guest post by Larry Dinkins
Growing up, I enjoyed a TV program called, “Kid’s Say the Darndest Things” hosted by Art Linkletter. A few of my favorites are:
What do we learn from the story of Jesus turning water into wine?
The more wine we get, the better the wedding is.
When God punished Eve, what did he make her become?
What ever happened to Adam and Eve?
God sent them to Hell and then transferred them to Los Angeles
Recently I read an article called “25 Really Strange Things Members Said to Their Pastors” on churchleaders.com. It made me think of strange things that I’ve been asked during my 37 years as a missionary to Thai people. During my mission career, church members have come up to me saying they have been following my ministry for years and would like to ask me some questions. I am pleased, of course, but many questions are so clueless that I am thinking of making a large laminated FAQ sheet with answers printed on it so I can simply point to the answers (a few of the following questions are fictitious, but most are questions I’ve been asked in all sincerity):
You live near the equator, is it very hot there?
Yes, my motorcycle overheats before I even have a chance to start it.
What are the four seasons like in Thailand?
Actually we have only three seasons in Thailand: hot, hotter and hottest.
Have you ever been swallowed by a cobra?
No, but a garden snake once bit my finger.
Do you drink the water there in Thailand?
Yes, I do drink the water. You get very dehydrated if you don’t.
Is “The King and I” movie a true story?
No, and the King of Thailand is not Yul Brunner.
Is Thai food very spicy?
Yes, Thai food is so hot and spicy that it melts your styrofoam “doggy bag”
Have you ever met the Siamese Twins?
Sorry, I never had the pleasure … they passed away in 1874 (two-and-a-half hours apart)
Do you own a Siamese cat?
Actually, I’ve never seen one in Thailand (some think they came from Egypt)
Are there still cannibals in Thailand?
No, Thai don’t eat people (a few dogs maybe)
I hear you are a missionary in Thailand? Is your family with you?
No, I’ve not seen them for the last couple of terms.
Is it hard to send your children to boarding school?
No, it was quite easy to send our kids away for four months, to a different country. when they were six years old! Alternative answer: No, the last time I saw the ‘fam’ was on August 11, 1987 on a tiger-infested trail in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia.
We heard you are sending your children to boarding school. Please don’t do that. Fred and I have talked it over and we are willing to raise them for you. Would you let us do that?
Of course, just give me your forwarding address.
Do you live in a mud hut?
Actually we rent a 2,000 square foot, 5 bedroom, split level suburban tract home.
Are you able to take baths there?
Yes, at least once a month (twice a month during the hot season)
Do you sleep on the floor?
Right now I’m using a King Size Signature Sleep Adjustable Memory Foam Mattress
Do you speak the language?
Yes, after 37 years I’ve finally managed to put a few rudimentary sentences together.
Have you ever been hijacked?
No, but my plane was once diverted to Seoul in bad weather
Is Thailand next to Nicaragua?
No, it’s a bit closer to Asia than Central America.
What’s it like there in Thighland (or Taiwan)?
Let me spell it for you … Thailand: T-H-A-I-L-A-N-D
Are you a missionary? Have you encountered any odd or memorable questions over the years?
Please feel free to share in the comments section below. Thanks!
As I have been visiting churches during our home assignment (furlough), I am occasionally asked why I teach church history in Thailand. “Do they really need to learn church history? Don’t they need the Bible more?” The answer to both questions is , "They do." The top priority in discipleship should be teaching the Old and New Testament, helping people to know and love their Bibles as a natural outgrowth of knowing and loving their Savior. But in a full-orbed approach to discipleship, Christians need to know some history too… even on mission fields where Christians are few and far between.
