Those Nutty Missionaries

If you’ve spent a lot of time in Thailand you’ve probably seen Christian missionaries and some of their converts.  If you stay in Thailand long enough and learn to speak and read the Thai language, missionary activity will become much more obvious.  There are thousands of Christian missionaries in Thailand (most of which are American), and that isn’t including the many Thai’s that have been converted (brainwashed) and who also try to convert other Thais.

Just to clear the air, I’m not Buddhist.  Most religion (especially fundamentalism) prevents progress and saps people of the ability to think for themselves.  That said, Thai people are much better sticking to their own non-fundamentalist, non-absolutist religion (Buddhism), instead of converting to be born-again Christians who believe only Christians will be saved.  Missionaries aren’t “bad” people but their belief in foolish ideology, and their need to aggressively spread it, often leads to trouble.  Missionaries and their belief that all non-Christians will go to hell, and other similar dogma, ought to be exposed and challenged at every opportunity because a Thailand full of militant Christians would not be a positive development, to say the least.

I posted two essays about missionaries (titled “Missionaries Go Home”) on Stickman Bangkok, but I can’t provide the links because I don’t know where they are on the Stickman site. They were posted about nine months ago and one a year ago.

In this submission I’ve provided more recent and ongoing examples of what missionaries and their converts have been up to.  I’m not going to refute Christianity here.  If you want to read a really good book that does that, read “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins, or “The End of Faith” by Sam Harris (both are available at Kunokinaya Books).

If you don’t have the time or interest to read the rest of this, skip to the end to read some of the bizarre quotes sent to me by born-again Christians.  If nothing else, you might find them humorous (or alarming).
 
1) Pamphlet Pushers

If you spend much time at any of Bangkok parks, inevitably you will see foreign and/or Thai missionaries approaching complete strangers to preach to them about Jesus.  They approach Thai people, without invitation, and give their sales pitch about Jesus and “salvation”.  Thai people will politely listen, smile, and nod even though they usually have no interest in being lectured about Christianity and Jesus (though someone told about a Thai man who chewed out a missionary for speaking badly about his “heathen” amulet.  Good riddance!).

Recently, in Benchasiri Park next to the Emporium, I watched two Mormons (I come across Mormons regularly in this park) preaching to two Thai women, who listened politely and smiled.  Thirty minutes later, when the Mormons finally left, the Thai woman started laughing and referred to the Mormons as “baa” (crazy) and “lang samoong” (brainwashed) as they tossed the glossy pamphlets they were given into the rubbish bin.  Nonetheless, any aggressive and well-funded religious marketing campaign is bound to pick up some new customers (converts), and these converts often become aggressive missionaries themselves.  I’ve come across missionaries in parks, on streets, on university campuses, in Thai language classes, and in markets (such as Jatuchak).
 
2) Jesus Signs

Throughout Thailand, missionaries have posted thousands of yellow, metal signs in Thai script that read “Pray Jesus to erase your sins” or a similar slogan (see pictures below).  These signs are bolted high up into trees all throughout the countryside, particularly in the northern provinces, but I’ve also seen them in Bangkok and Chonburi.

Sometimes these signs are posted directly across from Buddhist temples, which shows that these people have no respect or boundaries.  I doubt they’ll get any converts by posting these silly signs, but it shows how fanatic they must be to spend all of that time, money and effort to climb trees and post thousands of these signs throughout the country.

Perhaps you’ve seen a large hotel on the Chonburi Expressway just outside of Bangkok with a big red crucifix and “Jesus Loves You” plastered on the side of the building.  What kind of nut defaces the whole side of his hotel with Christian slogans?

3) The “Turn or Burn” Missionaries

Every year around Christmas, a group of mainly Thai missionaries converge at Silom Road and Petchaburi Road (next to Panthip Plaza) in Bangkok with a full set of gear including a sound system, big Jesus signs in Thai script and many boxes full of Christian pamphlets (see picture above).  One guy stands like a mannequin under the BTS station at Silom Road standing next to a Jesus sign and a sound system that booms out loud doomsday messages in Thai.  The rest of the missionaries stand on nearby street corners pushing Jesus booklets into the hands of all who walk by.  These books warn about the end of the world and have illustrations of sinners and non-Christians burning in hell.  How is that for a loving and forgiving God?
 
4) Sneaky Missionaries on Campus

Another front the missionaries are entrenched is on university campuses where they put a lot of effort into converting young, impressionable university students. Last semester, I saw three separate missionaries groups at my university in the northeast of Bangkok.
Within my first month of working at this university, I saw adverts, in English and Thai, posted in several lecture halls offering “Free English Lessons” with a group of “American University Students”.  Right away, I knew they had to be missionaries.  Missionaries aren’t always up-front and honest about their objectives, as in this case there was no mention of Jesus, church or religion in their advertisement.

