Little Candles School (LCS) stems from a vision to bring the gospel to the Thai people in the sub-district of Phrao, Chiang Mai. When my wife, Sharon, and I arrived in Phrao as missionaries in 2008 with a heart for church planning, we quickly discovered a means of connecting with the local people through the universal desire for education. We found that many non-Christian Thais readily embraced the idea of a Christian education, even though they were hesitant to join a church.
By faith, we started a three half-day per week child-care programme in a rental apartment with six students (which included two of our own) and two staff. Within two years, this expanded into a full-time registered nursery of 80 students and six staff. At that point, it became clear that new facilities were needed to accommodate the growing ministry, so we registered the Smart Kids Foundation in 2010 in order to purchase land and build the Little Candles Kindergarten, which commenced operations in 2012.
As of 2021, LCS had 168 students at kindergarten level and 30 students at nursery level, giving it the highest enrolment of all kindergartens in Phrao.
Little Candles School as a ministry platform
LCS has provided a platform for ministry to the students, staff, parents, and community over the years. This has included Christian teaching to the students through weekly Bible activities, daily praise and worship, and prayers before meals. The staff participate in bible study lessons once a week, and join the Little Candles Methodist Church Sunday worship service at least once a month.
The school reaches out to the community through holiday events such as Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and graduation where the children often do Christian presentations tied to the preaching of the gospel.
The success of the school through its awards has been recognised by Thailand’s Ministry of Education, and the achievements of its students have also made a positive impact on the community. All these have enhanced the image of the church in Phrao.
Expanding the school to include primary level education
In 2020, after several years of discussion and planning, Sharon and I oversaw the transfer of land and facilities of LCS from the Smart Kids Foundation to the Muangthai Mettakij Foundation, a subsidiary of Methodist Missions Society (MMS), in Thailand. This was done to ensure the long-term oversight of LCS under the accountability and support of MMS, and to expand the school to include primary level education. Construction of the new facilities began in November 2021 and is expected to be completed for Primary 1 intake from May 2023 (Phase 1), with the final building completed by 2024 (Phase 2). However, with Covid-19 restrictions, rising steel prices and labour shortages, it has been challenging.
Nevertheless, with no other Christian schools in Phrao, we envision that LCS will play a vital role. Not only will it serve the spiritual needs of the Christian community, but also provide quality education to the wider public while introducing them to the Christian faith. The presence of LCS will influence the receptivity of future generations of community leaders to the Christian mission.
Funding targets for the building project have been reached in spite of increases in steel prices. However, the School Board is considering raising additional funding for furnishing requirements including tables and chairs, and improved facilities such as science and computer lab equipment. Will you help to give the children of Phrao the opportunity for a future?
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