As the church grows, it needs leaders who know the past in order to chart a better future. I teach church history and missions at Bangkok Bible Seminary, a ministry training school that aims to prepare leaders for the churches in Thailand. I love teaching there. I love helping form an upcoming generation of Thai Christian leaders. I see students benefitting from the classes I teach and feel like I am making a real contribution. I love seeing the lights go on in students' minds as they get their questions answered and get a better biblical grounding under their feet to minister to the people in their churches and to do outreach. I love to read student reflections on the stories of Hudson Taylor and John Sung and the lessons they have learned from their lives. I love to see students grasp the implications of the doctrinal debates of the early church and to discuss with them the mixed fruit arising from the legalization of Christianity under Constantine. Did you know that the altar call is only about 200 years old? Most of my students don’t know that coming in to my class and discussing the history of evangelistic methods gives them ideas about what they might (or might not) want to do in their own evangelism. I love questions like...
“My friend said that if you worship on Sunday it is a compromise with paganism. Is that true? I wanted to ask you since we're studying the section on the Roman Empire now”
“Teacher, can I get a PDF of Jonathan Edwards' sermon in Thai and English that you had us read for class. I had the opportunity to read it again. Its really good. I felt like I had to repent of a lot of things."
Learning church history provides my students with a multitude of benefits for their personal walk with Christ and their ministry to others. For example,
1) Learning church history helps Christians to know other churches and Christian groups, and their history, beyond one’s own home church and home denomination (if any). Learning about Christians whose beliefs, practices, and experiences differ from your own helps promote mutual understanding and Christian love, and helps us recognize where God is working outside of our own particular group. Learning about others promotes humility and Christian unity. We may have differences with others but we can learn something from them too, and we can learn to value them as brothers and sisters and Christ (or, alternatively, understand why a particular “church” or group is actually apostate even though they claim to follow Jesus and thus see the need to help them understand the true Gospel)
2) Learning church history helps Christians to learn the weaknesses and pitfalls of our own churches and that of others so we can avoid past mistakes. Sometimes we make the same errors as our forefathers because we don’t know that they already tried inventing this wheel and it didn’t go so well. Even learning about the fights in church history can teach us through negative example. Fights serve to show what is in people’s hearts and depending on how they respond, it drives them closer or further from God and his truth. Heresy brings about conflict over doctrine, which forces Christians to go back to the Scripture and get a better understanding of who God is and what He teaches us. In some ways, heresy is the mother of orthodoxy, and learning about doctrinal conflicts helps us to know God and His Word better.
3) Learning church history helps in evangelism because we may meet non-Christians who met or experienced a particular group or heard some snippet of church history. Knowing church history gives us some idea of what others have seen or experienced and provide a helpful bridge for understanding. If someone has a negative impression of Christianity because of the Crusades, we might know enough about the Crusades to have a productive conversation, sorting out fact from popular fiction. If someone says they heard Billy Graham, then we have an idea of what they heard and can use that as a launching point for further discussion of the Gospel. Or if someone visited an Assemblies of God / Presbyterian / Baptist / Anglican church, then we have an idea of what they may have heard or experienced, and can answer or discuss questions they may have.
4) Learning church history helps form Christian identity and creates a sense of who you are, and where you stand in the grand scope of history and the world. In places where there are very few Christians, it easy for believers to feel isolated and alone. They may even question whether they have made the right choice in trusting in Christ when everyone else around them identifies with some other religion. When Christians are challenged to give up this “foreigner’s religion", church history helps them to know that they are part of something bigger, with a long and rich history that is much broader and older than the West or Europe. Church history gives believers a sense of belonging, knowing they are part of the worldwide family of God.
5) Learning church history helps Christians know and appreciate their own church's history and identity. I have many students who come from churches about which they don’t know much beyond what they see and hear in the weekly worship service. When they do research papers on the history of their church and denomination, they often come away with a deep appreciation for where they come from and the blessings they have received through those who have gone before them.
6) Learning church history gives encouragement to believers and results in praise to God as we see how God has worked in the past, and gain renewed hope that we might see Him work like that again. When life is difficult in the present, church history reminds us that God’s mighty works did not end with the pages of Scripture, but He has been faithfully building his church and delivering His people throughout the ages. In many ways, church history done well is like reading a person’s testimony of God’s faithfulness to them.
