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Reaching others for Christ

Mission co-workers in Thailand work with theology students, prostitutes

October 13, 2009

Carol Fujii

Carol Fujii

SANTA FE, N.M.

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories about the more than 50 Presbyterian mission workers and international peacemakers who are speaking in more than 150 presbyteries in the coming month as part of Mission Challenge ’09. — Jerry L. Van Marter

The Mission Challenge came to the four presbyteries in the Synod of the Southwest in the person of Carol Fujii, who with her husband, Leith, serves at the Bangkok Institute of Theology in Thailand.

Fujii visited 13 churches in Grand Canyon, de Cristo, Santa Fe and Sierra Blanca presbyteries during her itineration. The Mission Challenge is intended to connect mission co-workers with Presbyterians across the country. From Sept. 25-Oct. 18, 45 co-workers will visit 152 presbyteries, sharing their stories and educating listeners on how to get involved.

On Oct. 8, Fujii told of her experiences in Thailand, where she has been since 1998. She teaches English to incoming students at the institute and works with The Well, an outreach ministry to women in prostitution.

In Thailand, the government tends not to notice that up to 300,000 women and girls are involved in prostitution, even though it is against the law.

Fujii told of Supharang (Kay), a graduate of the theological school who felt a real call to reach out to these women as she approached graduation. With her husband, Kay began ministering through The Well, which helps women find an alternative to prostitution by teaching skills such as card and jewelry making. They came to know a woman named Thom, who knew that what she was doing was not her.

Thom was offered an opportunity to go The Well but was leery at first. Later, she called and came to The Well, accepting Christ’s love and forgiveness. She learned English and how to play the guitar. Now she has reached out to her family, and the whole family has become Christians.

Fujii works a couple of days a week at the center, working alongside the girls to encourage them and to be with them. She seeks to introduce them to God’s love and show them a job or vocation that is healthier than prostitution. It is “very discouraging when a girl leaves and goes back to prostitution,” Fujii said.

Faculty development is a challenge at the institute, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary. The institute does not offer graduate degrees beyond the M.Div., so aspiring faculty members must quite often seek further education in the United States. There is much competition to be accepted, and the students’ struggle with English is a handicap.

Fujii said the challenge before the Church of Christ in Thailand is “for the church to be relevant to the Thai society and to think outside the box to reach others for Christ.”

In a country that is 95 percent Buddhist and only one percent Christian, Fujii pointed to one graduate who developed a soccer ministry as a way of reaching some who would not otherwise darken the door of a Christian church.

A mother of four, Fujii’s now has an empty nest: Joy is a captain in the U.S. Army and due to go to Iraq soon, Karin is with the Peace Corps in Cameroon, Mark is in college in Chicago and Lani is a student in California.

Ray Kersting is retired clergy living in Santa Fe, N.M. He is moderator-elect of Santa Fe Presbytery and for the past 15 years has been editor of “Noticias,” the newsletter of the presbytery, and “Report,” the electronic newsletter of the Synod of the Southwest.

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