Bangkok Chinese Seventh-day Adventist Church
Chin Kong Loi (陳光來), Wong Yew Seng (黃有誠), and Wu Chook Ying (吳竹影)
Official Name: Bangkok Chinese Seventh-day Adventist Church
Church Administrative Unit: Thailand Mission
Date Officially Formed: February 29, 1919.
Founding Minister: F.A. Pratt
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TheChineseChurch/
Current Address: a piece of land from the Chulalongkorn University
Date on which Current Sanctuary was Established: January 29, 1969
Current Membership: ???
Fig 1: The New Bangkok Chinese Seventh-day Adventist Church 2019
Thailand (泰國) [Mu ang Thai in Thai language, meaning Land of Liberty], the only country in Southeast Asia never ruled by western powers, was known as Siam (暹羅) until June 24, 1939. It was again called Siam between 1945 and May 11, 1949. The state religion is Buddhism, which is so intensively interwoven with the life of the nation, from the king to the lowest subjects. It is a country full of Buddhist temples (wats) and monasteries. It is said there are over 30,000 [and another statistics claimed it to be over 40,000] temples in Thailand, and there are more than 300 of them in Bangkok, the capital city, alone. There are two main categories of Buddhist temples in Thailand, namely the royal temples and common temples. Royal temples were either built by royalty or came under their sponsorship. It is said that there are 200 royal temples.
There has been a close friendship-ties between Thailand and Singapore since the 19th century. At the front of the Arts House at the Old Parliament in Singapore, there is a bronze statue of elephant on top of a four-sided column. On each side of the column is an inscription in one of the following four languages, namely, Siamese, English, Malay, and Chinese. It was a gift from King Chulalongkorn (朱撈弄郡, [朱拉隆功]) or King Rama V (拉瑪五世) to the colonial government in Singapore. A very famous King in Thailand, he was the first Thai monarch to travel outside the country. The gift was to commemorate the first stop—–Singapore—–of his journey. It was on March 15, 1871. The king was then only 18 years old.
The Adventist literature was first introduced in 1905 into Siam (暹羅). In 1904, the Australasian Union Conference sent Elder and Mrs. G. F. Jones (鍾士) to set up mission headquarters in Singapore. R. A. Caldwell (葛威爾), a self-supporting colporteur, accompanied them. They left Sydney on September 28, 1904, and arrived at Singapore a month later. Working in Singapore and Malaya, and before he proceeded to the Philippines on August 19, 1905, Caldwell spent three weeks in Bangkok. He wrote a very brief report1 from Bangkok, “I have been through the Malay Peninsula, and had fair success. Bangkok has a population of four hundred thousand. The streets are ill-kept and rough. The women wear short hair and have very black teeth. The men are of small size. I have seen the crown prince. I have been here about a fortnight, and expect to leave in about a week. My work has been among the English readers. But it is a step.”
Later he wrote a much longer report on the same trip after he left Bangkok. But this second report was not published until more than a year later. He said, “But Siam should not be considered small. While it certainly not so large nor so thickly populated as China or India, or any other places that one might name, yet it has a population greater than that of Australia by at least one million people. In this country, as elsewhere, the crying need for a living Christ, a risen Saviour. There are many Buddhist temples to be seen everywhere. And about one hundred miles from Bangkok is a footprint supposed to be Buddha’s, solitary and indestructible in the rock. The yellow-robed priests, with their shaven heads, are often met on the streets. While English is not spoken to any great extent, still some of those with whom I came in contact could speak a little English and subscribed for (English) Good Health, in preference to the larger religious books, though perhaps it was because the price of the latter was beyond their reach.
