The many faces of the New Evangelization

The Church evangelization faces great challenges in Thailand, this Far East world seems waterproof to the Gospel message. The first Synod of the Thai church was celebrated a little more than 350 years ago and the number of catholic is still almost irrelevant, it seems that the Gospel message is too far from the Thai mentality and culture and Jesus is simply a foreigner that has not much to do with Thai people.

The majority of the baptized in Thailand comes from migrant people or ethnic groups and, in spite of the local church commitment, the number of conversions is not significant. How to reach the non-Catholic? How make them understand the Gospel message and enter the Church? These questions are in the heart of every missionary in Thailand and the answer is not jet clear as well as the evangelizing strategy.

In the Northern part of Thailand, a young priest, father Thotsaphon Narinrat, a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation, has his own way to meet the non-Catholic and to share with them the Gospel values. Father Joe, this is his nickname, started a program of different projects in favor of the young, the poor, and the disabled people, his intention is to be close to them, to give them the opportunity to improve their own lives and understand that they are not forgotten.

The meeting point was in Lomsak at the OMI Catholic Mission Center on October 16 at 9,00 o’clock, the area was full of stuff: soil, plastic bottles, concrete rings, and a camp kitchen. The formation session started on time and around 25 people attended, they were adult, disabled, but ready to join the activities, eager to learn something new that maybe could have changed their life. “I want to give them an opportunity because these people are very poor, they have almost nothing if they learn new skills they will be able to improve their life, live with more dignity according to what God wants for them”, this is how father Joe sees his commitment. The Thai Government financed a mushroom project for the disabled and he profited from this opportunity to proclaim the Good News, “We don’t speak about Jesus here because these people are not catholic, but we insert them in an atmosphere where they can experience the Gospel values. We welcome them warmly, we serve them with attention and care, we are close to them as brothers and sisters, we don’t treat them as different people, but as normal one, masters of their own life” said father Joe. The purpose of the project is to teach these twenty people to grow mushrooms and sell them in order to have additional revenues.

After three days of formation, the goal was reached, the participants in the project learned how to prepare the soil, how to treat it, how to plant the mushrooms, and how to harvest them. Each one of them received 100 mushrooms bags with which they could produce mushrooms for four months.

The atmosphere was convivial, the participants worked together and came to know each other better. Maybe not all of them will succeed in growing mushrooms, but all of them will value such an experience. Nobody asked to receive the baptism, but for a few days they could experience a different lifestyle built on fraternal relationships and this, according to father Joe, is the fruit of the Gospel, lived in our daily life.

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