I confronted this group of Americans, and sure enough, they admitted that they were part of a  “church group” in Thailand, but they insisted they weren’t missionaries. 

“If you aren’t missionaries, then why are you here,” I asked, “What qualifications do you have to teach English to university students?”  They said that they just wanted to help them with their English.  They admitted that they do “invite” them to church and then they invite them to travel upcountry with their “church group”.

One of the missionaries (who insisted he wasn’t a missionary) said, “We don’t force anyone to convert.”  But they obviously have no problem being dishonest, luring people to church by offering free English lessons.

I warned my class about these American University students and I suggested that they be watchful about any groups of foreigners that offer things for free and try to become friends.  They should ask them straight away if they are from some “church group”.
 
5) Korean Camp or Moony Cult?

One of my students told me about a Korean group that was doing something similar, though on a much larger scale.  These well-funded Korean missionaries, from the “International Youth Fellowship” are especially dishonest.  This is what they do.

  • They go to the university canteen, set up a table and a sound system and then have good-looking Koreans sing songs from famous Korean pop stars (Korean pop stars and soap operas are enormously popular amongst Thai teen-agers).
  • Then they invite students to go on a three-day camping trip in the countryside, where they can learn the Korean language, sing Korean pop songs, and play games with these good-looking Koreans.  Religion isn’t mentioned as part of the festivities.
  • Once they get to the camp, they are all given Bibles and lectured about Christianity (once again, the students aren’t told beforehand that the camp has anything to do with religion).  Several times throughout the day they have to read the Bible and listen to sermons.  In-between the sermons, they spend only about an hour learning the Korean language.
  • Later, the organizers encourage Thai students to go on a stage with a microphone and “witness” (verbally accept Jesus as their savior and commit their life to “Him”).  This is a common method with born-again Christians.  They try to get a few brainwashed converts to “witness” in front of the group in the hope that others will follow (like sheep).

Why did these missionaries lie about the religious aspect of the camp?  It is quite clear.  If they are honest and advertise that it’s a religious camp with the intention of converting Buddhists, nobody will go.  By advertising the festivities as a fun-filled “Korean Camp” (without mentioning religion), they can get hundreds of people to attend.
 
6) Quotes From Missionaries

Since the first two essays were posted, I’ve received many emails from readers.  Most emails were positive, however I did receive a few emails from missionaries and other born-again Christians (I’m very surprised that missionaries visit the Stickman site).  Below are some of the more memorable quotes sent to me (names have been omitted).  My email address is posted at the end, so please contact me with any questions and comments.

“…I must share the gospel to non-believers anywhere I come across them.  If that is considered disrespectful to other people, I’d rather offend those other people then offend God…”

“…there can only be one truth, either you are wrong or I’m wrong…if you are wrong, which you are, and if you don’t accept Jesus…than eternal damnation will sadly be the outcome…the choice is yours.”

“…Buddhism is just another branch of Satanism…the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ.”

The next quotes are from a street preacher that can often be seen preaching (shouting) very loudly in English and Thai at different tourist locations and places full of “sin” around Bangkok. Notice how he uses lower-case letters when referring to other religions.

“…This is a fact:  there is no salvation in Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, or any other religion in the world as salvation is found only Christ Jesus the Lord.  For only Jesus Christ died for our sins, and only Jesus Christ rose from the dead…”

“…The Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God gave himself for us to pay the price for our sins so that we could be saved.  But if you reject this gift, then you will have to pay for your sins in hell.  God is just:  sin must be punished…”

The remarks below about Buddhism are slanderous and quite bitter.

“…I practiced magick which is allowed in Theravada sect Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism practices witchcraft and black magick… the “Rama-Yana” is full of magick…” 

“…Buddhism teaches that Buddha was birthed by a white elephant going inside his mother…”

“… my mother, she is completely healed and is no longer a Buddhist.” 

This last quote is unintentionally hilarious.

“…Before I was a Christian, I had many Thai girlfriends; and they all used magick to help them get an edge on life…”

The author can be contacted at ceno99@gmail.com

108 thoughts on “Those Nutty Missionaries

  • January 7, 2012 at 8:40 am
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    I just attended an IYF “English Camp” for a day in Dallas, and the methods they employ to indoctrinate new members are unmistakable signs of a cult. They recruited me under the guise of teaching English in Mexico, for very cheap travel expenses, and room and board included. I knew this was a Christian organization, and knew that I would be preached to, but I did not expect it to be anywhere close to the extent that it was. They are a cult that employs classic brainwashing methods. They seek to control you for every second of every day, both your actions and your thoughts. They keep you agitated and fatigued and inundate you with their propaganda, a lot about having an open heart as opposed to a closed heart (i.e. open to their b.s. but closed to any outside rational thought, because their way is the “truth”, whatever that means), and that we are all “evil”, presumably until we accept their religion as our own. The sermons delivered by their founder Ock Soo Park were completely nonsensical and full of very questionable interpretations of biblical stories and passages. I left quietly after the first day, but am very concerned and curious about what will happen to all the other new recruits who were at the camp. Many of them probably would not have the means or enough money to return home if they want to. I would like to be able to contact some of them after the camp, but I unfortunately didn’t get anybody’s contact information. I felt like I was going crazy after attending only a few hours of their events. They pack participants schedules with events from 6am to 11pm each day. I’m sure the brainwashing techniques got progressively more aggressive for participants who stayed. This is a despicable practice and the officials of this “church” should be in prison.

