Features, Highlights

A field missionary’s journey

A field missionary's journey
Daniel with his parents at the opening of Little Candles in 2012

Sawadee Krup. My name is Daniel. I have been a missionary in Thailand with my wife, Sharon, and our children since April 2008, and under the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) since 2016.

My missions journey began as a youth leader at the South Camberwell Uniting Church in Melbourne, where I grew up after my parents emigrated from Singapore. My pastor gave me the book, Operation World, by Patrick Johnson. It lists the religious statistics of every nation, and how one can pray for the evangelism of the different people groups in that country. I took it as a challenge to pray through the book, one nation a day. As I read of the challenges missionaries faced, I often found myself wiping tears from my eyes. I prayed, “Lord, if I can be of any help, USE ME.”

The years of prayer passed by. At 23, after completing my Computer Science degree and while working as a programmer, I felt frustrated that the long hours and endless work commitments prevented me from serving the Lord more. Weekends were fully devoted to church but Monday mornings came with a sinking feeling of “if only I had more time for God”.

Three years into working life, I decided to explore the possibility of full-time ministry. I went to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I was invited to do an internship in youth ministry at my fiancée’s church. We were eventually married in the church, with the commitment that we would serve the Lord as missionaries together.

Following the internship, a door opened for me to do a short-term missions placement in Thailand under MMS at the Rangsit Methodist Church in Bangkok. I was posted to the Surisuksa Primary School to teach English for two months.

There, I met a 10-year-old girl by the name of Yeen. Being born partially deaf, she had not learnt to speak clearly other than to babble grunts. It troubled me to see her trying her hardest to be accepted by her classmates, only to be made fun of. The Lord placed in me a burden to get her a hearing aid, which the doctor assessed could help Yeen relearn speech.

When I visited her home to meet her parents, I discovered that it was a makeshift house beside a rubbish tip. Upon my third visit, her mother said to me, “Now I know that your God is love, because I can see the love you have for my daughter.” Her words confirmed the call to missions that had been stirring in my heart since the time I was praying for the nations. She then asked me to take Yeen and her younger sister to church every Sunday, and they both came to accept Jesus into their lives. Through this experience, I began to realise that God could work through me to help more Thai children know His love.

After this assignment, I returned to Australia and enrolled myself into Bible College with the goal of going back to Thailand as a full-time missionary. The four years it took to complete the course followed by three years of serving as a youth pastor while we waited on the Lord seemed like eternity.

During this period, my thirst for missions was quenched only through short-term mission trips to Thailand twice a year. One particular trip almost changed my mind. After an exhausting three days of school teaching in an impoverished rural village in north-eastern Thailand, I retired that moonless night to use the toilet. As I gazed down the dug-out hole, engulfed by the total darkness of a suffocating tin shed, using one hand to swipe at mosquitoes and the other to hold a torch so I could keep an eye out for invading cockroaches, all the while clenching a roll of toilet paper between my teeth to keep it from falling to the muddy ground, I thought, “I am never ever coming back here again.”

But even as I locked my eyes on a giant rainbow-coloured lizard staring at me from the corner, I heard the Lord responding, “This is nothing compared to what you and your family will have to go through for My sake”. It was enough to remind me that my life belonged to Him and not to myself.

It was seven years of waiting and preparation before the Lord finally opened the door for us to move to Thailand. We set up base in a small rural village called Phrao, 100km north of Chiang Mai. Our first project was to establish a boarding house for hill tribe children from remote villages so that they could attend local schools.

Looking back, the years of waiting were vital in preparing us. Indeed, we have faced numerous challenges far worse than toilet concerns, especially in our initial years of struggling with the language and cultural sensitivities. At the same time, we have been blessed by the many Thais the Lord sent to help and even protect us from those seeking to harm us and our ministry.

One of the challenges which almost forced us off the field was finding a stable education arrangement for our children, who had been jumping between homeschooling and local schools. Yet it was our eldest daughter’s enrolment into a local kindergarten when we first arrived in Phrao that paved the way for us to establish a Christian school eventually.

After only a week, we were troubled to hear Sammi chanting, often unconsciously, prayers of the local religion after getting home each evening. It then dawned on us that we should start our own school to teach the children prayers and songs of praise to our Lord Jesus instead. Thus, we set up a small nursery which grew into a kindergarten, and is now in the process of being extended into a primary school by MMS. At the same time, we formed a parents and staff fellowship group which has now grown into a fully registered Methodist church.

In January 2021, tragedy struck. Sammi suffered a brain hemorrhage and had a seizure. We rushed her to hospital only to discover that she had an abnormal tangle of blood vessels (an AVM), which had burst. Although the bleeding stopped, the AVM could rupture again at any moment. The following months were clouded with fear and uncertainty as she went through many tests to determine how to remove the AVM. Yet it was also a time that brought our family closer together and rooted deeper our trust in the Lord, as well as brought many concerned supporters to our help. We finally settled for open skull surgery which was successfully performed out five months after the initial incident.

As we look back over our 14 years in Thailand, one passage of Scripture stands out as our source of encouragement and strength all along. It is God’s promise to His people in the midst of their struggles in a foreign land: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer 29:11)

Sammi at the hospital
Sharon teaching the children in their kindergarten in 2013
Daniel preaching at Little Candles
Daniel (second from left), his wife Sharon (third from right), with their four children in a family photo from Christmas 2019

Pastor Daniel Loo and his wife, Sharon, are full-time missionaries under the Methodist Missions Society (MMS).  They have been serving at the Little Candles Ministry in Phrao, Northern Thailand, for 14 years. Sharon also serves at the Grace International School in Chiang Mai where their children—Sammi (18), Caleb (15), Alicia (12) and Hannah (10)—currently study. They receive missionary support from Charis Methodist Church, of which they are members.