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Jonah, Thailand: “I now see unity in the church and the community."

Jonah is 50 years old and a church leader in the watershed community of Mae Na Wang. He has been serving in his church for over twenty years, starting after his father passed away. He and his wife, Ya-na, have raised four sons and two daughters together.

In addition to serving at church, Jonah and his family also work on the family farm. They cultivate maize and raise livestock. They also cultivate and sell cassava, mango, and lychee in order to keep earning an income.

Jonah was born in Myanmar and migrated to Thailand with his parents when he was one. They had to escape conflict that was happening in Myanmar. There was a lack of security, both personal security and over people’s possessions.  They left for Northern Thailand, initially settling near Chiang Mai.

At the time there were no roads and transportation options that were easy to use. When people got sick and had to go to the clinic, they would have to walk. As Jonah grew up, he got educational support and mentorship from a church leader, which led to him completing his primary school education. Afterwards, he moved back home and helped his parents with the work.

Working as a spiritual leader has not always been easy.

“Sometimes there is even conflict among church members,” Jonah expresses. “This creates obstacles to ministry. We have to find ways to bring people back together and focused on God’s word. We seek solutions to conflict, because we value relationships.”

When his father passed away, Jonah took over his role at the church. Unfortunately he also began to encounter health problems and partial paralysis. This created obstacles in his daily life, and a new burden in the form of costly treatments.

“I have to work hard to both take care of my family and to deal with my hemiplegia. I get so tired, and discouraged sometimes.”

“My paralysis made me reflect on my life more. I read the Bible and I was encouraged by Jesus’ story. He had to suffer, and yet still committed to the ministry. He was an example to us, not seeking revenge on those who rejected him.”

“This helps me lead conflict resolution in the community. Forgiveness is the best solution and can bring peace. Our reaction and response to conflict matters. When I encounter issues, now, I am encouraged by my friends whom I serve alongside with. This gives me the desire to keep serving.”

When Plant With Purpose came to Mae Na Wang, Jonah got to know the community. He developed an interest in soil conservation and integrating trees with crops. He joined a Purpose Group and invited others in the community.

He began diversifying his crops, planting rambutan, macadamia, rattan, fan palm, and pineapple. He started to develop kitchen gardens, to provide the family with vegetables to eat. This lowered household expenses, freeing up cash to help Jonah pay for his medical treatments.

“Farming is the main source of my family’s income. I am concerned because of climate change. For example, rain often does not come at the appropriate time. Those of us who live upland rely on the rain. When the rain does not show up on time, the plants we’ve sown do not grow and wind up dead. We don’t grow as much as we should.”

“I pray to God as I cultivate the plants. We have no control over making the rain come down, but we leave this with God and I reduce my worries.”

Jonah is a spiritual leader in the community, and encourages others to care for the environment. He invites church members to plant trees in the community forest together. He values the opportunity that communities have to restore God’s creation together, becoming more united in the process.

“I have learned many new things, including how to pray and trust in God. I have been taken care of, even with my health problem of hemiplegia. I’ve found the treatments that helped. It hasn’t been a full recovery, but I keep trusting God. He can do much more than we can. I’ve also learned how to be patient with my neighbors, my family, and others in the ministry.

“I now see unity in the church and the community. They are a blessing to me. As a church leader, I thank God when we are all unified. We use our resources to help those in the community who are struggling.”

About the Author

Plant With Purpose seeks to restore hope by reversing two of the world’s greatest challenges: global poverty and environmental damage. These problems are interconnected.

Our goal is to see creation’s life-giving regenerative cycles restored and people renewed through their relationship to God, living in healthy sufficiency and empowered to dream.

We operate in eight countries around the world. Our international work is 100% locally-led, with global offices operating both as independent agencies within their country, and alliance partners with Plant With Purpose U.S., which supports their ongoing work.

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