Although the Salvation Army’s fledgling work in Thailand is yet to be officially registered, the pioneer team, including Central Territory officers Majors Bruce and Betty Keobounhom, has been playing a part in the coronavirus response in the northern city of Chiang Mai.
The Salvation Army responded to a call from the city’s governor to provide meal assistance to a center which cares for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. Salvation Army officers and staff also have provided support to frontline workers, including the distribution of face shields to three hospitals and a police station. Food parcel distribution to vulnerable communities has been undertaken too, ensuring a supply of dry food, hand sanitizer and bottled water.
Stationed in Thailand since March 2019, the Keobounhoms have been working as research and development officers in an exploratory ministry under the purview of the Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar Territory.
American citizens, the majors are originally from Laos where they met in an English language class but did not see each other again until each had escaped the communist-sieged country and were living in a refugee camp in Thailand with 70,000 other people. There, Bruce, who was a Buddhist monk, accepted Christ as his Savior. Becoming a Christian, he felt called to share his hope and joy with others.
After the Keobounhoms immigrated to the United States, Bruce became an ordained part-time Nazarene pastor in Nashville, Tenn., but he dreamed of serving the Lord fulltime. Believing that The Salvation Army was a good fit, he contacted them about beginning a Laotian ministry. While the Army did not have funds to pay him, it could provide a location. That was enough. The Keobounhoms began the new ministry as lay leaders and the next year became auxiliary captains. By 2001 they had helped establish three Laotian corps in the nation.
They were appointed in 2003 to lead the new Rockford Tabernacle, Ill., Corps to minister to the city’s growing Laotian population. During their 11-year tenure, the corps grew dramatically in members and faith.
In 2014, the Keobounhoms were appointed to lead another Laotian ministry, the Genesis Corps in Madison, Wis., where they served until being appointed last year to Thailand, fulfilling a call God placed on their hearts more than a decade ago.
COVID-19 relief information from an IHQ release.