Northeast Thailand is the poorest region in the country. Democracy is uneven, and peaceful protests can land protesters in barred cells overnight. Since a military coup in 2014, poor and landless subsistence farmers are reportedly being evicted from national reserve lands they have farmed for decades.
The region is home to the indigenous Isaan people, as well as many migrants from Laos, which borders Thailand to the north. Despite economic challenges, the cities in this region are growing, including the city of Khon Kaen where a new Mennonite church is emerging.
Tom and Christine Poovong of Trinity Mennonite Church, Calgary, have been called to work with the vulnerable and marginalized people of Khon Kaen. They recently launched Menno Nursery, a daycare program reaching out to families in the neighborhood. Tom is building relationships with local entrepreneurs, including some who attend the Maliwan Mennonite Church, to encourage potential income generation projects such as a fish farm and a new coffee shop. These kinds of projects support a long-range vision for establishing a self-sustaining local faith community and extending Christian service to others. A local property owner has already provided the Poovongs with a building for local outreach and worship gatherings.
Mennonite Church Canada is partnering with Ride for Refuge to raise $45,000 in support of one full year of ministry in Thailand. Ride for Refuge provides online fundraising infrastructure for charities. It is centred on an annual intergenerational, recreational bike ride that takes place in cities across Canada. Congregations are invited to join the ride in support of ministry in Thailand. For details visit http://donate.mennonitechurch.ca/project/Poovong.
To learn more about Tom and Christine Poovong, see "A matriarch, a passion and the gospel."