Over 2,000 people attended Lutheran Reformation celebrations held this past November in Thailand and Cambodia – a significant event given that these Southeast Asian countries are less than one percent Christian.
Organized by LHF’s coordinator for Southeast Asian projects Rev. Ted NaThalang and Rev. Niran Temsakun (another pastor in the Thailand Concordia Lutheran Church), Christians from a wide variety of denominations attended the celebration, which included a mix of educational lectures, exhibits, joyful concerts and panel discussions.
“The goal of this Reformation Celebration was to introduce people in Southeast Asia to Martin Luther and the teachings of the Lutheran faith,” Rev. NaThalang said. “Anyone who came was required to do some research first so they could know the basic teachings of the Christian faith.”
While the event was thoroughly Lutheran in its content (more than 3,000 of LHF’s Thai Small Catechisms were distributed), top Christian leaders from the local Presbyterian, Baptist and Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand (EFT) churches were included on the panel discussions, where those leaders focused on what they appreciate about the Reformation.
“Because there are so few Christians in [Buddhist] Thailand, it’s good to focus on the beliefs we share,” Rev. NaThalang reflected. “These leaders and members of other local Protestant churches volunteered to help prepare for this big event, which had never been done at this level before. The people from other Protestant denominations caught on that the Reformation is their history and heritage, too.”
As part of their preparation for the celebration, the Presbyterian, Baptist and EFT leaders studied Luther’s teachings. Most exciting of all, before the event began, the three leaders decided to sign a Statement of Faith to adopt the five Lutheran solas (Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, glory to God alone) as part of their Christian faith and teaching.
“I got goosebumps when I heard this,” Rev. NaThalang said. “I think that if Martin Luther could have seen what was going on in Buddhist Thailand, he would have been very happy!”
Enthusiasm for Lutheran doctrine has continued to grow since the event.
In Cambodia, for example, one of the attendees asked to have 50 copies of each LHF Khmer-language book to distribute in a poor province near Vietnam. In Thailand, a Presbyterian church requested dozens of LHF’s Thai Small Catechism to give their parishioners.
“Luther wanted to make sure God’s Word went out to everybody,” Rev. NaThalang reflected. “In Southeast Asia, without LHF and the books they have published, this would not happen.”