For all of these reasons, I love teaching church history on the mission field and am convinced of its Great Commission value in equipping God’s people around the world to lead their churches into the future, confident in God’s faithfulness and leading going forward because they have seen His faithfulness in the past.
It is no secret that the prosperity gospel in booming globally. Although many Western Christians may brush off prosperity preachers as fringe hucksters and con artists, anyone who has ministered in churches in the global South is aware that health and wealth preachers are a major force to be reckoned with. They are gaining huge audiences and exerting tremendous influence on shaping the beliefs and practices of large sections of the church worldwide.
Those who love the Scriptures and the orthodox faith once for all delivered to the saints are shaking their heads and many chock up the success to of the prosperity gospel worldwide to the greed of the human heart. What more can we do against this tidal way of heresy except quietly and faithfully preach the Gospel in our own local churches, just as we always have? Those who love the truth will find us, and those who don’t will continue on their road of self-delusion. What more can we do? I want to suggest that we can and should do more, and there just might be something to learn from the prosperity preachers about how to have a global influence.
What?! Faithful biblical Christians could learn something from prosperity preachers? Say it ain’t so! Before you virtually tar and feather me, hear me out. I don’t want to suggest that we learn any theology from these false teachers, but I do wonder if they understand something about getting a message to the people that more orthodox, evangelical Christians have been slower to embrace.
1. Online Sermon Videos
One of the major ways that prosperity preachers are getting out their message is through YouTube and other video sharing sites. Where I minister in Thailand, the majority of online sermon videos in Thai are from prosperity gospel-friendly churches and preachers. Where are the evangelicals? Where are the Reformed? Where are the old-time Bible preachers and teachers? They are there, but in far fewer numbers. In Thailand, like many other places in the world, vast numbers of Christians are getting their theology from watching preaching online more than reading books. I love books, but the reality is that many people are oral-preferred learners and would rather listen or watch than read. We need to adjust to that reality. If we want solid biblical teaching to gain a greater hearing in the global church, we need to work with like-minded churches around the world to help get videos of faithful biblical preaching in local languages online. Granted, there are lots of good preaching videos online in English, but most people in the world will never be reached by an English-language sermon.
2. Literature Translation
Prosperity preachers pump out a lot of lousy books, and they fund the translation of these lackluster (but exciting) titles into foreign languages. In many markets, there is a flood of prosperity-related books, but not nearly enough biblical theological books that are accessible to the common man. Many Christians in the global church are not familiar with the authors of translated books from the West, so when they go to one of the few Christian bookshops in their country they don’t know how to pick out a good Christian book from a bad “Christian” book. And if prosperity books at that book shop out number biblically sound books 5 to 1, chances are they will go home with 200 pages of bad theology in their bag.
Those who care about sound teaching and theology in the global church need to invest more in translation, production, and distribution of good Christian books abroad. This includes not only biblical, theological books for pastoral training, but also basic Christian books for the common man. Think “Pilgrim’s Progress,” daily devotionals, or books on the Christian life (growing in holiness, parenting, dealing with cancer, etc.)
One of the keys to the success of prosperity preachers is that they speak in simple, conversational language, forcefully stated. In many cases, we need biblical truth accessible for the working class, not only carefully-nuanced theology books for aspiring pastors.
Also, in choosing which books to fund and distribute, it is extremely important to listen to faithful local partners and long-term missionaries to learn what kinds of books are needed and will actually be read. What plays in Peoria might not play in Phnom Penh.
3. International Speaking Gigs
One of the amazing things to note about prosperity preachers is how much they travel! It seems like every heretical health-and-wealth teacher is ready to fly to the Philippines or Nigeria at the drop of a hat. They are every place! Year after year, a steady stream of false teachers come to Thailand and put on a big show in cooperation with local churches. The names on the marquee keep changing, but the bad teaching is the same. Maybe solid biblical preachers need to do more international travel, speaking at conferences put on by groups of local churches who invite all the Christians in the city or the country.
