Today in the Mission Yearbook

Sister congregations in Thailand and Santa Barbara each celebrate 150 years


Pair are partners in faith

December 31, 2018

A medical clinic guest in Chiang Mai (right) prays with a member of First Presbyterian Church of Santa Barbara. Courtesy First Church of Chiang Mai, Thailand

Nearly 8,000 miles separate congregations in Santa Barbara, California, and Chiang Mai, Thailand. Yet nothing can separate the growing bond they have shared as sister churches in mission since 2013.

Early in 2013, the mission committee of First Presbyterian Church of Santa Barbara (FPCSB) discussed a congregation-to-congregation partnership with the Rev. Dr. Esther Wakeman, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-worker and vice president for spiritual and community life at Payap University in Chiang Mai. She suggested First Church Chiang Mai and made the connection. The resulting partnership “is deepening friendships for both congregations,” said Jeanette Zinke, mission elder at FPCSB.

“For decades our congregation had provided partial financial support to several PC(USA) mission co-workers serving in Thailand and around the world, and we’ve enjoyed the times when they’ve visited us,” Jeanette said. “Through our trips to Thailand, worshiping and serving together in a Southeast Asian context, we have a better sense of the global church.”

The Rev. Dr. Sirikanya Boonyakiat, Home and Family Ministry pastor of First Church of Chiang Mai (FCCM), said FCCM is “waking up” to understanding more about mission and participating more in mission. The pastor, who is known to her U.S. sister congregation as “Pastor Ying,” added, “This is wonderful, because no church can achieve her mission goals on her own.”

Founded by American Presbyterian missionary the Rev. Daniel McGilvary, FCCM has grown to a congregation of more than 2,000 in a country that is only 1 percent Christian.

Over the past five years, FCCM and FPCSB have prayed for one another, visited each other’s congregations, worshiped together and served in mission work side by side in rural Chiang Mai. FCCM members toured Santa Barbara’s Transition House, a ministry that helps families experiencing homelessness. FPCSB members saw Chiang Mai’s Salvation Room, a fellowship hall where visitors are invited after worship to learn more about Jesus. This prompted FPCSB to form a prayer group for evangelism, mission elder Yvonne Bazinet said. “We continue to ask God’s help that we may be uninhibited in sharing our faith,” she said.

On their visit to Chiang Mai for FCCM’s 150th anniversary thanksgiving service, members of FPCSB met several FCCM missionary candidates. During the service, a young couple with a 2-year-old son were commissioned as FCCM’s first missionaries.

Pastor Ying said the theme for FCCM’s anniversary celebration was “Heritage and Hope.” She finds much hope in the FCCM-FPCSB partnership. “Both churches will continue to support each other in mission work, prayer and financial support,” she said. “Both churches will strengthen each other in mission. Our partnership will expand to other ministries such as women, men, youth and children.”

“As our bonds strengthen, we give thanks to God for our partnership with First Church Chiang Mai, and we anticipate many more years together,” Yvonne said. “We look forward to seeing several from our sister church in Santa Barbara next June, when they will help us celebrate our 150th anniversary.”

Charles Curtis, Commissioned Lay Pastor for Mission and Evangelism, First Presbyterian Church, Santa Barbara, and Director, Santa Barbara Mission Conference, 16 years

Today’s Focus:  Sister Congregations

Let us join in prayer for:

First Presbyterian Church of Santa Barbara Staff

Rev. Dr. Erik Wiebe, Associate Pastor
Dr. Gordon Hess, Parish Associate
Charles Curtis, Commissioned Lay Pastor for Mission and Evangelism
Susan Croshaw, Children’s Ministries Director
Rich Ellgen, Minister to Youth and Young Adults
Erin Bonski-Evans, Music Director
Steven Hodson, Organist
Denise Rodman, Business Administrator
Sharon Head, RN, Parish Nurse
Kay Bowman, Kitchen Liaison
Paul Tarasick, Maintenance Manager

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Theresa Goodlin, PMA
Catherine Gordon, PMA

Let us pray:

God, help us to always seek your face and to celebrate the diversity in Christ’s church and our unity in him. Help us also to see your compassion for the downtrodden and to seek justice in an unjust world. In Christ’s name. Amen.

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