“To be Thai is to be Buddhist.”
This common phrase suggests the stark reality of the religious landscape in Thailand. In a country of 69 million people, approximately 94 percent identify as Buddhist. Less than 1 percent are evangelical Christians.
It was this level of spiritual lostness that motivated a group of Thai churches and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to bring the Amazing Love Festival with Franklin Graham to the nation’s capital, Bangkok, Jan. 19-20.
In an unprecedented act of unity, the Christian churches of Thailand committed to lay aside denominational barriers to focus on one goal—bringing Thai people to Jesus, the One who offers eternal life.
Held in the Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre (BITEC), the Amazing Love Festival drew 42,000 people over two nights, with more than 79,000 viewing online and approximately 2,800 spiritual decisions recorded.
In addition to hearing evangelistic preaching from Franklin Graham, the crowds flocked to hear Bangkok singers Max Jenmana, Boy Peacemaker and Tor+. A 250-voice Festival Choir and 77-piece orchestra, all volunteers from multiple churches and denominations, led the crowd in worship.
Looking out over the sea of people on the closing night, Franklin told the story of Zacchaeus from Luke 19.
“Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was, but there were obstacles,” Franklin explained. “He was a short man. There was a large crowd—he couldn’t see over their heads.”
Franklin went on to assure the crowd that no person is too small or unimportant in the eyes of God. “Jesus sees you tonight. He knows your name. He’s calling you tonight.”
When Franklin invited people to walk forward to confess their sin and put their faith in Christ, hundreds left their seats and flooded the area in front of the stage. Over the two-day Festival, more than 2,000 indicated first-time decisions for Christ.
Tata, a prayer counselor, rearranged her schedule so she could attend the first night of the Amazing Love Festival.
“It’s the responsibility of Thai Christians to tell other people about Jesus,” Tata said. Because of her faithfulness, she had the opportunity to pray with at least 10 individuals—some rededicating their lives to God and others committing their lives to Him for the very first time. Tata, a nurse, hopes to one day use her nursing skills to be a medical missionary in a closed country.
A man named Piriyah, also a counselor, was amazed at God’s sovereign orchestration during the invitation on Saturday night. A longtime internal auditor for a large corporation in Thailand, Piriyah was paired with a man named Somchai who had come forward after praying with Franklin to receive Christ. It turned out that the man was also an internal auditor in Bangkok. “Of thousands of people, I ended up with this man who works in the same industry,” Piriyah said. “I asked him three times the same question about salvation. I wanted to make sure he understood. Each time he said, ‘Yes. Yes. Yes.’”
Eight hours away in the Ubon Ratchathani province, children gathered at Prabancha Det Udom Church to watch the Festival via livestream. With hands open and heads bowed, nearly a dozen children repeated after Franklin as he prayed a prayer of salvation.
Pastor Man, a church leader in Bangkok, had been preparing his congregation for the Amazing Love Festival for months. His church had helped put together successful evangelistic events before, but had never seen the congregation grow as a result. “Thousands of people heard the Gospel, hundreds of people made decisions to follow Jesus, and none of them are in church,” he said.
In hindsight, he realized that they had focused most of their effort on the logistics of the events, but spent very little time praying. As Pastor Man went through the Operation Andrew training, he began to lead his congregation in intentional prayer for the Amazing Love Festival.
Around the world, the obstacles to evangelism are often deeply rooted in the surrounding culture. Thailand is no different. In Bangkok, a booming sex industry is a notorious reality, trapping thousands of young women—and many men—in a vicious cycle of depravity. The religious landscape is also at odds with the Gospel message. From childhood, Thai schoolchildren learn to always respect three things: country, religion and the king. In fact, above the chalkboard in most classrooms is a photo of the Thai flag, an image of the Buddha and a photograph of the king.
Two of the foundational concepts in Buddhism are karma and reincarnation, both of which are in direct opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But light is shining through the darkness. A study by Dutch missionary and researcher Marten Visser found that relatives of Christians in Thailand are about 700 times more likely to become Christians than people who do not have Christian relatives. Churches have begun to realize that evangelism is likely to lead to a domino effect, possibly spurring a spiritual revival in their country.
Rev. Dr. Manoch Jangmook, chairman of The Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand and co-general chairman of the Amazing Love Festival, believes that this is a critical time for the spread of the Gospel in his country. “We know people’s hearts are open now. In Thailand, it is the law that anyone can follow any religion they want to. Thais are open and ready for something like this.”