“Several missionary societies are at work in this country, the most active being the American Presbyterian, which has established several schools, and also has a good printing press…. About three weeks were spent in Bangkok, and that scripture, ‘Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white ready for harvest’ impressed me as very applicable to Siam.”2
It was more than ten years later that Adventist literature was again brought to Thailand. In 1918 Siam became part of the territory of the Malaysian Union (南洋聯合會), which was later known as the Southeast Asia Union (東南亞聯合會). In November of that year, E. L. Longway (羅威) and his newly married wife arrived at Bangkok from America to serve as treasurer of the Siam Mission. Meanwhile four students of the Malaysian Seminary (南洋神道學校), during the year-end school break, went from Singapore to Bangkok, taking with them 800 copies of Chinese book, The World War, to sell among the Chinese. On the Christmas Eve, F. A. Detamore (戴德慕), superintendent of the Malaysian Union, arrived at Bangkok to meet the Longways and I. H. Evans (伊文思), president of the Far Eastern Division, and his wife. He also met with the four students from Singapore. Seeing their results were not so good as expected, Detamore encouraged them to do their best. One day he went out with the one who could speak English, [Phang Yin Hee (彭應熙), future father-in-law of Eugene Hsu King Yi (徐精一)], to canvass for the books. In about three hours they sold books, which were worth [US]$16. This gave the young man a new prospect about colporteur work. So he agreed to remain in Siam as a self-supporting colporteur, and also served as interpreter for the newly arrived missionaries in Siam. The other three students went back to Singapore to continue their studies. In January 1919 E. L. Longway sent to Singapore an order for 300 copies of the same Chinese books. A few days later he sent in a cable, making an order for 500 copies, and then another order for 1,500 copies. In other words, only in Bangkok, 3,100 copies of the Chinese book, The World War, were sold. In addition, he took in many subscriptions for the Chinese Signs of the Times monthly. F. A. Detamore concluded his report, “This one Chinese boy is now selling more than $400 worth of books every month. If we have a dozen such boys at work all the time, the year would show some very encouraging figures.”3
E. L. Longway recalled his early days in Thailand. He wrote, “Brother Phang [Yin Hee] and I made a never-to-be-forgotten trip to Chiangmai (清邁) in northern Siam, at that time a long day’s journey from the railhead. We took along a plentiful supply of the book The World War, written by the president of the General Conference, A. G. Daniels (但以理), and translated into Chinese and illustrated with many pictures that the Chinese could appreciate. We left the railhead at Nakhon Lampang, and after some hours of strenuous walking…. Phang and I hastened on to Chiangmai. After settling in the guest room of the Chinese Middle School, we immediately began our work of selling our books. We found such a good reception that we continued until late in the evening.
“Then, extremely tired and happy, we retired for the night. Even the nights are hot in tropical Thailand, and in certain seasons of the year no bedding or night clothes of any kind are required. I draped my clothes over the only chair in the room. Phang hung his, with all the money gathered from the evening’s work plus all that we had accumulated from sales along the way, on a nail near a bared window. Our common suitcase was placed immediately under that same window and left open for convenience. Being young, tired, and happy at our safe journey and good success, we slept the sleep of innocence. Shortly after daybreak I was shaken awake by Phang, who was trying to tell me something in a very excited voice. With my sleepy brain and limited knowledge of Chinese, it took a while for me to grasp the message…. The greenhorn missionary had learned his first lesson on how a thief equipped with a hook attached to the end of a stick can ply his trade quietly and efficiently on the unsuspecting.” During the night the thief stole their belongings. Only Longway’s one pairs of socks and his English Bible in the suitcase and his clothes on the chair in the corner of the room were left behind. As soon as he could, Longway called on the police and was courteously given a loan of money so he could buy some clothes for Phang.4
As regards taking subscription order for the Chinese Signs of the Times monthly, it did not go smoothly in the beginning. The people were suspicious of this young man Phang Yin Hee when he asked for advanced payment on subscriptions to the unknown magazine from Shanghai, China. They told him, “Get a local guarantor to countersign, or we wouldn’t give you the money.”
Young Phang Yin Hee wondered what to do. He did not know any one in that city. As he walked down the street dejectedly that afternoon, he happened to see a lady sitting at the front of a shop reading her Bible. “Perhaps she can give me some help,” he thought. He approached her and asked her what church she belonged to. Imagine his surprise when she told him that she and her husband were Seventh-day Adventists from Swatow [Shantou] (汕頭), China.
