Thai Christian Students (TCS) began when an OMF worker encouraged a handful of Christian pharmacy students in Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok to gather, study the Bible and grow in their faith together.
Soon, groups started forming in other faculties and spread to more campuses. The students got together to form a committee and organised events and camps. They were supported by missionaries, and staff from other student movements in the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. In 1972, the first local staff came on board to guide and support students. Today, the work of TCS has been under local leadership for around fifty years.
Anucha Khobpee, the general secretary of TCS, shares his journey to faith in Christ:
‘I was born in a Buddhist family in the northern Thailand province of Phrae. When I was young, I was sent to a Christian school. Each year, students from a Christian college, Phayap University, would come to the school to perform a short skit and share the gospel. I enjoyed these performances very much. They would challenge us to receive Jesus, but I never did because I thought that as a Buddhist, I was not supposed to change my religion.
The turning point came when I was 16 years old. My school fees had been sponsored by foreign missionaries since I was in nursery. Once a student turned 15, church attendance became compulsory in order to continue receiving sponsorship. Since I did not want to burden my parents, I decided to go to church so I could continue receiving the sponsorship, but I did not like it at all. Church services were so different from the chapel services at my Christian school. Events at school were fun and relevant to young people, but in church people sang loudly, closed their eyes and were so serious about God. It seemed foolish to me at the time. I felt like giving up the sponsorship so that I did not have to attend church. I actually tried to escape going to church.
Eventually, I came back because of friends and activities held at the church. I got to know the Christians who were older than me. I heard their testimonies and saw that they also used to be Buddhists, but they had converted to Christianity and saw God change their lives. Could I also change my religion?
I tried it out, and prayed to God. Then I saw God work in my life and I was convinced there was really a God. My heart also believed that Jesus came to save me from my sin. So I received Jesus into my life.
When I went to university in Phitsanulok, I met OMF missionaries who were doing student work there. They asked me, if I were to die today, would I go to heaven? I said no, because I was still sinning. The missionaries saw I had some misconceptions about God and taught me that I was saved through grace and faith, and not by works. I also got to know a pastor in Phitsanulok who invited me to join a church there, where I met other students. They invited me to join a cell group at university. When I went to the cell group, I saw so many new things. These students studied the Bible, asked many questions about the Bible and looked for answers in God’s word.
At first, the Christian students in the cell group seemed so serious and scary. In the end, I opened my heart to study the Bible with them. From there, I got not only knowledge but good relationships with fellow Christians.
In my second year, one of the missionaries who helped with the cell group encouraged me to lead it. I saw their love for God’s word and how they made studying it fun, and I wanted to do the same for others.
They hadn’t just come to teach the Bible, but to build disciples. They set an example of how to be a student worker by investing in our lives and building long-term relationships.
I was studying social development, and saw the missionaries putting the principles I was learning into practice. I wanted to be a part of what they were doing with local people and students, so when I graduated I joined the TCS staff.
Today, though as the general secretary of TCS I do more administrative and big-picture planning, I still enjoy thinking of creative ways to teach the Bible and supporting student leaders in living out their Christian faith on campus.’
Pansip shares his journey to faith, how he got involved in TCS and the challenges of organising a camp for Christian students during the pandemic:
‘My name is Rangsima Chaisuriya. You can call me Pansip. I’m studying in Rajchapat Ban Somdet Chaopraya University. I’m a 4th year student in the faculty of Education and Social Science, training to be a teacher. One thing I really thank God for is that I had the chance to be born in a Christian family. However, in Thailand, we have the issue of being looked down upon or being made fun of because of having different beliefs and this made me want to know more about my faith and my religion.
At that time, I would argue or debate with people because I wanted to ‘win’. But when I was around 14 years old, I realized that it was more than just about winning, but it was about my personal faith and the love that I received from God. This was when I realized that being a true Christian began from receiving God’s love.
I got to know Thai Christian Students (TCS) when I just got into university, and I was looking for a Christian club to join but I couldn’t find one in my university because most of the students follow another religion, so you do not really get to meet any Christians at all. So at that time one of the TCS staff, P’Michael, whom I knew personally beforehand, came and asked if I wanted to start a Christian group where we could come together to study the Bible and encourage each other through God’s word. Since then I started a Christian group in the university.
In the past year, through TCS, we had the opportunity to do a student camp. At the beginning, we expected to have the camp on-site where we could meet each other and not have to meet online. But because of a new wave of COVID-19, we were not able to do in-person. Having to make changes with short notice from an on-site camp to an online camp was quite troublesome and we faced challenges in planning and coming up with the schedule of the camp. As we had to postpone the camp, some universities had already started their term so coming up with the schedule for everyone to be able to attend the camp was the main difficulty. But I really thank God for his leading and providing me with very capable camp committee members who were able to come up with a schedule that could accommodate a majority of the camp participants. At the beginning we thought that there would be about 50 participants for the online camp. Praise God, in the end during one part of the camp there were over 90 participants that joined. It really amazed my team and I to see that.
I feel so happy that God answered our prayers and enabled everything to bring glory to his name. I would like everyone to pray for work as I am going to graduate in a few years and I would have to start working. I am in a 5-year programme so I have not graduated yet although most of my peers have. Please also pray for future camps and the next camp committee. Pray that God will lead them and that everything that they do will be for God’s glory and that they will put God in the centre of all their planning and decisions. Pray also for me, my family, and the country, as we are still in the midst of the pandemic. Pray for economic recovery too and that Christian students and Christian families in Thailand will not lose their faith when they meet with difficulties like these, but they will have more faith and continue to stand firm in the Lord. Please also pray for the Christian group in the university that I am taking care of and also for the Christian groups in various universities that there will be more people who can hear about God that the gospel will be spread to many circles. In this era where many people may think that religion and God is not relevant to their personal lives, yet may God’s story, his love and his truth find a place in their hearts.’
Nerse shares how being part of a TCS group helped her grow in her faith:
‘Hi everyone, my name is Nerse and I’m studying my second year in Mahidol University. I got to know the Christian cell group in 2019 when I was a student in Thammasat University. Actually, I believed in Jesus when I was still in high school, but I was not very serious with my faith. However, when I was in university, I saw the Christian Facebook page and decided to join the cell group. When I joined them, I really like it a lot and continued attending. This helped me to know God more and gave me a Christian community. The older students and the staff were warm and welcoming, they ate with us and conversed with us often, and I started to understand more about basic things like praying before eating. Before, I used to pray only before I slept. In my second term, there was a senior student who went through the basics of the Christian faith with me. In my second year, I moved to Mahidol University. Thus, I attended the Christian cell group there instead. It was a very small group, and I had the opportunity to serve and share regularly. The other four leaders and I helped each other to manage the cell group.
In the last two years as I was involved with the cell group in Thammasat and Mahidol, I spent a lot of time with Christian brothers and sisters and we had a lot of fun during cell group and in our free time. I observed the way they lived their lives and I could see how God was working in them. I learnt that I could be thankful to God in good times and learn to trust in God in difficult times. I witnessed my friends and I grow together in our faith through the cell groups. On November 7 2021, I got baptized in a church near Mahidol University. It was such a special day for me and I am so grateful to God for the Christian friends that I have in church and in the cell groups. They attended my baptism and they have been a great example for me in walking close to God.’