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Thai laborer now works for Christ


Uthane Inchai and his daughter.

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August 3, 2007
- Philip Houmphan

BORABU, Thailand — Sweat dripping down his brow, Uthane Inchai bent his aching back to grab a long piece of wood from the endless pile. His arm flinched back to find several splinters sticking into his hand. He sighed and started removing the debris from his already-calloused hands.

“Why am I working at this stupid construction yard? I mean, what am I doing in life, and where will this get me?” he asked himself. His foreman’s shouts brought him back to reality. He sucked up the pain, grabbed the plank, and started walking.

Inchai’s life was not uncommon for a young Thai man in 2000 – working in Singapore, separated from his new wife and baby daughter for the chance to earn enough to support his family. He was working just to work and felt lost, alone and without a future.

Fast-forward seven years. Inchai again works, fierce sun beating down on his back, on the site of a local building project. This is not Singapore though, this is Borabu, Thailand, and this is not a typical building. He is working to help build a church, the first of its kind in the area, for the community he now serves.

Now dedicated to serving God and his church, he believes that God, not a Singapore job, will provide for his family and all of his needs.

Inchai and his wife, Jiep, are completing a 10-month internship with Living Water Church in Borabu, close to his home village of Kootmek. The building on which he works should be completed in October, according to Pat Houmphan, a worker with Living Water through Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network, and will include a community center – something not found in the Borabu area. Funds for the church have come through donations, as well as a grant from the Schowalter Foundation.

For the couple, the service to the church and community are about gratitude – gratitude toward a God who provides not only a living, but life.

Inchai first went to church in Singapore on the promise of learning to play the guitar, but he learned more than just chords, strumming patterns, and riffs: he learned about the reality of sin and Jesus. Every additional Sunday taught him more, and to rid himself of life’s heavy burdens, Uthane eventually accepted Jesus into his life.

After more than three years working in Singapore, years where he worked tirelessly and missed the chance to watch his daughter grow up, Inchai returned to Kootmek village in Thailand in 2003. Although excited to reunite with his family once more, he was unsure of what was about to happen to his faith. Kootmek had no other Christians, and like most villages in Thailand, Buddhism dominated.

Inchai was convinced that his relationship with Jesus was over. But God had different plans.

Not long after his return home, Inchai became deathly ill and cried out to God for healing. He promised that if he was healed, he would dedicate his life to serving God. Four days into his illness, he went in for medical treatment and was stunned by the doctor’s words. Inchai was diagnosed with leptospirosis, a disease transmitted by rat urine so deadly that those infected rarely lived more than three or four days without treatment.

Inchai’s survival, that long without treatment, was amazing.

After he recovered, he knew that he had a promise to keep. Inchai sought out Houmphan and his wife, Rad, in nearby Borabu and shared his story and desire to serve God with them. The Houmphans and the church saw Inchai’s genuine desire and in 2004 decided to send Uthane and his family to Prayao Bible College where they studied to become church leaders.

Inchai’s life is now full. The work that he does, whether preaching in the shade or building in the Thailand heat, now supports more than his family. It supports his community and his God.