  • January 7, 2012 at 1:16 pm
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    They can’t be very good at their brainwashing methods if you saw right through them and were able to resist so easily. I doubt they’re a serious threat to world peace.

    Don’t you think that your calling for their imprisonment makes you sound like a bit of fanatic on the edge of the lunatic fringe? – just like them?

  • January 10, 2012 at 7:57 am
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    Hi Nick,

    I got out of there pretty much as soon as I realized what they were trying to do, so I didn’t subject myself to the full extent of what they had planned for us, but since I returned, I’ve been reading a lot about brainwashing and how it works, and the IYF uses classic brainwashing techniques, i.e. inducing fatigue, irritation, mental/emotional stress, all while firing a relentless barrage of their propaganda at you. As I stated before, I’m sure the brainwashing techniques became more aggressive and egregious as the camp wore on. These methods of control are what would define the group as a cult.

    I don’t think you can say they aren’t very good at brainwashing, because they are a huge group. They are financially supported by their members, and brainwashing is how they acquire these members. I saw it first hand. Perhaps I saw through them because I went in with some suspicions about the motives of this group, only to have even worse than my worst suspicions confirmed, or perhaps I am just more of an independent thinker than many of the other attendees. One thing that amazed me about this experience was how apparently eager people are to follow directions, regardless of whether or not those directions are in their best interest. I was able to leave because I could afford a plane ticket back home. Somebody who had no money to return home would have had to stay with this group for the entire ten days, all the way to Mexico and back, just because the group was their ride. I only attended a few hours worth of their ridiculous sermons and performances and still felt extremely stressed out. I can’t even imagine how people would feel after TEN DAYS OF THIS FROM 6AM TO 11PM EACH DAY. It would be a %$$ing nightmare, and I think it would have literally driven me insane.

    I’m not sure what you meant by the world peace comment, but I do see them as an evil organization that exists specifically to fool people into believing some random theology and out of their money, which goes into the pockets of these so-called spiritual leaders. This group does not exist to “save” people. It preys on people’s weaknesses and feelings of unfulfillment for its own financial gain. You also said I sound like a fanatic. My comments are partially motivated by emotion, as I do feel that they attempted to victimize me (and they did get $300 from me, which I’m not sure I’ll be able to get back), but this group does undoubtedly engage in brainwashing techniques, and it undoubtedly takes money from its members. These practices are not illegal because the group members do everything “of their own will”, and so I don’t see the officials of this group going to prison anytime soon, but it sure would be nice to see. Of course, it seems everyone who attends an IYF event comes away with a very strong opinion of them, either positive or negative. If you went to one of these events, who knows which side you would end up on? Really, I think you shouldn’t make such comments without having had a similar experience yourself.

  • January 11, 2012 at 12:49 am
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    Gina

    Your experience is consistent with what I’ve heard from my students, and many posters on this site.

    Some people posting here defend this group and others like it, but if they joined a camp that turned out to be a lie, and were stuck under those circumstances, they’d be just as annoyed as you. They wouldn’t get away with what you described in many countries. They may organise the excursion in the USA, but they wouldn’t treat people the way you described in a western country because they laws are stricter, and they know it. What they are doing has nothing at all to do with freedom of religion.

    Now they have been advertising their latest camps at my university in Thailand for the last month! Four weeks straight advertising one camp. Five to 10 IYF staff nonstop canvassing in the canteen, just to fill their camp. They interrupt people while eating lunch, pushing their handouts in front of them, inviting themselves to sit and talk about their camp. How much staff and man hours to fill one camp? What is their quota? Of course they NEVER mention that the camp is related to religion at all

    Every year, I warn my students about these cult and their brainwashing camps, and the word has spread throughout my faculty about this group.

    Get this; they even organised their “World Camp” during the week before mid-term exams (29 January to 4 February). Amazing that the administration would even allow any group to canvass the university to invite people to skip a week of class before exam week. No teacher in my faculty will excuse student’s absenses for this.

    I encourage you and others who read this to call out this group, and other like it, for unacceptable practices. Exposing them is important. If they want to run a Christian proselytising camp, then they ought to be honest about it!