The lady’s husband was Tan Thiam Chua (陳添泉), who had another name as Tan Thiam Hee (陳添喜). He first learned of the Adventist message through the Chinese Signs of the Times monthly, sold to him by Tan Kia Ou (陳鏡湖). After learning of Phang Yin Hee’s problem, Tan Thiam Hee, then a building contractor in Bangkok, gladly became the guarantor. On every page of Phang’s receipt books he stamped his company’s name as the guarantor. As a result Phang had no problem of getting advanced payment for subscriptions from his customers.
In the course of time, the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Tan Thiam Hee became the first meeting place of Adventist believers in Bangkok. In an article entitled How Our Work in Thailand Began, S. J. Lee (李承璋), then auditor of the Southeast Asia Union, wrote, “The couple who became his (Phang’s) guarantors were the grandparents of Tan Oui Kiang (陳偉強, now known as Komol Santimalapong), the assistant treasurer of the Bangkok Sanitarium & Hospital.”5
On February 28, 1919, F. A. Pratt (白萊德) and his wife arrived at Bangkok. The Siam Mission was then organized. Pratt was the director and Longway was the secretary-treasurer. The other two members of the executive committee were Phang Yin Hee and Tan Thiam Hee. Upon the request of Tan Thiam Hee, a Chinese-speaking minister by the name of Heng Seng Teck (王盛德) was called from Swatow. He worked for only about a year in Bangkok. However, his two sons later worked in our Bangkok hospital, and they and their children were faithful members in the Bangkok Chinese church.
In 1921 Kon Vui Leong (官威良) of British North Borneo (now known as Sabah) went to Siam to engage in colporteur work. A few months later the mission employed him to work as interpreter for F. A. Pratt and a Bible worker. In 1922 E. L. Longway and his wife were transferred to work in China. F. A. Pratt took over his position until the arrival of R. P. Abel (艾博) in 1923.
Around 1926 F. A. Pratt and V. L. Kon held a series of meetings in a rented shop in Korat. Out of curiosity, Pleng Vitiamyalaksana and some of his friends came to the meeting. Unfortunately, they understood neither Chinese nor English. So they just hung around and disturbed the meeting. They whispered and smoked throughout the entire service. After the meeting, Pratt greeted Pleng in Thai and commented on what a good smoker he was. “Come home with me and I’ll explain to you all about smoking and what it can do to you,” he promised. Pleng was so impressed by the friendly spirit of Pratt that he decided to stick around. After the series of meetings was over, Pratt gave Pleng Bible studies. Later, Pleng was baptized in a small lake at Limpini Park, Bangkok, thus becoming the first Thai to accept Adventism. He later became a faithful worker of the Adventist hospital. During WWII, the Bangkok medical work was left in the hands of Pleng. Through its continued operation the clinic was able to give financial support to the Malayan Union and the Siam Mission. Pastor K. O. Tan (陳鏡湖), war time president of the Malayan Union, recalled, “ With financial help from our Thailand Mission and our Bangkok Hospital, we were able to pay our workers in Malaya sixty percent of their salary. We gradually increased this to seventy percent and then to eighty percent.”6
Not long after the arrival of V. L. Kon, the Chinese church was organized and he became its first pastor. The church held their services in a rented wooden house at Lane 11, Si Phraya Road (四坡耶路的戌巷). As the work expanded, the wooden house could not accommodate the enlarged membership. In 1933, the church rented a piece of land from the Chulalongkorn University (朱拉隆功大學) and erected a steel reinforced concrete building. This was our first permanent place for worship. Throughout the Second World War, the church was the only place for worship in Thailand. Because of the strong structure, the church was used for 33 years.
In 1958 the Bangkok municipal government ordered to demolish all the buildings in this district and rebuild according to the urban planning scheme. This order was devastating to the church. With God’s guidance, the members overcame many obstacles and resolved many problems. A new lease was obtained from the university on the same site with a few border adjustments. Everyone was inspired by the Lord to raise funds for constructing a new sanctuary. They worked closely with each other from the beginning to the end. Furthermore, the Far Eastern Division, the Bangkok Sanitarium and Hospital, many local Chinese friends, many Thai friends, and many American friends rendered their financial help in the construction project.