I don’t want to over-emphasize the importance of one-time events over personal discipleship and the regular ministry of the local church, but perhaps we need to think about using this strategy more so that the only show in town is not the latest apostle or prophet of what’s-happening-now. Plus, if Christians hear a solid biblical preacher at a big conference or evangelistic meeting, maybe they’ll grab his book next time they visit a Christian bookshop simply because they have heard of him.
In sum, biblical Christians need to do more than just wince at the proliferation of prosperity gospel teaching internationally. False teachers exert a huge influence in many places in part because these preachers, their sermons, and their books are all that is available. If prosperity preachers have figured out how to deliver their message to the common man in the global South, maybe we should take note of how they are doing that… and learn.
As some readers of this blog may already be aware, our family is planning to move to Scotland for a few years so I can work on a Ph.D at the University of Edinburgh. As we’ve been visiting churches and mission partners in the States, a number of people have asked me why I'm going to do a Ph.D. That's an excellent question.
For most missionaries, a doctorate really isn't necessary. They plant churches. They do direct evangelism. They work with street kids. This is all important work and it is really helpful to have some kind of bible college or seminary degree for greatest effectiveness (why?), but probably not a doctorate. So why am I going for a Ph.D?
In this post, I want to answer that question by briefly laying out six reasons that are motivating my pursuit of doctoral studies. It is my hope that readers in general will understand why Ph.D studies might be right for some missionaries, and that our mission partners in particular will understand why I personally am pursing a Ph.D. At the end of the post, you’ll find a curated list of some helpful articles by myself and others about the relationship between theological education and mission work.
1. Improve My Teaching
Over the past four years or so, I’ve been teaching church history at Bangkok Bible Seminary and have been encouraged at the changes I’ve seen in students’ thinking. They have been encouraged, challenged, and inspired by what they’ve been learning as they get equipped to serve God and His Church. But as I’ve been teaching, I’ve noticed gaps in my knowledge. There are things that I’d like to teach my students, and connections I’d like to find, but I have not yet found those things in the books that I have available to me. I want to study for a Ph.D in order to fill in some of those gaps and to improve my teaching. I want to be more able to answer student questions and guide their own learning and discovery. In short, I want to be able to benefit my students as much as possible, and the research involved in a Ph.D will help me to do that.
2. Enhance My Writing
I started blogging somewhat regularly in 2009 when I was in a difficult church planting situation and saw various troublesome issues, but had few people to talk to. Over the years, I have seen the readership and breadth of content on my blog expand, and have started a Thai blog as well. I have additionally self-published a few short books on Amazon and have had some articles formally published in Christian magazines and websites (list of publications). I’ve received much positive feedback from missionaries, Thai Christians, and mission partners on the homeside, saying that my writing has been helpful to them. The study involved in dissertation research will expand the scope of knowledge which I can draw from in writing, and thus hopefully be a benefit to the missionary community, Thai Christians, and those interested in global missions.
3. Contribute to Our Understanding of Thai Church History
The goal of a Ph.D dissertation is to present to the world something that has never been done before, to contribute something new to the scope of human knowledge. After all, if someone has already researched and written something on a particular topic, why spend two to three years reinventing the wheel?
As I have taught Thai church history over the past four years or so, I’ve never found a good answer to how theological modernism impacted missions in Thailand during the first part of the twentieth century. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy was ripping apart the church in the U.S. and elsewhere, splitting entire denominations into liberal and evangelical camps. Numerous people have written on the impact of theological liberalism upon missionaries in China during this period, but I have yet to see anything about how it affected the missionaries in Thailand. The American Presbyterian church was neck-deep in conflict over theological modernism and the vast majority of missionaries in Thailand until after World War 2 were American Presbyterians. There had to be some effect. But what was it? How did this conflict on the homeside affect the missionaries in Thailand? How did theological change of a modernist variety affect the missionaries’ ministry priorities? relationships with each other? relationship with Thai believers? missionary attrition? What is the long-term impact upon an evangelical mission when unorthodox theological ideas are given room to flourish? These are some of the the questions I want to find out by digging into old books, letters, journals, reports, and articles from the late 19th century up through the start of World War 2. I hope that what I discover will help both Thai Christians and missionaries to Thailand to better understand some of the influences that have shaped the modern mission and church landscape in Thailand. Beyond Thailand, I hope that my research will contribute to what we know about the global impact of modernist and fundamentalist movements in the first half of the twentieth century.
