UDON, THAILAND (February 20, 2018) — Tongpan Phrometta, the first president of the Covenant Church in Thailand (“Grace of God Church”) died Saturday, February 3. He was 87.
He was born in Phak Phung village in Chaiyaphom province, in Northeast, Thailand. Covenant missionary James Gustafson said Tongpan’s desire of God showed itself early.
“When he reached the age of 14, he came to the decision that he wanted to believe in Jesus Christ,” Gustafson said. “He searched for someone who would help him profess his belief but could find no one. He was told by Christians in the area that he was too young to believe in Jesus Christ.”
But Tongpan would not be deterred. He looked for and found a Bible, which he read avidly. “When he reached the age of 17 he professed his belief in Jesus Christ by himself without the help of anyone else,” Gustafson said. “His passion for God drove him to a small isolated church in an area near his home in Chaiyaphum, which had been rejected by local Christians and had no leader or teacher.”
Tongpan became pastor of the church.
In 1961, he attended a local Bible school in Chaiyaohom to learn how he could better serve God. He stopped attending after a year and began planting churches all over the province. “He lived the gospel in the local villages of Chaiyaphom, and local people opened their hearts to him and to God,” Gustafson said.
In 1973, he met Banpote Wetchakama and Jim Gustafson in Udon Thani, where they were planting churches in the province of Udon. The three committed themselves to the process that would result several years later in the formal establishment of the Thailand Covenant Church with a goal to plant churches all over northeast Thailand, starting in Udon.
They started dozens of house fellowships throughout the surrounding areas, as well as the
Sustainable Development Research Foundation and Center for Applied Ministry, which helped plant congregations. Tongpan served as the denomination’s president for its first five years.
“Tongpan was born to evangelize and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout Thailand,” Banpote said.
At the time of his death, Tongpan was still working with Banpote and Gustafson as well as planting and teaching churches in the northeast Thailand area.
“His humor, personal warmth and wit will be greatly missed by all—both Thai Christians and missionaries—who had the privilege of working under his leadership,” Gustafson said.
He is survived by his wife and three children who have, at various points, assisted in his ministry.