Anabaptist groups and individuals gathered together 8–12 October 2018 at Sammuk Christian Academy, Chonburi, Thailand, for the fourth Thailand Anabaptist Gathering (TAG).
The Thai Mennonite Brethren leaders and MB Mission missionaries planned and hosted the biennial gathering attended by almost 160 people. Representatives came from the Brethren in Christ, Eastern Mennonite Missions, Rosedale Mennonite Church and Mennonite Church USA and Canada, the Hmong 9th District Mennonites, and the Mennonite Brethren groups in Thailand.
“It was a joy to see everyone making new friendships and memories together,” says Karen Huebert-Sanchez, director of Abundant Life Home and conference organizer. “It was a rich time together of lively worship, creative worship dances and interactive teaching.”
Two Cambodian Mennonite Brethren from Poi Pet joined the retreat, as well as two Pakistani asylum seekers from Bangkok and a group from Laos.
Groups travelled for up to 14 hours by public transit to Chonburi. Participants slept on simple mattresses in large open rooms in Baptist boarding school.
Speakers were César García, Mennonite World Conference general secretary, his wife and executive assistant, Sandra Báez, and Victor Wiens from the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB) and MB Mission. They spoke on Anabaptist theology (Jesus is the centre of our faith; community is the centre of our life; and reconciliation is the centre of our work) and relying on the Holy Spirit. They also covered agreement and divergence between Anabaptist and Calvinist theology.
Pastor Nantanong, conference minister of the Thailand MB conference of churches, said: “I understand now…why the Anabaptists encourage everyone to lead and have input. It is a beautiful picture of the body of Christ.” She is excited to use this concept in her own teaching and discipleship.
One evening, participants drove to nearby Bang Saen Beach where 10 South East Asian Anabaptists gave their testimonies publicly under palm trees on a busy government holiday. “They shared bravely how they turned from sin and idol worship to follow Jesus,” says Huebert-Sanchez.
Each one who gave a testimony was baptized by someone from their own church, while hundreds of holidaying Thai people watched curiously.
TAG participants cheered from the shore and sang “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” in Thai. Under the shade, they took communion with sticky rice and a Thai juice. Some handed out tracts and witnessed to people on the beach who were interested.
Each day began with corporate prayer, for personal concerns and for the region to experience a great coming to Jesus.
Thailand Campus Crusade for Christ ministry “Cat Band” led by “Boat” from the MB group worship in singing each day.
“A highlight each session was a special song and testimony from a different Anabaptist group,” says Huebert-Sanchez. The crowd joined in with the dances in traditional Thai styles. Testimonies proclaimed freedom from drug dealing or spoke of persecution for the sake of the gospel.
Donations from MWC, EMM, Mennonite Endowment Fund, and the two Thai MB Foundations in Chonburi (TMBF and Abundant Life Foundation) sponsored speakers, translation of Anabaptist materials and the retreat venue.
“It was encouraging to see these groups show a keen interest in learning about Anabaptism,” says García. Only the Hmong group is currently an MWC member church.
“Please continue to pray for our churches and believers in Thailand and the surrounding nations. We are thankful for unified hearts and deep bonds of friendship that were formed at our gathering. May God use this for his glory and to bring many to faith in Jesus Christ,” says Huebert-Sanchez.
—Thai Anabaptist Gathering news release