The beginning vision of The Well was to reach many, starting with women at risk. We remembered Jesus’ words that the Kingdom of God is like yeast in dough, small but with incredible transformative potential. Disciples of Jesus come together to serve in ways that ultimately change societies, so we knew starting churches was a goal.
We started small gatherings immediately, but these groups weren’t impactful. Thai poverty culture strongly discourages people from going against the crowd; an underestimated obstacle. New believers who visited old friends relapsed into unhealthy activities. We once took a couple former bar girls on outreach, and I watched approvingly from a distance as one talked at length to a mamasan, thinking they were discussing her new life in Christ. Later she confessed she was asking about working there.
We were discouraged, but felt the Lord say to stay faithful. Yeast takes time. Practical challenges also forced us to seek creative answers over the years:
The church reaching the lower class must be local. The working class work long hours and live with stress. They need church that is convenient and nearby.
The church must have a flexible schedule, with multiple options for people to gather. Young adults are a strategic group for starting a church, but most work in retail. They don’t have predictable days off.
The church must be interactive. Many working-class Thais are functionally illiterate and have minimal general knowledge. To them, the Bible has strange vocabulary and concepts. The traditional sermon is ineffective.
Ultimately, church for busy people in an urban environment must to be more about relationships than organization. We had to meet the strong Thai need for community—relational connection and shared life.
We began imagining a space people could visit whenever, staffed with Christians able to share Jesus. A cafe might become a neighborhood hub and generate enough revenue to sustain itself. We slowly developed two venues: a storefront on a main avenue, Connect Center, and a house on a quieter street, Connect Garden.
More importantly, people who came into The Well long ago have matured, and we have a small but healthy community with Thai leaders. Some are working together on a church at Connect. Leading the effort are Sorn and Gik, former drug users who now have M.Div. degrees. Miaw cares for kids in her slum community. Bow talks about introducing Jesus to friends who worked in bars with her. Supporting them are Tracy and Shonna Shipp, along with Shonna’s mother, Gwen. We have the beginnings of this shared community life at The Well; now we’re ready to take it into the neighborhood.
Connect Center had a major remodel last year and is now open weekdays. We hope to operate every day by January. Connect Garden is being landscaped and should also open in January.
Both places will host small cafes and planned activities. Activities will include music, English, children’s events, games, and support groups—as well as worship, Bible study and info seminars about Christianity. Our hope is to foster an understanding of “church” not as a meeting to attend, but as a network of people sharing life together.
We could still use a few items to get everything working:
Sound system – $300
Television – $700
Garden lighting – $200
You can help by donating to the Connect Community Center fund.
John begins his letter exclaiming about the awesome privilege of experiencing the Son of God firsthand. Jesus’ main message, John says, is this: live and grow together in love and truth. “When we walk in the light, as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” This is the picture of church that we are praying for and working towards.