  • February 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm
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    IYF in the Philippines masqueraded themselves under the guise of “Leadership Training” and sent invitations to all major universities. I was eager to hone my leadership skills under Koreans because I had great respect for them and their economy.

    Unfortunately it all turned awry when we found out IYF was a religious group — which was in no way advertised — and their methods of teaching were bizarre. I actually found the methods very consistent with this website’s comments. We held the camp in Korea, woke up every morning at 5:30 and slept at 11:30. Lectures were about 5 hours a day, and the actual “LEADERSHIP TRAINING” was only limited to an hour a day.

    I could probably respect the fact that they exist and they have different religious beliefs if they weren’t so blatantly indoctrinating and deceiving everybody.

  • February 29, 2012 at 2:09 pm
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    The bible totters can kiss both sides of my big ass!!!!

  • October 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm
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    Here’s the latest news from the Korean IYF Christian CULT group in Thailand.

    As predictable as ever, volunteers from the Korean religious brainwashing group International Youth Federation (IYF) were on my university campus in Bangkok, Thailand for 4 weeks in September promoting their “International Volunteer” camp. In the past it has been called “Leadership Camp” “Good News Camp”, “Youth Camp”, and other deceptively named camps.

    Once again, they never told any students who they invited to attend their “International Volunteer Camp” that it was a Christian, religious-based camp. In fact nobody who attends the camp (other than previous Christian volunteers) had any knowledge that there would be any religious dialogue at the camp.

    As it turns out, all camp volunteers MUST attend church activities in the morning, and at night, they MUST attend a meeting in the hotel for up to THREE HOURS OF PEOPLE PREACHING THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION. I’d really like to hear IYF apologists on this site, and IYF staff members justify this.

    EVEN WORSE, when I warned all of my 250 students about IYF camps, as I do every semester, one of my students told me after class that she attended their camp the previous year. Of course she never knew that religion was involved. The really alarming part, is that after a few days, when she decided that she would skip the 3 hour nightly Christian preaching, Thai IYF STAFF THREATENED TO FINE HER MONEY FOR NOT ATTENDING THE CHRISTIAN PREACHING. IN ADDITION, THEY SOME THAI STAFF TOLD HER SHE WOULD GO TO HELL IF SHE DIDN’T LISTEN TO THIS “GOOD THING THEY WERE OFFERING HER!”

    If that isn’t repulsive enough, KOREAN IYF STAFF SAT IN THE LOBBY IN FRONT OF THE LIFT (WHILE READING THEIR BIBLES) TO MAKE SURE NO VOLUNTEER STAFF TRIED TO SNEAK OUT OF THE HOTEL during the preaching.

    I WOULD REALLY LIKE TO HEAR A REPLY FROM IYF MANAGEMENT DESCRIBING HOW IT IS ACCEPTABLE TO:

    1) PROMOTE A CAMP WHICH THEY CLAIM IS CULTURALLY BASED WHEN IT IS RELIGIOUS BASED, WITHOUT TELLING PEOPLE THAT RELIGION IS INVOLVED (VOLUNTEERS SELDOM KNOW IT IS ABOUT RELIGION).

    2) THREATEN VOLUNTEERS WITH FINES (WHICH IS ILLEGAL by the way) FOR SKIPPING THE CHURCH/PREACHING SESSIONS.

    3) INTIMIDATING VOLUNTEERS WITH MALE KOREAN STAFF SITTING IN FRONT OF THE LIFT TO STOP VOLUNTEERS FROM LEAVING.

    4) THE WORSE INFRACTION: THREATENING VOLUNTEERS WITH “HELL” IF THEY DON’T LISTEN TO THE LENGTHY RELIGIOUS SERMEN.

    If any IYF members claim this isn’t what their camp is about, they really should check their operations in Thailand. IN ADDITION, THE CAMP WASN’T INTERNATIONAL AT ALL. THE THAI VOLUNTEERS JUST TOOK KOREAN TOURISTS AROUND THE LOCAL SIGHT-SEEING AREAS (EXCLUDING BUDDHIST TEMPLES OF COURSE). THEN IN THE MORNING AND AT NIGHT THEY ALL HAD TO ATTEND THE LENGTHY CHRISTIAN PREACHING (THOUGH MOST OF THE THAIS WERE BUDDHIST).

    Everything described here is the behaviour of a cult.

    I’ve luckily warned hundreds of students (if not thousands over the last 5 years) from going to IYF’s fraudulent camps. If you read this, and if you see their adverts, in any country, confront these cult leaders, and warn potential victims.

  • November 16, 2013 at 3:44 am
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    I was in the IYF english camp 2010 in NY. They ar fine. Just preaching quite different sermons. But what scares me most is several pastors end up recommending their asian missionaries to me. One korean boy is cute, but I’m not thinking about marrying your apprentice just after two weeks. Guess some of them are hunting for green card from US citizens. Sorry PASTOR!

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