Longing to see the gospel grow among the Pattani Malay in southern Thailand.
Situated over 500 miles south of the bright lights of Bangkok in Thailand, Songkhla Province has a more laid back feel than the capital and represents something of a meeting place between the Thai people and culture to its north and the Malay groups further south. The districts of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat to the south–east all retain a distinct Muslim–Malay identity. Here, longstanding resentment of Thai authority occasionally boils over, with insurgency necessitating a constant police and military presence. Most, however, choose to protest more peacefully, shunning Thai language and beliefs in favour of their Malay and Islamic heritage.
One consequence of this is hard ground for the gospel among the local people. Known as the Pattani Malay, they are considered a ‘frontier’ people group since only a handful from this background are known to follow the Lord. With that in mind, we might simultaneously rejoice that a complete New Testament has been available in the local language for forty years and yet wonder why no fruit appears to have come as a result. For those who worked so hard to translate God’s Word and bring hope to this lost corner of the world, this will surely be a great source of sadness, confusion and frustration.
That said, we may take encouragement from the present as work continues among the Pattani Malay. Whilst the Thai church remains reluctant to engage with the nation’s Muslim groups, preferring instead to reach the hill tribes of the north, work is underway to mobilise workers for the south. Through national workers and those from abroad, a vision is being cast among Thai believers for effective outreach to this lost people, and some are answering the call.
For the past two years, we have supported the work of Somchai, a Thai believer who is eager to bring good news of salvation to the Pattani Malay. Since he moved to the region, learning the local language has been a struggle and outreach has been difficult among this closed and suspicious community. However, little by little he has sought to earn trust and favour with his neighbours by living peacefully, getting involved with community work and being a blessing to all. He was grateful for an opportunity to reach out during the pandemic with food packages containing rice, oil, sugar and fish. In each package, he placed a translation of Matthew 6:25–34, in which Jesus encourages the crowd with God’s tender care for the birds of the air, assuring His listeners of their own worth to Him.
Pray with us for Somchai and his ministry among the Pattani Malay. Pray too for the gospel to take root in the hearts of many and for the Lord to bring many to Himself in faith.