ROI ET, THAILAND (October 11, 2011) – A team of Evangelical Covenant Church ministers from across Asia crammed into the small house that is the meeting space for the Thailand Covenant Church congregation, which is located in a rural village with fewer than 50 homes. It sits at the intersection of the lone asphalt road and surrounding mud.
The congregation of 20 people has no land, intentionally have never constructed a church building, or put up a cross. Yet they have been meeting for 30 years, says Jim Peterson, an Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) missionary to Japan.
“In Japan, and even more so in the U.S., a 30-year-old congregation with only 20 people, no land, no building and no full-time pastor would likely feel like they were a failure. Yet, the witness of this congregation was so strong, their clarity of vision and mission so apparent, that there was simply no question in anyone’s mind that this was the right form and structure for the body of Christ in that place,” says Peterson.
The Asian team was part of a larger group of Evangelical Covenant Church ministers to participate in the Asia Covenant Consultation VII, which was held in Roi Et. Consultations are held every two years. Roi Et was selected to host this year’s consultation because it coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Thai Covenant Church.
Participants worshiped together, engaged in panel discussions and workshops, and relaxed together. Click here to see additional photos.
The worship services were a great way to celebrate the churches’ unity in Christ, Peterson says. In one service, they had a traditional Thai style communion service, using rice balls and Rosella juice for the elements followed by a string tying ceremony, a Thai custom that demonstrates friendship.
Topics in the educational part of the consultation included a panel discussion on church planting. Panelists represented six different countries. “The variety of perspectives, methods and contexts made for a rich discussion.”
Curt Peterson, executive minister of the Department of World Mission, presented the message during a celebration in commemoration of the Thai church anniversary. Other Thai participants shared stories that highlighted God’s faithfulness in their country.
Further symbolizing the connectedness of the work throughout Asia, participants assembled at the local Covenant camp for a tree-planting ceremony. Representatives from each country helped to plant a specific tree with their country’s name on it, and then about 60 more saplings were planted to surround the other trees. “This was done as a means of leaving a mark for future generations while also giving thanks for the past 40 years of ministry here in Thailand,” Peterson explains.
During other gatherings, former Covenant missionary to Thailand Paul DeNeui recast the story of Abram and spoke of the challenge of living in the tension between legacy and innovation.
“Longtime Covenant missionary Jim Gustafson, who has made a dramatic impact on Asian churches, also shared a powerful reminder that “Mission belongs to God and is always in God’s hands,” Peterson says.
The conclusion of the Asia Covenant Consultation began with worship led by the delegation from Japan. The crowd sang together and Pastor Ino shared from gospel accounts of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.
The group from India then shared about the persecution of Christians that is harsh in many areas. The opposition comes from the government, from society at large and from within local families. “Nevertheless the mission of the church goes on, and God’s kingdom continues to be built,” Peterson says.