressed interest in what I was sharing.
“You know, there are no coincidences, really,” she said. I agreed; this was God’s appointment.
The True Way
As we went back regularly to visit Nun, she accepted the gospel tracts, JESUSvideo, and Bible we gave her and loved the Christian music CD, which she listened to every morning.
She had many questions about Christianity but continued to bring up all the other religions she was trying as well. We prayed that God would reveal that Jesus was the only way, the only truth, and the only life.
When we took Richard Herring, our regional director, to Nun’s shop, she told us her son was in prison awaiting sentencing. She bemoaned that she wanted him to be a good person. I told her that since only Jesus can really change a life, she should tell her son to pray only to Him.
Later that week I brought a Thai woman named Ann from Mahapawn Living Water Church. We had no sooner sat down when Nun started firing questions at Ann, the first Thai Christian she had met. “What about this other sacred way, have you tried this chanting?” Nun asked.
Ann politely answered, “Yes, but that wasn’t it.”
“What do you mean?” Nun queried.
“I tried other religions, but they did not satisfy me. Only when I came to faith in Jesus did I find the true way.”
As the visit came to a close, Nun suddenly blurted out, “I am going to church with you on Sunday!”
As we arrived at the simple storefront we use for our ministry center in Mahachai, I asked Nun to help carry one of the cakes I had made to celebrate the September birthdays. Holding the cake, she looked at the building, took a deep breath, and walked in. “Oh,” she exclaimed, “I felt this refreshing peace when I walked into church. I knew it was a holy place, and at first I was not brave to enter.” God had welcomed Nun in a way that was meaningful to her—with His peace.
“My three sons, who went to Catholic school, told me Jesus died for us, but I did not understand what that meant,” she told Pastor Sukprasan. “God sent Sue to tell me about Jesus—11 days before my youngest son got arrested—so that I would be prepared to deal with this crisis and have Someone to rely upon. God is so good. I told my son to remember Jesus, who he learned about in school, and to pray only to Him.”
Nun told Ann that after her visit, she prayed to no other god but Jesus for three days and now knows the God of the Bible heard her prayers. “I had a dream that I put all the other religious objects I had in my shop in a bag and got rid of them.”
Please pray for all of the people God introduced us to on our prayer walks. We trust that these initial encounters will grow into friendships like Nun’s so they can continue to hear the good news of Jesus and respond to His love for them.