Missionary Henry Breidenthal taught generations of Thai pastors as a doctor, Bible college founder, and evangelist.
On a warm Sunday morning in March, about a dozen Thai Christians sit quietly in Grace New Life Church in Chiang Mai and wait for the service to begin. As the worship leader warms up on his guitar and the pastor makes last-minute adjustments to his slides, a frail 91-year-old Caucasian man with bifocals shuffles to a chair and sits down.
The worship leader stands and asks maw (Thai for “doctor”) to lead a prayer. Retired missionary Henry Breidenthal slowly rises from his chair and walks to the front of the room. There, with his gray head bowed and sunken eyes closed, he addresses God softly, his Thai mumbled with age. His prayer complete, he returns to his seat as the music begins.
When the worship set is finished, Breidenthal and the other congregants listen to the day’s message on tithing from Pastor Patompon Kong. Kong was once Breidenthal’s student at the Bible college he founded. Now, in the twilight of the older man’s life, Kong is his pastor.
For the past 60 years, Breidenthal has called Thailand home. His longevity calls to mind an earlier era of overseas service. Today, many missionary recruits hope to see quick, tangible results before returning home just a few months or years later. Breidenthal’s ministry shows the potential for the compound growth of a missionary’s impact over the long term.
That type of ministry comes at a cost. Breidenthal had to forgo the doctor’s salary he could have earned back in the United States, perhaps the chance to marry and start a family (Breidenthal has remained single), and definitely a “normal” life of comfort and ease.
Yet as he spoke with me in his home about his life in Thailand—treating leprosy patients, ministering …
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