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From selfishness to leadership


Tonh shares a song he has composed with the Living Water Church congregation

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November 27, 2009
- Pat Houmphan

BORABU, Thailand — Tonh, recovering from alcoholism and financial debt, is studying leadership and Bible training by correspondence and leads worship in his church. One Sunday, he shared a song he composed. After lunch and fellowship, Tonh joined a small group to discuss the things that he learned in his studies.

But Tonh’s life was very different before he came to know God.

Tonh was born in a small village in Borabu district where he followed Buddhist beliefs, just as his parents did. In his early twenties, he became an apprentice in the construction industry. He married at age 26.

Tonh’s skills developed over a number of years and eventually he began to pick up contracts on his own. His construction business expanded as he developed a reputation as a good builder.

However, while his career thrived, he had difficulties in his personal life. He struggled with heavy drinking and constantly argued with his wife. His main life objective was to become rich. Tonh confessed; “I was a very selfish man, only concerned with my own needs and desires.”

In 1998 Thailand experienced an economic recession. When a large business was unable to pay him for work he had already completed, Tonh was left owing more than 1 million Baht (approximately $33,000 CDN) to the bank. To pay off his debt, Tonh sold many of his possessions and did whatever else he could to gather funds. Despite this, more than half of the balance remained.

Tonh began to drink more heavily to cope with his despair. He eventually found work in Singapore, but living in a foreign country without family and friends to support him was difficult and lonely. Tonh worked hard, but he also continued to drink heavily.

One day, after drowning his loneliness in alcohol, he passed out on a park bench. As it began to grow dark, a Christian lady woke him and helped him to get home safely. Over time, the two became friends, and she invited him to her church. Tonh accepted the invitation. Over time and with the help of the pastor, Tonh fully grasped the meaning of the gospel. He accepted Jesus into his life and was baptized.

A transformation in Tonh’s life began. He slowly addressed his alcoholism and one year later, he found the strength to quit drinking completely. He began to feel more peace and joy in his life, and to experience better health.

God blessed Tonh with more work and a better paying job with a Singapore Company. Eight years later, Tonh was able to pay off his debt completely.

Tonh not only became a Christian but he also started to actively share the gospel with his family. Rad and I had met Tonh during his visits home to Borabu. He asked us to follow up with his family.

When he heard that the Living Water Church in Borabu had purchased a piece of land in 2006 and planned to build a church building and parsonage in 2007, Tonh was excited. He offered many suggestions for construction and wished that he could help build the church himself. However, he was still working in Singapore at that time.

Three years ago, Tonh moved back home to Borabu and started a new business buying and selling second hand goods. In January, 2009, his wife and two daughters were baptized. Tonh is very happy that his family has also come to know Jesus, just as he did.

The presence of a church building in Borabu has helped to strengthen Tonh and his family’s walk in Christ. They say that the church building is a concrete expression of Christian faith. Tonh loves to share Good News of Jesus with the people he meets and invites them to see the new church buildings and attend worship.

Tonh says, “Since I came to know God, my family and my business and my work have been richly blessed.”

Pat Houmphan and his wife Rad are joint MC Canada Witness/Mennonite Mission Network workers in Borabu, Thailand. They are currently on North American Ministry leave, sharing news of their ministry with supporting congregations.