The official title of my proposed dissertation topic is “Modernism in the American Presbyterian Mission in Siam, 1893-1941."
4. Maximal Opportunities for Ministry
Although it is obviously more important what you know than what letters you have in front of your name, it is also true that having a Ph.D from a recognized university lends a certain amount of credibility and legitimacy to teaching, writing, and public speaking. Having a doctorate can open doors, create opportunities, and gain an audience in certain situations. And since I want to make an impact in the areas of teaching, writing, and preaching/public speaking, it certainly can’t hurt to have have a Ph.D as part of my profile.
I know that for more egalitarian Western societies, some people could care less whether someone has a degree or any formal credentials. However, I expect to spend most of my time in Asia where it most certainly does matter.
5. More Options in Training Leaders
I currently have a Master of Divinity (M.Div) and a Master of Theology (Th.M), which qualifies me to teach both bachelor and masters level students. I could keep doing what I am currently doing in Thailand without a Ph.D. But if I have a Ph.D, I would additionally be able to teach Th.M or doctoral level courses, and supervise Ph.D students. The seminary where I currently teach tops out at the Masters level, but is part of a consortium of seminaries in Asia which offers Th.M and doctoral programs. If the opportunity arises to teach, mentor, or supervise church leaders from Thailand or other Southeast Asian countries through this consortium or in some other forum, having a Ph.D would give me that option. One of my goals in teaching seminary students in Thailand is to look for keen, godly students who have the potential to be future seminary and bible college teachers, and to encourage and mentor them in that direction. In the long term, the Thai church needs Thai seminary instructors more than it needs missionary seminary instructors, so I want help that happen. Having a Ph.D would enable me to be involved in this aspect of developing leaders for the church in Thailand and elsewhere.
6. The Seminary Where I Teach Wants Me to Get a Ph.D
The seminary in Bangkok where I’ve been teaching would love to have me teach there of the long-term, which I would love to do. To that end, the director has strongly encouraged me to get a Ph.D. As an academic institution and a ministerial training school, the seminary has a vested interest in improving the credentials and quality of their faculty. As such, they’d like me to get further training so that I can improve my on-going contribution to the school and its students.
Our family’s plan is to move to Scotland in September 2017 for me to begin a three year Ph.D program in World Christianity at the University of Edinburgh. During the second year of study, we expect to be back in Thailand for about 3 to 6 months for me to do research. After that, we’ll be back in Scotland to do the write-up and complete the dissertation by June 2020, Lord willing. Then we’ll return to Thailand to continue with seminary teaching and church planting, as we’ve been doing for the past four years or so. That’s the plan at least, put together with much thought, prayer, and consultation with others. Time will tell whether our plan matches the path that God has for us. As Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
I intend to keep blogging more or less regularly while doing the Ph.D, sharing some of the nuggets of inspiration and challenge that I learn along the way. Watch this space.
For Further Reading
Over the years, many people have asked me how to get a visa to do missionary work in Thailand, so I have put together this post to give a brief overview of the options. My intention here is to give signposts for where to start, not to provide comprehensive instructions for everything you need to do to successfully apply for a visa. Government regulations and requirements can change without notice, and vary from location to location, so what follows is merely general guidance and pointers, which may or may not match what you actually find when you apply for a visa. With that said, the various visa options for those wanting to do (Protestant) missionary work in Thailand are as follows:
1) Religious Affairs (RA) Visa
This is a one-year renewable visa that allows the holder to do teach and propagate the Christian religion to interested parties. If your primary work will be evangelism, church planting, or some other church or parachurch related ministry, this would be the most appropriate visa for your work. It takes significant time, paperwork, and connections in order to successfully apply for this type of visa. You need to have at least a one-year degree or diploma from a Bible college or theological seminary, and a church or mission organization in Thailand with visa slots available for you to use. To use a church or organization’s visa slot, you either need to be a member of that group or have some kind of agreement or memoranda of understanding (MOU) between them and you or your church or organization.
