Lamphun, a province in the north of Thailand, is located next to the fast-growing city of Chiang Mai. Despite its neighbor’s rapid development of technology and its popularity with tourists, Lamphun remains a small, quiet town renowned for its Buddhist heritage.
While cities in the West are sometimes said to have a church on every corner, Lamphun boasts of its beautiful Buddhist temples where pilgrims come with offerings.
It is a paradox, however, that the moral ethics of Buddhism have not contributed much to improving the social decadence of the province.
According to a study by the country’s Department of Mental Health and Ministry of Public Health, Lamphun’s suicide rate is at its highest in 10 years. This crisis stems from societal problems that directly affect families.
Among those who commit suicide, many are teens who have suffered from sexual promiscuity, parental abandonment and physical abuse.
Amazingly, one of those who attempted suicide went on to recover and graduate from Compassion’s Leadership Development Program. Kittisak, now a 27-year-old pastor shares,
“I tried to commit suicide when I was in grade eight. My life was so miserable.
I was not a bright student. I was poor. And I wasted the little money we had on online games. When my older sister knew, she got angry and lashed out at me with hurtful words.
Full of self-pity, I drank the antiseptic liquid, used for treating wounds, and waited in bed for death to come.”
But God had a different plan for Kittisak.
When he was a boy, Kittisak was registered in our Compassion program at Lamphun Church. At the time he did not have any interest in God or His Word. He was only there for the scholarship.
Yet God caught his attention through a church youth camp when he was 13 years old.
“On that night, the pastor preached about sin. As I listened, God began to open my eyes.
I cried so hard, for how I had disappointed my mom. So, with the desire to abandon sins, I accepted Jesus into my life.”
It was a rough start, because Kittisak fell back to living a life of partying and drinking. But then he realized that there is no love truer than Christian love, where he was accepted and appreciated the way he was.
“My friends, who said that they loved me, left me when I had problems. But people at church never did. They taught me and supported me. Always.”
As the end of the high school approached, Kittisak’s mother told him,
“Don’t go to university. High school should be enough. Go work in a factory. That way, you still earn some money and live a good life.”
But Kittisak’s desire and passion are to serve the Lord.
His vision is to bring Lamphun’s people to salvation. Although Kittisak knew he was not as great a student as others, he was not ready to quit school.
It was at this time a friend from church told him about the Leadership Development Program.
“The development center director encouraged me to apply for the program, because it would give me a chance to study.
I dared not hope I would get in, though, compared to other applicants. My grade average was below standards and my English skill was not great. I did not see myself suitable for the program. It was all by God’s grace that I was accepted.”
Kittisak was accepted into the Leadership Development Program, and he enrolled in the Computer for Business program.
When a new chapter of life begins, with an unknown future, it helps to have a traveling companion. Though some prefer to journey alone, there is a desire deep inside every person’s heart for connection – a desire to be heard, accepted and understood.
In order to help students reach their fullest God-given potential and respond to their calling later in life, a mentor is assigned to each student in the Leadership Development Program.
Siripan Kongsuriyanavin, an LDP specialist, tells us,
“Mentors are like ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed,’ who are older and more mature.
They are people we can trust, and from whom we experience sincere love. A mentor is someone who helps us feel comfortable enough to talk about everything. And we can be ourselves around them.
Moreover, a mentor is someone we have faith in. Someone who lives out Christ-likeness.”
After two years of working toward his degree, Kittisak decided to apply to a two-year information and technology program to earn a bachelor’s degree at Far Eastern University in Chiang Mai.
During his first year of university studies, Kittisak was introduced to a man who would become to him a brother, father, teacher and friend.
Kawin “Dia” was a psychology professor at the university. When a Leadership Development Program specialist contacted him to be a mentor for Kittisak, Kawin prayed for the peace of God as he made the decision.
“Building up another life is my principal, my vision.
Money will come and go. But investing in a person’s life so that he will later be an impact to the society – that is more important.”
During his next two years at the university, Kittisak became a part of Kawin’s family. Every week, they spent time together at the university, at home or at church activities.
As Kawin invested in Kittisak’s life, Kittisak absorbed the invaluable quality of being a mentor.
Kittisak says mentorship is often misunderstood as only “teaching the Bible and admonishing people.”
But he learned from Kawin that mentoring is investing in, not condemning, a person’s life.
“Kawin never judged me. He cut to the point when he saw that I needed improvement. But he always tried to understand and provided guidance for me.”
After he successfully graduated from the university and the Leadership Development Program, Kittisak decided to pursue a master’s of divinity degree. He pastors a small congregation at the Santisuk Namdib Evangelical Center, which is an offshoot of his home church in Lamphun.
Kittisak’s life is the fruit of hard labor and much sacrifice of many people, who have kindly and patiently supported him over the years.
“If God had not led me, and if my family, my church, my mentor and my sponsor had not supported me, I would not be where I am today, considering my past environment.
Because they invested in my life through financial support, teaching and discipline, I am bearing fruit and now blessing others in the same way.”