Karen Bible College students in worship

First of all, it’s not a typo!  The name really is Chrestos.  It’s the Greek word for ‘kind’.  Founders Geoffrey & Pat Atkinson decided that they wanted to be kind to the people they work with.  They certainly need some kindness.  Based in northwest Thailand, not too far from the tourist capital of Chiang Mai, Chrestos Mission works with Karen people, a marginalised minority group who have suffered much, particularly at the hands of the Burmese military.  Many of them have fled from Burma across the Salween River into Thailand, where they are billeted in overcrowded refugee camps while they continue the interminable wait for asylum in western countries.  Without Thai ID cards, they can’t leave the camps for fear of being repatriated.

After a lifetime of work in missions in south east Asia, you would think that Geoffrey & Pat would want to retire.  But in 2002, already well into their 60s, God called them to start this work up from scratch.  It is a testament to their prayerfulness and drive that in such a short time they have managed to achieve so much.

Chrestos works extensively in these camps, supporting churches, orphanages and even bible colleges by providing food, clothing and medicine.  Through this support lives are saved, children are cared for and educated, and people meet Jesus.  Many of them go on to graduate from bible colleges and perpetuate a victorious cycle of taking the gospel to their own people.

Through the work of a number of mission agencies as well as the efforts of the indigenous church, the Karen church is the fastest growing in Thailand.  At its base in Mae Sariang, Chrestos runs its own bible college with some 75 students, training Karen believers to go back to their people with the gospel.  Chrestos also has a high quality recording studio which produces teaching, worship, drama and Sunday School lessons on dvd so that the Karen church is even better equipped to spread the gospel.  In the same town Chrestos also operates and orphanage called the Home of Peace & Joy.

When I visited Chrestos in 2008, one of their Karen leaders walked with me across the ‘Friendship Bridge’ into Burma at Mae Sot.  It was the first time he had been back to the country of his birth since he fled to Thailand as a child.  His father was subsequently killed by the Burmese army.  I find it very hard to forgive them, he told me.

  • Please pray for change in Burma so that the Karen can return to their villages and live in safety.  Praise God that there is ample opportunity for them to hear the gospel in the refugee camps.  Pray that they will respond to it, and take it home with them when they are finally repatriated.
  • Pray for the Atkinsons, that they will continue to have health and energy, and for God to raise up indigenous successors for them to run the Chrestos community.
  • Pray that the Karen will be able to forgive those who have made them suffer, and that this will be a testimony to the grace of God which will lead many to Jesus.

You can read more about Chrestos at http://www.chrestos-mission.org/

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