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A Taste of Service


Ratthaya Nanthasen played a significant role in shaping a recent “Taste of Mennonite Church Canada” event at First Mennonite Church (Calgary). Nanthasen helped prepare food and produced beautiful fruit carvings for display – all in addition to her work in outreach ministry with the Lao Community Mennonite Church. l-r: Marvin Baergen, Congregational Partnership worker for MC Canada in Alberta, Hugo Neufeld, Ratthaya Nanthasen, and Doreen Neufeld. The Neufelds currently serve as as half-time Pastoral Advisors to Holyrood Mennonite Church (Edmonton).

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November 29, 2005
-by Jeff Enns

Winnipeg, Man. - For Ratthaya Nanthasen, a native of Thailand, crunching numbers just did not hold the same allure as direct interaction with people. After earning a degree in accounting she soon discovered it was a field she did not wish to pursue. Instead she decided to concentrate on interests in social work which had already surfaced at the tender age of 18.

For the past nine months, Nanthasen has served as an outreach worker for the Lao Community Mennonite Church (Calgary). She fulfills a variety of important roles with the congregation, including visiting the Lao and Thai people in the community, reading them the Bible, offering counseling services and teaching Sunday school.

Nanthasen works hard at uniting the Lao people in the community, which can sometimes be difficult due to a lack of communication. “I come to the Church and get to know the people,” she explains. “I try to help them to grow and come together.”

Nanthasen came to Canada in 2002 as part of Mennonite Central Committee’s International Visitor Exchange Program. She volunteered for one year with the Calgary Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. It was during this time that she first visited the Lao Mennonite Church and soon found herself attending services on a regular basis. She became an active member, assisting the worship team and helping with fundraising. After returning home to Thailand for a time, Nanthasen received an invitation to return to Calgary and help out full time with the Lao Mennonite Church – an invitation she happily accepted.

While in Canada, Nanthasen is aided by Doreen Neufeld, former co-pastor of Trinity Mennonite Church and presently working with her husband Hugo as half-time Pastoral Advisors to Holyrood Mennonite Church (Edmonton). Doreen serves as a personal mentor to her, offering moral support and assisting with the gathering of Sunday school material.

Doreen recognizes Nanthasen’s many gifts and abilities, along with her devotion to ministry. “I see her as conveying her deep faith to the people she works with and seeking to be a bridge to lead them back to faith and to the church,” she says.

Nanthasen recently displayed some of her gifts and abilities at the “Taste of Mennonite Church Canada” held at First Mennonite Church (Calgary), on Oct. 23, 2005. The event was a culmination of the fall meetings of MC Canada’s Witness and Formation councils. The morning saw board and staff members from the councils fan out and speak in all the Mennonite Church Alberta congregations for the Sunday service. They reconvened in the evening for a banquet consisting of exotic dishes provided by the Lao Community Mennonite Church, followed by the sharing of mission stories by Witness and Formation members.

Along with helping organize the event, Nanthasen was assisted in preparing and serving the food. After the feast she sang and performed a traditional Thai dance – an unexpected bonus to the 130 people present.

Perhaps the most noticeable contribution to the evening was her decorative fruit carving. The elaborate display served as a visual centrepiece for the banquet and was later auctioned off.

Thanks to the efforts of Nanthasen and others involved, “Taste of MC Canada” gave staff and board members an ideal opportunity to meet and get to know the community, while at the same time raising over $12,000 for MC Canada ministries.

Nanthasen’s work with the Lao Mennonite Church will come to an end this December. She is currently hoping to extend her visa so she can stay in Canada for pastoral training and study psychology before returning to Thailand to continue in church ministry.

Doreen Neufeld is hopeful that Nanthasen will be able to stay in Canada to complete her training. “I feel it is a privilege to know Ratthaya,” she says. “My prayer is that she will be able to realize her goals, so she can use her gifts in service to God.”