By Stan Friedman
ROI ET, THAILAND (December 30, 2010) – Khampan and Tipawan Sudcha gave their lives to Christ as children and then faced years of antagonism and even threats of violence from their families.
Khampan, president of the Thailand Covenant Church, became a Christian when he was 14 years old after seeing a stepsister and her husband become believers. They had heard the gospel from evangelists sent out by the Center for Church Enablement in Udon, a ministry started and directed by Evangelical Covenant Church missionary Jim Gustafson.
Khampan’s father was a strict Buddhist and a temple leader in the village. When his stepdaughter converted, he forbade his son from seeing her until relenting a year later.
But Khampan did not stay away. “They were a living witness to me of the good news,” he says. “They did this through words and through their changed lives that were a powerful example for me. This caused me to both see and understand that the Lord Jesus Christ was the one who saves.”
His mother and other siblings became believers over time. He notes the conversion of two brothers-in-law who had threatened one of the Covenant evangelists. “Today they are both leaders in the church,” he says, smiling. His father gave his life to Christ in his later years.
Khampan says he shares the gospel with his family and other Buddhists by showing them how Christianity aligns with and is an answer to their religion. The tradition speaks of “a savior to come” and declares that, “Those who have dark hair (younger ones) will know the truth before the elders.” Buddhists also believe the wind – a symbol for the Holy Spirit in Christian tradition – is the source of life.
Tipawan was nine years old when she converted, inspired by an evangelist from the Center for Enablement. She was able to obtain a Bible. Unlike her parents, Tipawan could read, and she immersed herself in Genesis. “It is an important book for many believers because it speaks of origins,” says Tipawan, adding that creation is not addressed in Buddhism.
The missionaries who shared the gospel in her village faced danger. Her father once threw a machete at a door an evangelist was hiding behind.
Her mother eventually became a Christian after an experience that shook her village. “My mother was suddenly possessed by a demon,” Tipawan says. The mother, who was in the family’s house, began cursing, something she had never done. She shouted, “You think your Jesus will win.”
Several of Tipawan’s brothers tried to hold the mother on the bed, but she easily threw them off. A witch doctor was summoned, but nothing happened, Tipawan says.
She relates that Christians in the village began praying for her mother. “The whole village came to see what was happening,” Tipawan says.
Finally, a voice said it had had enough, and Tipawan recalls that the demon left, knocking her uncle down and leaving her mother unconscious.
The mother later awoke, and the experience led her to realize she needed Jesus, Tipawan says. The mother also suddenly was able to read the Bible.
Today, in addition to serving as president of the denomination, Khampan is pastor of a local church and president of the Lower Isaan Foundation for Enablement (LIFE), a successor to the Center for Church Enablement. Tipawan is its financial manager. Having experienced the protection and seen the power of Christ who was first preached to them by Covenant evangelists, they are eager that others in the country experience the same.