Thailand is a beautiful country comprised of majestic landscapes and smiling faces, but there is a spiritual emptiness that looms in the air. Merely one percent of Thailand’s 70 million people are Christian, with most Thais (around 96 percent) practicing Buddhism. Such a disparity presents significant challenges for the Thai church, which seeks not only to maintain its spiritual well-being but to impact the surrounding non-believing community with the gospel. To succeed in these tasks, well-trained, devoted Christian leaders with a firm understanding of the Scriptures are essential.
Phayao Bible Seminary, located in northern Thailand, has been working to train such leaders for more than 50 years. It is a four-year Bible college providing both classroom and practical ministry training. It draws students from all over Thailand and neighboring countries with a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, ages, and levels of ministry experience. Teachers are primarily Thai but include missionaries from both Western and Asian backgrounds. Graduates serve as pastors, evangelists, foreign missionaries, and provide outreach to a wide variety of groups like orphans and refugees. They can be found serving in the upper levels of Thai society and in the remotest of Southeast Asian villages alike, striving to “live for Christ” (Phil 1:21), which is the seminary’s motto.
For the past seven years, AMG missionary Jeremy Gatzke has had the privilege of serving as part of this ministry, and it has been both challenging and rewarding. By God’s grace, God continues to use the seminary to impact lives beyond what the faculty could imagine.
One such example involved a student Jeremy spent time discipling during his freshman year. The student was timid and struggled academically, and Jeremy never dreamed that he would turn out to be a gifted preacher. But, after persevering through some initial struggles, his passion for God’s Word began to come through when he spoke, and by his senior year he was delivering powerful, heartfelt messages. He is now serving in full-time ministry in northeastern Thailand.
Another story involves a girl who, just before graduation, came and asked the Gatzke family for prayer for her future. Despite her language and music ability, she felt that she was not particularly gifted for ministry and did not understand how God could use her. They prayed that God would provide her with the perfect opportunity to utilize her unique gifts. Just a few weeks later, she called to tell the Gatzkes that she had received an opportunity to serve as a missionary to a neighboring country in a role that seemed like a perfect fit for her.
These are just two illustrations of many student testimonies that demonstrate God’s divine plan for each student to serve the Kingdom, while utilizing God’s gifts to spread the gospel in spiritually dark places. Through the Phayao Bible Seminary, God continues to prepare students to make an impact in this world by deepening their understanding of His Word, increasing their devotion to Him, and developing their unique gifts for ministry.