WICHITA, Kan. – Tabor’s newly developed master’s program in entrepreneurial ministry leadership sent six students and one professor on a 10-day trip to Thailand June 7-17.
The group visited businesses and church ministries across the country with Khmu, Thai, Burmese and Laotian believers. They visited ministries run by MB Mission, Create International and a variety of local entrepreneurs. They spent time meeting Khmu and Laotian ministry leaders at the Changed Life Center, plus climbed and prayed on “Prayer Mountain.” They even celebrated and participated in baptisms with Burmese Christians in the Gulf of Thailand.
One highlight was spending time at the Abundant Life Home, which provides a loving family for HIV/AIDS orphans. This ministry was the entrepreneurial brainchild of missionary Karen Sanchez, who is the mother of current Tabor student Sierra Sanchez.
The professor that accompanied the students to Thailand was Director of Theological Education at Tabor, Rick Bartlett.
“This trip is a significant component in the EML program,” said Bartlett. “I’ve been on trips like this with students on multiple continents and when taking a group overseas, I look forward to the experiential learning that takes place. There is nothing better for integrating faith and learning. This trip surpassed my expectations from an academic and ministry perspective.”
The EML program has, as a requirement, a course in an international location. The goal of the EML program is to help students think entrepreneurially. This course called “international advance” offers students the opportunity to see entrepreneurial leadership in a different cultural context.
Aubrey Smith, a graduate student in the EML program, said the trip exceeded her expectations.
“Before the trip, I honestly had no expectation other than to be a learner,” said Smith. “I knew we would be observing the entrepreneurial work of Christian missionaries and ministry leaders overseas, but I had no idea the depth in which we would observe them.
“These entrepreneurs have an understanding that their work involves seeing a vision, adapting to changes in the vision and constant faith to carry it out,” she added. “That’s the life of an entrepreneur in Thailand.”
The experience was life-changing and extremely spiritual for graduate student Joe Wuest, who had never been out of the United States.
“So much of my preconceived notions about other cultures and missions were shattered,” said Wuest. “I heard God speaking to me so clearly for the first time in years. So much of the ministry being done in Thailand resonated with me. I felt a desire to either be a part of it there or replicate it in America.
“The people in Thailand, who have accepted Christ as their Savior, have a different light about them,” added Wuest. “They are passionate, compassionate and fearless in their desire to spread the Gospel. A desire burned within me to be more like these believers—to be more passionate about how I love others and how I help point them to Christ.”
Fellow student, Lee Waldron, echoed Wuest’s sentiments.
“God opened my eyes to a faith I was not accustomed to seeing,” said Waldron. “I interacted with so many men and women who are living radically for Jesus and putting their faith in serving the Lord.”
The group also spent time with one of MB Mission’s “Team 2000” missionary couples, now in Chiang Mai, Andy and Carmen Owen. Andy, a Tabor alumnus, told the group they would come back to the United States deeply impacted. The students realized that their trip to Thailand was life-changing.
“I am not sure at what point this occurred for me,” said Smith, “perhaps it was our encounter with the fearless Khmu leaders in Chiang Rai or the walk around the Buddhist Temple in Chiang Mai. Maybe it was witnessing God’s powerful work within Burmese church service in Bangkok or perhaps seeing the innocent little faces at Abundant Life Orphanage. Whatever the experience, I quickly became one of those unsuspecting visitors who was forever changed.”
The majority of people living in Thailand are Buddhist. Many of the missionaries there are trying to introduce the story of Jesus Christ to the Thai people.
“They have a passion to see their nation come to know God,” said EML student, Jessica Garcia. “Their faith is strong and their vision for ministry is not limited by their lack of resources.”
Some students experienced God calling them to become more focused on their faith.
“I felt God call me out of a spiritual slumber,” added Wuest. “I heard Him, rather vividly, remind me of who He created me to be. A lot of this centered around my gifts and abilities. For the past four to five years, I have felt uncertain about the path or journey I need to go on next. I believe God began answering some of those questions and doubts I had about myself.”
To learn more about the master’s degree in entrepreneurial ministry leadership, visit us online at tabor.edu/EML.