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The rhythm of celebration

   
 


Dancers of all ages celebrate the dedication of Living Water Church.

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Bualean shares her smile and a few words during the celebration.

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The entrance to Living Water Church is surrounded by flowers, and doves adorn each of two doors

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June 20, 2008
- Gordon Janzen

BORABU, Thailand — It’s not every Saturday night that I go to a church dance, but that’s exactly where I found myself on May 18 at the end of a day celebrating the dedication of the Living Water Church of Borabu (Thailand). Bualean, a Living Water Church member, had insisted that I dance along with her and the others so there I was, my uncoordinated feet trying to keep rhythm with the more accomplished dancers around me.

Like many in this church, Bualean has had a difficult life. After years of working as a labourer in Bangkok and a challenging marriage that left her as a widowed mother of one, Bualean experienced a time of deep despair. (See previous story at www.mennonitechurch.ca/tiny/659). But Bualean’s life was changed when she met Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers Pat and Rad Houmphan and accepted their invitation to the Living Water Church of Borabu. Being cared for by the Living Water community of believers has given Bualean a new and brighter outlook along with a smile that seemed particularly broad as we celebrated the church and its new building.

The Living Water Church of Borabu is emerging from the ministry of Pat and Rad Houmphan, who have lived in Borabu, Northeast Thailand since 2000. With no other Christian church in the district, the growth of the church has been steady.

About three years ago church members decided to construct their own building instead of continuing to meet in a rented store front space. MC Canada and Mennonite Church USA donors helped to purchase a six-acre field just outside of Borabu. By January 2008 construction of a sanctuary, a fellowship hall and a parsonage had been completed. MC Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network (MMN) financed a large portion of the facility, but church members also contributed financially and helped with construction, painting, fence-building and the harvest of a tapioca crop next to the church to sell for additional funds.

MC Canada Witness and MMN continue to support the church in Borabu, but ministry efforts are also being directed toward the development of a new fellowship group in the neighbouring district of Kossum Phisai, about 30 minutes away.

The new church was full to capacity on May 18th with guests from across Thailand, Canada and the United States. Tim Froese, International Ministries Executive Director and I brought greetings from Mennonite Church Canada. Sheldon Sawatzky, Director for Asia for Mennonite Mission Network, brought greetings from MC USA. In a region where less than 1% of the population is Christian and there are few churches, it was encouraging to have church representatives present from the Thailand Evangelical Fellowship and neighbouring districts to show solidarity with Living Water Church.

During worship service sharing time, Samlan spoke. “I have been in darkness for a long time. But now I am seeing the light,” she said. “I have found joy in the church.” Bangon, a young woman originally from the Borabu church now serving as a church worker in another part of Thailand quoted Philippians 1:6. “God will complete his work in us. This church has been instrumental in shaping who I am today.”

A peculiar sense of joy and new life appeared to energize Bualean and her dancing friends on the evening of May 18. Although members of the Living Water Church in Borabu were happy to have their own church building, the real celebration seemed to be about being a community of faith. Bualean, for one, was happy to have found healing and hope through faith in God and in following Jesus.

My dancing steps need a lot more practice, but I’m glad that I could be a part of the party.

Gordon Janzen is MC Canada’s Mission Facilitator for Asia & Middle East.

For more information about the building of Living Water Church, see