There are five organizations in Thailand that are recognized by the Thai Ministry of Religion and able to request RA visas, namely the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT), the Thailand Baptist Convention, the Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand, the Seventh Day Adventists, and the Roman Catholic Church.
The Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT) is a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and has fraternal ties with the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) and other other Presbyterian bodies in different parts of the world. If you are from a mainline Presbyterian denomination, CCT would be your first option to explore.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand (EFT) is by far the broadest of all the Protestant groups under the Ministry of Religion, incorporating many different churches and missionary organizations under their umbrella. Most interdenominational or small evangelical mission organizations working in Thailand would come under the EFT. If you are part of a mission organization that is already a member of the EFT, you should talk to your organization about how to request a visa through them.
For missionaries from an organization without an established presence in Thailand, or for missionaries sent directly from their home church, the best way to obtain an RA visa via the EFT would be to connect with an organization (church or parachurch) that is a member of EFT, and ask if they have visa slots available and what they require from those who use their visa slots. Most organizations will not hand out their visa slots to just anybody, so you’d be best to approach an organization that you’d be content to be associated with, and perhaps work alongside in some capacity. Many organizations do not want to be simply “used” by others to get visa slots only. Also, it should be noted that not all churches or organizations in Thailand are able to sponsor you for obtaining a visa.
For a Religious Affairs visa, your sponsoring organization needs to request a visa for you from the appropriate religious body (such as CCT, Baptists, or EFT) recognized by the Ministry of Religion. If that body (i.e CCT, EFT, etc) approves your organizations request to give you a visa, then that body will then request permission from the Ministry of Religion to give you a visa. If the Ministry of Religion approves, that approval letter will return to the major religious body (again, CCT, EFT, etc), who will write a letter to the Royal Thai Embassy where you want to apply for the visa, requesting that you be given a visa because of this thick stack of official letters from your sponsoring organization, the major religious body over your sponsoring organization, the Ministry of Religion, and the Immigration Department. Somewhere in there, I think there needs to a letter from the Immigration Department too, but I am not sure at what step of the process that is requested.
With all the appropriate paperwork in hand, you need to appear in person at a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate outside of Thailand to request your visa. Once you have your RA visa in hand, your organization can easily request dependent visas for your spouse and children (if any), whose visas will be dependent upon yours. Once you have your RA visa and arrive in Thailand, you need to apply for a Work Permit at the Labor Department.
The first time you apply for an RA visa, you must apply (and receive) the visa at a Thai embassy or consulate OUTSIDE Thailand. RA visas are valid for one year and you can apply for an "extension of stay" (visa renewal) within Thailand by presenting yourself (and a thick stack of paperwork) to the appropriate Immigration office in your province or region of Thailand. With an RA visa, you don’t need to leave the country at all, but you do need to send in a very short 90-day form every (you guessed it) 90 days to confirm you are still in Thailand. Both your visa and work permit need to be renewed (extended) on an annual basis.
If you leave Thailand while your RA visa is still valid, you need to apply for a Re-Entry Permit at either an Immigration office or at the airport. A Re-Entry Permit requires only a nominal fee, one form, and copies of relevant pages from your passport. But if you leave the country without a Re-Entry permit, you will lose your RA visa and have to start the application process all over again. The application process for an RA visa, from start to finish, can take 3-4 months or sometimes longer.
2) Foundation Visa
A number of missionaries obtain their visas through a foundation. Numerous churches and ministries have established non-profit charitable foundations registered with the government. The process of establishing and registering a foundation is lengthy, and requires things such as a Thai board of directors, a brick-and-mortar office location, and at least some Thai staff. The charter of the foundation must state the purpose of the foundation, and those who obtain visas through a given foundation must be doing work related to the stated purpose of the foundation.
