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As a Pastor in the rice fields of rural Thailand, Chansamone Saiyasak assumes many roles.

He's a cultural anthropologist, studying the Buddhist and animistic beliefs that dominate the northeast part of the country, known as the Isan region. Practices like consulting witch doctors are common.

He's a human rights activist. After more than 170 years of Protestant missionary efforts in Thailand, only about 1 percent of the country's 65 million people are Christians. When believers face opposition—many Thai derisively call Christianity sasana farang, the "religion of the foreigner"—Saiyasak publicly defends them.

He's also a provider. When local children need food or education—continual necessities in Thailand—Saiyasak and members of his ministry, Mekong Evangelical Mission (MEM), step up.

And when Sunday morning rolls around, he's a pastor-evangelist, sharing the Good News with those who attend his church.

Saiyasak, 44, was born across the Mekong River that runs along the eastern border of Thailand, in war-torn Laos. His journey took him halfway around the world to a church in Antioch, Tennessee, and a Ph.D. program in Brussels, Belgium. He now runs an organization in Thailand that oversees nine churches, multiple businesses, a seminary, a radio ministry, an orphanage, and a school.

When Eternity Touched Reality

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Meanwhile, Pastor Al Henson and Lighthouse Christian Fellowship, in the Nashville suburb of Antioch, believed that "God's intention was to bring the nations to us." Lighthouse members began a burgeoning outreach to Laotian refugees, including shuttling vanloads of Laotian children four times a week to the church for English classes and worship services. About 60 Laotian teens met weekly in a home ...

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The Refugee Pastor That Could
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September 2010

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