Witthaya Phuttharaksa is a PhD student at Wycliffe College, Toronto and we are happy to announce that he is also a Langham Scholar! Witthaya joins the Langham Canada family as he enters his second year of New Testament studies, working toward his eventual goal of strengthening the Church in his homeland of Thailand.
“I come from Thailand, a country with a 95-percent Buddhist population and a less than 1-percent Christian population,” says Witthaya. “I was born into a Christian family and my parents are faithful believers who committed their lives to God’s ministry. After secondary school, I left my hometown and enrolled in an undergraduate program in Mass Communications at Chiang Mai University. During this time, my spiritual life was truly transformed through the ministry of a Baptist church near my university, the Christian Student Club, and Thailand Campus Crusade for Christ. After I graduated from the university, I had a clear calling that I was going to seminary and become a minister.”
Witthaya has actually spent time in Canada before, in Calgary, working with the Centre for Newcomers through an exchange program with the Mennonite Central Committee. “This one-year of living abroad helped me to have a very clear vision of God’s call for me to come back to Thailand and train a new generation of Thai Christian leaders for God,” he says. “I returned to Thailand, but I did not know how to make that vision happen until my studies at McGilvary College of Divinity. In the past, our seminary mostly depended on missionaries to teach as faculty members. But declining mission support from the West has caused many missionaries to return to their home countries. In order to find a long-term solution for this problem, our leadership began to search for native Thai faculty members to study abroad.”
Witthaya was chosen. “In my second year of study, the Dean invited me to apply for this faculty development program. I applied because I thought this might be the ministry that God has planned for me and I was accepted into this program. Being a part of this faculty is a clear vocation that I wanted to pursue and I felt that God was calling me to apply for doctoral study.” He obtained his Th.M at Princeton Theological Seminary and applied to the PhD program at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto and began in the Fall of 2017.
Here is an interview we did with Witthaya (WP), so you can get to know him better, and hear his vision for the Church in Thailand.
Tell us about your studies. What is your area of concentration?
WP: In Thailand, believers and non-believers believe in the spiritual powers. There are many concepts people don’t understand about spiritual powers and life after death. Some people believe that when you die you become a spirit roaming around. I want the Thai church to have a correct, biblical view. I study in order to know the correct biblical concept in order to help the Thai Church.
What is the Church like in Thailand?
WP: It is a growing Church but it is very small population of Christians. In Thailand we have less than 1 percent Christian.
When you go back what will you do?
WP: I was in the US for two years for ThM, and then came to Wyclffe. Before that I was a lecturer in seminary in Thailand. They sent me to do a PhD program and hopefully in the future our seminary can open a PhD program and a DMin program in Thailand to help pastors and church leaders learn more about God and do ministry.
How did you first hear about Langham?
WP: My dean, the dean of my seminary in Thailand, is also Langham Scholar. He graduated from Fuller 10 years ago. When we were talking about coming to study in the Western World, my dean told me about Langham scholars so I could apply and hopefully get a scholarship from Langham. My seminary is also involved in Langham programs, we receive funding from Langham to buy books for our seminary. We also have the Langham Preaching program in Southeast Asia. Our seminary had a good connection with Langham before I came to study at Wycliffe.
What would you like Canadian friends of Langham to know about the impact of this ministry?
WP: It is very important, because in Thailand we don’t have many professors, not more than 10 lecturers or professors with PhDs. It’s very expensive for our seminary to send someone to study for adoctoral degree. Donors who help Langham help us to be able to come and study in the PhD program and then we can go back and train pastors and church leaders for ministry to the local church in our country. I wouldn’t be able to come without the help of Langham and the donors like you who give generously to support us.
How important is it for you to do these studies?
WP: For me, it’s very important. The Bible is the highest authority for the Christian life. In order to live your Christian life you need to understand the Word of God. To study the Bible and have a correct biblical world view is very important for the Christian. That’s why I believe biblical studies and theological studies are very important. We need to understand the Word of God in order to live our life. I hope I can finish at Wycliffe in the next three years. Hopefully, I will be here only for three years so that I can go back to Thailand, my home country, to train a new generation of pastors and church leaders.
How do you enjoy living in Toronto?
WP: I like Toronto. It is a big city and multicultural. Wycliffe is a good place that I can study and at the same time there are many professors and friends who care about your spiritual life. I can grow in the academy and also the spiritual life. That is very important thing in seminary.
I’m here with my wife. She really likes it and is also involved in a ministry with a Thai church. We have a small Thai church in Toronto. We are involved in the church ministry because I believe that in order to understand God more, you don’t only study but you practice and preach what you learn in your studies. Right now I preach once a month, and I lead a bible study group for new believers twice a month.
Thank you Witthaya!