Kevin & Jeh Sie Chan
AS PART OF A NEW BREED of young missionaries – pioneering work amongst a Least Reached People group in Isaan, Northern Thailand – Kevin and Jeh Sie Chan have an inspiring story to tell. Together they established a language school and cafe – the Global Connections Centre – as a Business as Missions venture in 2009 to build natural connections with the community and facilitate church planting. The Centre has become a signpost to God in the community where 90% of the cities, towns and villages don’t even have a single church in them.
KC: I grew up in Singapore. My first overseas missions experience was when I went on a church trip to Indonesia when I was 13. I helped play the guitar and hung around with the kids. I knew I had a full-time call on my life about that same age at a church camp in Indonesia. On the last day, the speaker gave a call for those who wanted to serve God full time. It wasn’t an easy invitation. The speaker mentioned it would be hard so at the end only two or three of us went up from a congregation of about 300.
JC: I grew up in Malaysia. When I was eight, my mum experienced a miraculous healing and through that we became Christians. From a young age I saw how God answered prayer. Ever since I was 13-14, I began to understand what it meant for Jesus to be Lord of my life and through sitting in youth concerts, listening to pastors preaching and giving the challenge to give your life to God. Whenever a challenge like that was given out, I would always go to the front and give my life to God and say, “God I want you to use me and it doesn’t matter how you want to use me, just use me”.
KC: I went to University in Auckland, New Zealand (NZ) and majored in computer science and psychology. I got a job later as an IT management consultant. It was a time I learnt about business planning, project planning, management and these sorts of skills that I’m using now.
JC: When I was 20, I went off to NZ to university. I did English literature and linguistics as my majors. I knew having a degree in English would open doors in places.
KC: After I graduated I studied the Kairos course. That really opened my eyes to a new understanding of missions from the biblical perspective, of what in the world God is doing. It really opened my eyes to see the fact that there is huge spiritual need in the world as well as physical needs.
JC: Through the Kairos course it made it clearer that God’s heart is really for the nations and it’s not an option for us when it comes to missions, it’s just what our role is. Some are called to go, some are called to be senders, some are called to be partners back at home base but we are called to be involved in missions some way or other and that began my journey.
KC: God was leading us to adopt the Isaan people. Christianity has been in Isaan for more than 200 years but in Isaan it is still 0.1% Christian. When we asked the local pastors what they need and what were the challenges in planting new churches, the first things they brought up were financial sustainability and natural connections with the community.
JC: When missionaries in the past brought Christianity to Thailand, they also brought a lot of cultural baggage. What Thais are rejecting is not the Gospel but the culture that comes with it.
KC: A business that provides financial sustainability and natural connections with the community can help churches to get planted. A cafe provides a great place for people to hang out and chat. It’s a place where people can bring their friends into a nonthreatening and comfortable environment. You can easily have a church service in a cafe, meet to study the Word and worship. Language centres are something we found the Thai community needs. People want to learn to speak English to communicate with other countries. People have a generally positive view of Christians here; they have just never met one. Because we provide a service that the community needs, they’re quite happy that we are here. They are generally open and receptive to the Gospel if it’s presented in a nonthreatening manner.
JC: One of the good things we are doing here through building natural connections with our students and customers is that, through the friendships we have built, they begin to trust us and know us.
KC: There are so many excuses that we give ourselves, e.g. family, loans, children’s education, ageing parents and so many reasons why we wouldn’t do mission. It’s not easy. It’s always easier to stick to the status quo. If God’s calling is a primary thing in your life, then everything else is secondary. We need to look at our lives and take stock of where we are in the grand scheme of things, live our lives to the fullest of our ability and serve God as well as we can. I love God by furthering His purposes.
JC: I show God I love Him by giving Him my best. I like to sing, I like to be honest with God, serve Him through the gifts He has given us, tell him what I’m thinking and feeling, simple mundane things like administrative work. I do feel the pleasure of God when I do that.
KC: Our biggest need in Thailand is language teachers. We want people who will come and serve in missions as English teachers because it gives you huge opportunities to build relationships within and also outside the classroom. Apart from teachers there are a lot of opportunities for people in business to use their skills and abilities here.
JC: We have been very real about the struggles we go through. We send out regular newsletters and prayer updates and use social media like Facebook. People can see what we’re going through and encourage us. One of my love languages is words. When people email me and encourage me through a message, that really speaks volumes. It’s a reflection of God’s love as well.