There are two primary types of foundation. One is a foundation for community development and social work. The second is a foundation for more explicitly religious work. Foundations for community/social development can be religious in nature but they must have charitable or community work as their primary purpose. The government expects holders of foundation visas to be primarily engaged in the work specified in the foundation documents.
In recent years, there have been a number of missionaries who have visas from a community development/social work type foundation, but who focus on church planting, evangelism, or some other directly church-related ministry. This is technically a misuse of the visa slots and the Thai government becoming stricter in what work they will allow people with such foundation visas to do. The government does not look favorably on those who hold foundation visas but spend the majority of their time doing work not directly related to what it says on their visa. That said, if your primary work is community development or something similar, there would be no problem for you to have this type of visa and also be involved with evangelistic or church-related ministry as well. If you or your organization are going to establish a foundation, it is important to think through how you describe the purpose and goals of the foundation in the documents that are submitted to the government because it is expected that the work you do (and receive a visa to do) corresponds to what you told the government you would be doing. You can use a foundation visa to do church planting and direct evangelism as long as that type of work is included in your foundation’s registration document.
3) Education Visa
Although an education visa is not a long-term option, new missionaries usually need to do Thai language study for a year or more anyhow and might want to attend a language school that can help them obtain an education visa to do Thai language study. This type of visa is dependent on you attending a certain amount of language classes at the Thai-language school that helped you get your visa.
The education visa is good for one year, but you can apply for three consecutive one year visas for a total of three years. But you must leave the country each year to re-apply. Most Thai language schools for foreigners who can help you obtain this type of visa are located in areas with higher concentrations of foreigners, such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai. For missionaries, an education visa can be a good way to start out as they study language, get adjusted to the culture, and get to know Thai churches and other missionaries. During the time they are on an education visa, new missionaries can explore other visa options that are more long term.
I have assembled here a brief list of Thai language schools that other missionaries have used.
4) Work Visa
If you want to come into Thailand and teach English at a college, university, or private tutoring business, or work for some other sort of business or company, you can usually obtain a work visa via the school or company. Your visa would be dependent upon your work contract and you would need official letter(s) from your employer. If this job is your primary work in Thailand, it is not a problem for you to also engage in voluntary religious work as part of a church or ministry. You would need to apply for this visa outside Thailand at a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate after you receive the appropriate paperwork and contract from the company or school in Thailand.
5) Tourist Visa (not recommended)
For missionaries who are intending to be in the country long-term, a tourist visa is not a good option and is far less than ideal as you need to leave the country and obtain a new visa every 30 or 60 days. In the past, some missionaries and other foreigners have used tourist visas to stay in the country indefinitely, but the Thai government has become wise to this strategy and is now limiting the number of tourist visas a person can obtain in a given calendar year. Once you’ve hit 6 tourist visas, you can’t get any more for the year, and thus can not enter the country until the following year.
For short-term teams coming into the country for a few weeks to few months, it is possible to apply for a 60 day tourist visa which can be extended for an additional 30 days. For those planning to be in Thailand less than 30 days, it may not be necessary to apply for any visa at all since Thailand grants a 30 day visa exemption for visitors from many (but not all) countries. Visitors from five countries (including South Korea and Brazil) can recieve a 90 day visa exemption. Granted that short-term mission teams are going to want to do some tourist activities anyhow, it has usually not been a problem for tourist visa holders or those in the country on a 30 day visa exemption to also help out with outreach activities or to teach some English, as long as they do not receive any payment.
6) Retirement Visa
If you are over a certain age, and have enough money, it is possible to get a retirement visa and do whatever you want, religious or not. The last time I talked with someone on retirement visa, I was told that the Thai government requires applicants for retirement visa to produce proof of at least 800,000 Thai baht in their bank account, or an affidavit affirming that they have an income of at least $2000 USD per month.
Other Relevant Links