[Update: Many of the links in the post have since its posting in 2010 been corrupted. I apologize but I have not had the time to research and correct them.]
Introducing Marten Visser, Missionary to Thailand. Marten and I first crossed paths on Ed Stetzer’s blog back in March of 2010. Ed had invited me to comment on his missional discussion of how God might be at work in the world outside the church. You can read the fruit of that discussion here. In our brief interactions there, via twitter and email as well as a bit of research on what Marten is doing in Thailand, I have developed a great respect for his ministry there. I hope you will pray both for him and for the concerns that he voices in the final question of this brief interview.
Marten, can you tell us a little about how you became a missionary to Thailand and where you currently work?
It has been my ambition to preach the Gospel where it not had been heard since I was 4 years old. I’ve never had any other career ambition in my life. The Lord spoke specifically to me about Thailand on a missions conference, and since then Thailand has been my focus.
With my wife Esther I first served in Bangkok, where we planted a church that now has national leadership. Now we are living and ministering in Isaan, the rural Northeast of the country.
How long have you and your family been in Thailand and with what agency or church do your serve?
We have been in Thailand for 11 years now. We are missionaries with OMF-International. This is the largest mission organization in Thailand, which gives us a wonderful support structure and a great network of national Christians to work with.
Are there other missionaries and workers in your region with whom you cooperate?
We were the first OMF missionaries to go to Isaan, so in that sense we are pioneering. We are building up a team to reach the unreached districts. Right now we have 6 couples. In Isaan there are still about 100 districts, with tens of thousands of people in each, that do not have a single Christian church. So I would like to invite many more people to join us in reaching the Isaan people for Christ.
Over the years I have heard mixed reports about Thailand and the gospel. Missionaries have been going to Thailand for over 100 years with very little impact, seemingly. But in the 1970’s I heard that there was a significant movement toward Christ through the advance of the Jesus Film in the northern and rural area’s of Thailand? Have you any knowledge that confirms or denies that?
Yes, I looked into this. I can with certainty deny that it ever took place. Basically what happened was that groups of people who put their hands in the air out of politeness were counted as a church.
However, though the church in Thailand is small, it is growing at a healthy rate of 5% a year. Two-thirds of all Christians are first generation Christians. Though the number of protestant Christians is still only at 0.5% of the population, continued growth like this would turn Thailand into a 100% Christian country within 135 years. God is at work!
Most people outside of Thailand are unaware of the significant Muslim population and challenges in southern Thailand. What can you tell us about that?
Several millions of Muslims live in the South of Thailand, and hundreds of thousands more in Bangkok. There are efforts to reach them with the Gospel, but so far little impact has been made.
What is your biggest need and how can my readers pray and support your work?
My biggest need is more missionaries. Basically anybody who is on fire for the Lord and has a zeal to reach the lost should be able to find a place to serve in our team. We need both rural church planters and people for a variety of other ministries. (See http://www.omfisaan.org/long-term.html)
I would appreciate prayer for a course for church planters that I developed and was run for the first time this year. Next year we will have these courses in all regions of the country. It is an intensive four day course, with personal mentoring of participants afterwards by experienced church planters. My hope and prayer is that this program will multiply the number of church planters in Thailand.
You can hear more about Marten’s ministry by subscribing to his twitter feed or by visiting his team website. You also might want to read the Wikipedia article on the people of Isaan Thailand region. I have supplied Marten’s contact information below.
Mijn twitter: twitter.com/martenvisser
My Bible page: www.facebook.com/biblword