From the start in 2006, OMF missionaries have worked in districts in Isaan where no church exists. The focus was to reach the unreached places and to see a church start, which then could reach the remaining part of the district. At the moment of writing, there are still around 75 districts in Isaan without a church. There is still a need to have a strong focus on reaching these often rural places.
We have tried to start church plants in these places with at least one local contact, a believer who has a heart to see the gospel spread in the villages around. We have also experienced that we cannot guarantee a ‘Person of Peace’ at the moment of actual placement, as people seem to move around through Thailand a lot.
However, we do still want to place missionaries in this role and in these locations. People suitable for these placements should be ‘self-feeders’ in many aspects (socially [fellowship], spiritually, mentally, physically and intellectually) as they will be isolated and on their own most of the time.
Over the last few years several team members have expressed the willingness to work in teams. We are open to team development/ formation in both city and rural areas. At the moment, this seems to be the most suitable either in an urban surrounding or in a rural area with a clear multiplication mindset (multi-church formation) as we do not want to see a high missionary presence in just one particular church, unless we decide to take on a project, which requires more missionary units.
If teams are formed, a team leader will be appointed who will be the first line leader for all the team members. This leader will be accountable to the regional leader in Isaan. Also, extensive time will be spent in actual team formation process to increase the team’s performance.
In Isaan there is an abundance of churches, denominations and independent church groups. OMF, primarily partners with ACT (Associated churches of Thailand). ACT is one of the largest church groups under the umbrella of EFT (Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand). ACT is large in the North and Central Thailand and Bangkok, but has a very minor presence in Isaan.
In the Northern part of Isaan (BuengKan and Nakhon Phanom province) there are 5 ACT churches. These are Thai led and were started about 30 years ago by Thai in partnership with a Korean mission (Paul’s Mission). Though ‘Paul’s Mission’ partners with OMF (OMF provides visa) no efforts have been made to create a good relationship with the churches in these northern provinces. Some missionary units have already moved to Udon Thani province, which will open up the opportunity for closer relationships and possible partnership in church planting. The churches started with the support of Paul’s Mission are currently functioning on their own, without local missionary involvement.
Over the last 10+ years OMF started 8 ACT churches. These churches are in close relationship with each other and with OMF missionaries. It is very likely that churches, now without missionary presence, will have future missionary involvement to support in new church plants. We aim to not have formal missionary involvements in the churches itself, once missionaries have faced out. If missionaries are placed to work with a local church, clear accountable structures will be put in place. The missionaries will either be under the leadership of the local church or be directly under the regional leader/cluster leader of that cluster.