Thirty minutes outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand, is the town of Khung Klang. When the sun goes down, the mountainside is aglow from rows of greenhouses that scale its slopes. Tucked inside are rows and rows of bright green bushes, their white and yellow blossoms ready to burst.
Nearly 80 percent of Bangkok's flowers come from this region, many grown by Hmong Mennonites. With the earnings from the profitable flower market, they support three things that are important to them: their families, their community, and their church.
The church in Khung Klang is as vibrant as the flowers that are grown nearby. The congregation has 200 members and supports a nearby church plant. And like many of the Hmong Mennonites scattered across the mountains of northern Thailand, they meet weekly for worship and prayer. They love the Lord. They live out Jesus' teachings to the best of their ability. For the most part, they have a comfortable and stable life.
But it wasn't always this way.
For nearly 200 years, the Hmong people have been scarred with persecution. The minority ethnic group first lived in southern China. Throughout history, they were pushed to parts of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar. Always rebuilding. Always hoping.
It wasn't until in the last 10 years that some Hmong Christians in northern Thailand found a spiritual and
One day, a missionary couple with Mennonite Mission Network arrived in southeast Asia.* Their continual friendship and consistent modeling of Jesus' life spoke to Hmong Christians who lived in northern Thailand. Over time, Hmong Christians began to own Anabaptist values as well as the story of Anabaptists, who themselves were persecuted in Europe 500 years ago.
"They are a peaceful people, and the Anabaptist way of being Christians really captured their hearts," said Mike Sherrill, Mission Network director for Asia. "They are taking every step to learn more about how to be an Anabaptist Christian."
And so, on Apr. 20, 2017, the Hmong District 20 began. The Mennonite conference has 23 churches. Though scattered in different districts across the mountains of northern Thailand, they share the same language and culture. They share the same love of Jesus, and passion to live out his teachings of peace, reconciliation and community.
The conference is only 1 year old. But that doesn't stop them from acting on their dreams. They waste no time waiting to plant Mennonite churches. When the Hmong Mennonites plant churches, said Sherrill, "it's not just soul saving, but healing the whole person and creating community."
And because of the nine church plants, they need a place to train their pastors.
Their vision is to create an Anabaptist theological training center in Thailand. This school would train pastors and lay leaders to follow Jesus' example of peace and community. The school would train Hmong Mennonites both near and far.
"We realized that we have so many Hmong communities
in neighboring countries. We can be a door and a place for them to receive training since it's more open here," said Ponchai Banchasawan, president of Hmong District 20, referring to other southeast Asian countries where Christians are persecuted. Banchasawan wants the school to be a place where they can bring their experiences, receive training, and return to their countries to share the good news.
*The couple is not named to protect those who are still persecuted.
Ponsri and Silavit Trakantrakul (left) speak with a gardener about purchasing flower plants from her greenhouse. Photo by Travis Duerksen.