LMCO: Relying on God instead of appeasing spirits
Dec 11, 2013

RANONG, Thailand (BP)—It rains eight months out of the year in the Thai province Scott and Alyssa Branding* call home.

For many of the country’s 2.5 million Burmese living in the southern part of Thailand, monsoon rain is their only dependable water source. But drinking the rainwater can make them sick.

So, the Brandings give them small clay water pots lined with rice husks to filter impurities from the rainwater. Then, they tell them about Jesus, the source of “living water:” “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

The Brandings, from Calvary Baptist Church in Maysville, Ky., have been sharing the Gospel with Burmese migrant workers for more than 10 years.

OPEN HEARTS Burmese immigrant workers sort fish at a large fish market in Ranong, Thailand. The Brandings (name changed) work with the immigrants, saying, When they come to Thailand, theyre away from their families, making them more open to the Gospel. The Brandings reach out to their physical needs through water filtration projects that help give clean drinking water. IMB photo
Many of these migrant workers live in remote areas without electricity or running water. They work on rubber and palm oil plantations or are undocumented immigrants living in the jungle to avoid detection by local immigration police.

Living in fear

Families there build spirit houses in their yards, setting out food every day to appease spirits—even when there is not enough food left to feed their families.

Fear of angering spirits is so deep-seated that new Christians often do not immediately throw out their idols.

“When we go into a home and we see their altar being totally clean, we just praise God because we know they’ve made that final step, they have totally committed their whole selves to the Lord,” Alyssa says.

When a small group of believers formed among the plantation workers, one of the first things they prayed for was time each week to meet together, said the congregation’s pastor Ye Htoelt. With no means of transportation, walking 10 kilometers (six-plus miles) or more to another plantation can take more than an hour each way.

Htoelt’s hands are cracked and calloused from years of working on palm oil plantations. On the first plantation Htoelt worked in Thailand, there had been running water and electricity, but the landowner was “wicked” and overworked his employees, Htoelt recalls.

He and his wife eventually found work at a different plantation. It didn’t have running water or electricity, but the landowner was a believer. Not only did he give the couple Sundays off from work, he sent Htoelt home every Saturday afternoon so he could prepare to teach his small congregation the following day.

Htoelt was unsure he had the ability to lead the congregation, so Scott mentored and trained him in discipleship for two years.

“[It is] such a joy now to see him be able to share the Gospel and have confidence,” Scott says. “When he starts speaking about the Bible, it’s just like he comes alive and he just explodes with power. … it’s because the power of Jesus Christ [is] in him.”

Living in joy

The Brandings, who live in an area surrounded by fish processing plants, also have helped start Bible studies among factory workers.

Aung Kyaw,* a fish buyer whose work affords him the opportunity to interact with both Thais and Burmese, now relies on God instead of trying to appease spirits when business is bad.

“I have learned to have one thing in mind: Trust and believe in Christ alone,” he says.

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