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The Housekeeper

“I didn’t feel loved,” Naat said of her family upbringing in a small village in north-eastern Thailand. “Since my parents were poor,” she explained, “they sent me to live with my relatives. But as soon as I finished school, I ran away to Bangkok to work in a factory.” 

After being transferred by her employer to another factory, Naat became friends with a fellow employee who was very kind to her and invited her to a party at her house. “I decided to go,” Naat said, “but, when I arrived, I found out that it was a Christmas party, and I was so angry that my friend had tricked me.” 

She was about to leave, but the people were so friendly and made her feel so welcome. Naat’s heart was changed and she decided to stay. That night, they invited her to a church gathering, which she couldn’t refuse. 

It was weeks later when she was at a church service with her friend that the pastor approached her. “He asked me if I knew I was a sinner, and I said, ‘Yes’,” Naat recalled. “Then he asked me if I would like to be free from the weight and curse of that sin. That was the day that I made the decision to receive Christ.” 

As Naat was growing in her faith and serving in the church, she eventually got married and had two children. But while the children were still very young, her husband walked out on her. “I didn’t have anywhere to go,” she said, “so the church offered me a small room and a job cleaning the building.” 

A while later, Naat’s husband re-connected with her and they decided that they would try to be a family again. So Naat and the children moved to Chonburi where he was living. Unfortunately, it was not long before he left her again. Naat found a church in Chonburi where she was welcomed and once again given an opportunity to clean and serve in a variety of ways. 

It was at that church in Chonburi where Naat met members of a new team from North America that had bold visions of being involved in a church-planting movement in Thailand (Multiply’s Team 2000). Naat was impressed by the zeal and commitment of these six foreigners as they were learning the language and building relationships. 

One of the team members, Karen Huebert-Sanchez, asked Naat if she would be her Thai language tutor. Karen recalled the situation, “I was desperate for a tutor and Naat was desperate for work, just to feed her children, so I was happy to hire her to help me with my Thai.”

Naat’s friendship with the foreigners grew strong. Before long, she was offered a job as a housekeeper in the home of Karen’s teammates, Dave and Louise Sinclair-Peters. “The only problem,” Naat remembered, “was that Louise’s house never got clean because we were always going out to share the Gospel with people instead of getting things done around the house!” 

Louise loved the opportunity to learn from Naat. She quickly realized that Naat was not only a willing co-worker but a valuable mentor and a gifted evangelist. 

“It was a busy time in both of our lives,” Louise said. “We were both mothering young children, but throughout the day Naat was teaching me on so many different levels, like language, culture, and ministry. She was so much more than a housekeeper.” 

Often, in the evenings during that time, the two of them would go out into the streets to share the Gospel with whoever would listen. “I followed Naat everywhere,” said Louise, “and I would just mimic what she was saying and doing. I would listen to her share her faith with Buddhists, and I would share my faith using the same approach. I would listen to her pray, and I would pray like her.”

It was by Naat’s side that Louise learned something about herself that would change the course of her life: “As I worked with Naat, I discovered that I was also an evangelist. I was thirty-five years old and, for the first time in my life, I had clarity in regard to how God had gifted me.” 

“Naat trained me,” Louise concluded. “I got the blessing. I got the joy. This poor and humble housekeeper became one of our most cherished ministry partners in Thailand.”

Eventually, as the ministries of the team expanded, Naat was relied upon more and more to offer critical help and advice. “She was the local who understood the context,” said Louise. “If we had problems – and we had lots – we’d call Naat and she would come and help us. I think she was the only one brave enough to work with these six crazy foreigners!” 

Finally, one of the church plants connected to the team was in a leadership crisis. The local Thai pastor was pulling out and Louise didn’t feel she should step in, so Naat was encouraged to take charge. 

“I said No,” Naat recalled. “I told them, ‘I’m a woman. I’m not trained. I can’t do this. I can’t be a pastor.’”

Everyone else disagreed with Naat. They saw her heart for Jesus, her passion for prayer and fasting, and her love for others, especially new believers. Finally, Louise told her, “God is going to equip you to be the pastor of this church.”

Eventually, Naat agreed. She became known as Ajaan Naat, or Pastor Naat. Under her leadership, the Bethel Church grew quickly. People were regularly coming to faith in Jesus and Naat was discipling them. Before long, she had also identified and discipled a new pastor and, although it was difficult for her to let go of that congregation, she moved on to plant another church at the Hope Center in Chachoengsao. 

While serving as a pastor, Naat was also studying and growing in her faith. She completed Bible school by correspondence and continued to be strengthened as a leader as she related to the broader network of churches. 

Today, Ajaan Naat is highly respected by her fellow Thai pastors and her many co-workers. She is a strong advocate for unity and cooperation among churches, and regularly organizes and leads training events for evangelists and church leaders. Naat remains a key leader in Multiply’s Thailand ministry and serves both as the Vice President of the Thailand Mennonite Brethren Foundation and as the leader of the Thailand MB Conference. 

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