The new church building was constructed as planned and it was completed and opened for worship. The dedication service was held at 10 a.m., Sabbath, January 25, 1969. Everyone gave thanks to the Lord. All the church members used the opportunity to dedicate themselves to the service of God. The true light of the gospel shined from the church to all the Chinese in Bangkok and across Thailand till the Advent of Jesus Christ.7
The majority of the church members in Bangkok were the Chaozhouese (潮洲人) from Swatow, and the second largest group was the Hakka people (客家人). Some church members were very rich and some were very poor. The church treated everyone equally. Everyone was in harmony and people were willing to serve the Lord.
The pastors paid attention to the nurturing of members’ spirituality and the evangelization. The church organized many spiritual revival and evangelistic meetings. These activities revived inspired the congregation to work hard. Through these events, many children and relatives of the church members decided to be baptized, and many new converts decided to follow Christ and became the remnants of God in this world.
In 1973-1977, the church decided to engage the young people in order to create a lively environment. It focused on youth ministry and strengthened youth fellowships. It organized the Adventist young pioneers, taught them all kinds of crafts and practical skills, took them to tour the textile and ice cream factories, and the Adventist publishing house, and arranged picnics and hiking for them. The church also organized spiritual activities among young people, such as visiting church members, preaching the gospel, helping with evangelistic meetings, and organizing Bible study sessions.
The church members who were most helpful in the youth ministry were Supachai (王明暉), Parasong (蟻巴頌), Manut (李德鴻), Manot (李德聲), Prayut (劉道榮), Mary Chan (陳曼麗), Chan Miao En (陳妙恩), Wong Chow Ket (黃超傑). They took young people of their age and teenagers to attend all kinds of activities inside and outside the church. For example, they built tents outdoors and watched the stars at night; they made bonfire and sang and played at night; they walked along the beach; they chatted with each other over night; they shared their experience of conversion and upholding the faith. They praised God’s grace and guidance. What an amazing and a lovely experience.
The church arranged to meet at different members’ homes for family fellowship every Friday night. Regardless of the financial condition or the location of the premises, each church member would have the chance to host the family fellowship. The pastor, elders, deacons, and senior church members took turns to give sermons and the young people sang special hymns for the meeting. The family fellowship was opened to the church members, their relatives, and non-Christians. The fellowship meeting was held at different places such as living rooms, balconies, offices, stores, attics, and front gardens. People met together to sing, pray, appreciate special hymns, and listen to sermons and testimonies. They did the same on the Christmas Eve. What a joy!
In 1981, the young members of the church translated Climbing the Jacob Stairway《攀登雅各梯》into Thai so that the Thai Christians and the Thai-educated church members could use it. For the purpose of achieving the 1985 evangelistic goal, the church organized the youth fellowship Sabbath school students to visit and distribute medicine in the refugee camps in the countryside. This enabled the church to reach out to areas outside Bangkok.
The pastors who served at the Bangkok Chinese church included Kon Vui Leong (官威良), Wong Kiat Sam (黃達三), Chin Kong Tai (陳光大), Hiu Kiu Song (丘九尚), Wong Yew Seng (黃有誠), and Chin Kong Loi (陳光來). [Hiu Kiu Song is the son-in-law of Tan Thiam Hee’s second son.]
1. Caldwell, R.A. Review and Herald, November 16, 1905, p. 15.
2. Caldwell, R. A. Review and Herald, February 21, 1907, p. 16.
3. Datamore, F.A. Review and Herald, October 2, 1919, p.15.
4. Longway, E.L. (1974), Dangerous Opportunity [危機], Review and Herald Pub Association, pp. 14-16.
5. Lee, S.J. "How Our Work in Thailand Began?", The Messenger, November-December, 1962, p. 3.
6. Tan, K.O. Bibles and Blessings in Old China [我的見證], 19??, p. 80.
7. The Messenger, March-April, 1969, p. 2.
Last updated 11/30/2019 by Bruce W. Lo