Thailand is known as the “The Land of Smiles.” The nation boasts of stunning beaches and lush jungles, well-preserved cultural traditions, many ethnic hill tribe peoples, its highly revered royal family, and delightful cuisine.
In Thailand we are blessed with many opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a population that is only 1.17% Christian. 94% of the people adhere to Buddhism, with the other 5% following Islam, animism, and various folk religions. WELS missionaries have been blessed to work alongside nationals of several ethnic backgrounds to share the good news of Jesus, teach the Bible, and equip believers to lead God’s people and carry out the great commission in Thailand. The work is centered in three regions of northern Thailand and includes sixteen locations. Learn more about WELS mission history in Thailand.
WELS missionaries and partners work together with Hmong believers and church leaders in the northern region of Thailand, Lao missionary Tom Chaleunsouk in the northeast region, and pastors Niran and Temsakun and Promise Lutheran Church in the city of Chiang Mai. Together they have trained and equipped 23 evangelists and pastors, with 16 actively serving today. They continue to work to prepare the next generation of local missionaries, evangelists, and church workers. Theological training, mentorship, ongoing pastoral formation, and sustainability are made possible through collaboration and mutual support from WELS partners like the Pastoral Studies Institute and Immanuel Hmong Lutheran Church (St. Paul, Minn.), as well as WELS affiliated organizations like Thai Village and Christians Forward Southeast Asia.
Since 2020, the city of Chiang Mai has served as a home base for the Asia One Team, which coordinates WELS mission efforts in South Asia and the Asia-Pacific Rim.
- Baptized nationals: 1,100
- National pastors: 16
- Evangelists: 4
- Congregations and preaching stations: 16
Meet the Team
Rev. Tom Chaleunsouk
Missionary Tom Chaleunsouk was born in a small village outside of Vientiane, Laos, where he also met his wife Kaysone. He worked security at the American Air Base. Fearing for his life after the regime change, he left his family and home in 1980 and crossed the Mekong River to Thailand where he was detained in a refugee camp. Months later, Kaysone and two of their children escaped Laos and joined him in the refugee camp. She had to leave their eldest son behind with her father; he was 5 years old. It would be 3 years before Missionary Chaleunsouk and Kaysone would see their son again. They were introduced to Christ in the refugee camp by a Christian aid worker.
In 1981, Missionary Chaleunsouk and his family were brought to Pease, Minnesota, where their family was sponsored by the Christian Reformed Church. The community and church helped to locate and bring their eldest son and Kaysone’s father to the United States. They were baptized, and that is when Missionary Chaleunsouk became interested in becoming a pastor to share Christianity with his people.
In 1998, Tom began studying part-time through the WELS Pastoral Studies Institute. By 2000, he became a full-time student and graduated in 2005. After graduating, Tom was called to serve as a missionary in the Nong Khai province of Thailand. Since 2005, he has offered pastoral instruction to interested students.
Kaysone and Tom have three grown children and one grandson. Their two sons and their families reside in Minnesota and their daughter and her family live in Southern California.
Rev. Mark Zondag
Missionary Mark Zondag was assigned to serve on the Asia mission team after his graduation from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in May 2021. He completed his vicar year in College Station, Tex., at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church. As the vicar, Mark preached, taught, and worked the campus ministry associated with Texas A&M University.
Currently, less than 1% of the population of Thailand is Christian. Much of Missionary Zondag’s mission work in Thailand will be standing alongside and helping the preexisting, local congregations with their mission to reach the lost in Thailand. This will include activities like training the current leaders, equipping Thai members, and looking for avenues to reach more Thai people.
Missionary Zondag and his wife Sarah have been married since March 2016. They met while teaching English at WELS’ sister church in Russia. The Lord has blessed them with two girls: Esther Irina was born on December 23, 2018; and Anastasia Carol was born on October 19, 2020.
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Browse through and share pictures of Thailand taken by WELS missionaries and national workers.