Introducing our New Mission Partners to Southeast Asia

Aug 22, 2023 | News

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Jamie and Lily Somerville are exper­i­enced mis­sion­ar­ies, having served in Thai­l­and for ten years, dis­cip­ling young people. After return­ing to NZ to com­plete theo­lo­gical edu­ca­tion and English study, they are pre­par­ing to head back to Thai­l­and with NZCMS where they will serve with Empower­Asia, an organ­isa­tion that dis­ciples young people for future Chris­tian lead­er­ship in their com­munit­ies. Their home church is St Martins and St James Anglican Church in Christ­ch­urch. Lily is Thai and comes from Buriram Province on the border with Cam­bodia. She grew up in a rural village and speaks Khmer. Their son is named Paul. 

Lily writes:

My name is Pattama, but in New Zealand I am called Lily. When I was 16 years old, I lived in EmpowerAsia’s Thai­l­and home for three years. This is a foster home for kids who have family prob­lems or are poor. I was one who was poor, and living in the home taught me about God and I decided to believe, because I thought it was an easy way to go to heaven; just believe in God who sent the son of God to die for us, who was then raised from death to heaven. I used to believe in Buddhism, just only five com­mand­ments, but I still coundn’t do it because if you missed one thing you couldn’t go to heaven.

At that time I just believed in God by know­ledge, but when I studied at uni­ver­sity I went to church and received the Holy Spirit. That made me feel that God is Truth, I was so excited that God is Truth and I tried to study more about God, and I wanted to serve him because he rescued me from poverty, sadness and espe­cially sin. I didn’t know how to serve God
because I didn’t know what my gifts were.

One day my sister prayed for me in the Spirit and told me I will make dis­ciples of many people in my life. I didn’t believe her because I never taught anyone. Even when my pastor asked me to teach chil­dren, I still thought “how?” I prayed for my future husband to lead me to serve God and said that any­where that he goes I am happy to go too and support his min­istry. And it came true! I met my husband, Jamie, and we serve God together very well. We have the same vision and values. We never argue about how we serve God.

We started to serve with Empower­Asia by dis­cip­ling teen­agers in the same min­istry I grew up in. I started by teach­ing the Bible and I real­ised I could do it! I loved it, and I did it very well. This reminded me of my sister’s prayer for me all those years ago, that I would dis­ciple other people in my life. We served in Thai­l­and for many years then moved to New Zealand.

We both worked and didn’t do any min­istry, but my husband real­ised that his life was for serving God not just having a job and saving money, and I wanted to support him with what he wanted to do. He found a way to serve by working through NZCMS and Empower­Asia, and our work is dis­ciple­ship, which is my gift. I’m really happy to go back to Thai­l­and to dis­ciple, teach let others go to pro­claim the name of Jesus. I’m happy to go any­where that God wants me to go.

We will live in Nakorn Pranom and dis­ciple teen­agers there. Many churches only have pastors but no one to dis­ciple the young people. Some churches don’t want to waste time dis­cip­ling them because the young people will go to uni­ver­sity, find jobs or get married. I don’t think like that. I think chil­dren, teen­agers and new believ­ers are import­ant to dis­ciple, as Jesus said to “go and make dis­ciples of all nations, teach­ing them to observe all that I commanded.”

Jamie is a New Zeal­ander, but moved to Thai­l­and when he was two years old with his parents who fol­lowed a calling from God. Jamie’s parents, Paul and Carlie Somerville, pion­eered dis­ciple­ship min­is­tries in South­east Asia which became Empower­Asia. Their min­istry now dis­ciples nearly 300 chil­dren and young people in several coun­tries in South­east Asia, South Asia and Central America, mainly working with young people from his­tor­ic­ally Gospel-res­ist­ant communities.

Jamie writes:

I am a bicul­tural kid, having grown up in a Thai village speak­ing Thai flu­ently from child­hood. I returned to NZ as a teen­ager and com­pleted my school­ing and uni­ver­sity study in Dunedin. I returned to Thai­l­and again as a young adult where I taught in a Thai private bilin­gual school in Khon Kaen city. Lily and I were married, and we took over Empowerasia’s girl’s dis­ciple­ship min­istry, and had 13 Thai teens living with us like a family. We lived life together, praying and study­ing scrip­tures. Most of the girls became Chris­ti­ans and desired to be part of the Chris­tian com­munity. We went to our local church and jour­neyed together in faith.

I have felt a strong sense of calling to mission since child­hood. I grew up in a family devoted to serving God and learnt many lessons on how to teach and lead others first hand from my parents. They have been a huge influ­ence in my life, allow­ing me to be exposed to, not only the dark and dif­fi­cult aspects of min­istry, but the ful­filling and joyous exper­i­ences we are priv­ileged to par­ti­cip­ate in — the mission of God in action.

God called us as a family to min­is­ter in Thai­l­and and South­east Asia. Even as a child I got upset when people talked about ‘my parent’s mission work’ when I felt strongly that I was playing a part in their min­istry too! My parents showed me that I had a part to play and a respons­ib­il­ity towards the great com­mis­sion of Jesus Christ. Now as an adult I can see how Lily and I are con­tinu­ing in their foot­steps by being the next gen­er­a­tion of Somervilles to join the Spirit in His mission to South­east Asia.

I’m good at relat­ing to people, even those with vastly dif­fer­ent exper­i­ences to me. I connect well par­tic­u­larly with Asian people due to my upbring­ing and find myself ‘at home’ with Asian ways of living. I am pas­sion­ate about encour­aging and equip­ping South­east Asian Chris­ti­ans to be able to do theo­logy in an authen­tic way and hope to be involved with theo­lo­gical edu­ca­tion in Thai­l­and and other loc­a­tions in South­east Asia, along­side my dis­ciple­ship work with EmpowerAsia.

I am equally pas­sion­ate about advoc­at­ing for indi­gen­ous Chris­tian lead­er­ship and helping them to access funds for their own min­istry. The church in Asia, though numer­ous and vibrant, is very poor com­pared to the New Zealand church. I want to build bridges between Asian and New Zealand churches and min­is­tries, so that trust and rela­tion­ships can flourish.

Jamie and Lily will be living in Nakorn Pranom, a border town with Laos, in the East of Thai­l­and. There is very little Chris­tian mission there, and no mis­sion­ar­ies. Jamie will con­tinue to coordin­ate Empower­Asia min­is­tries in Thai­l­and and Cam­bodia along with some other loc­a­tions we cannot name online, trav­el­ling to each place as neces­sary to assist the local boards with their min­is­tries. Some of the loc­a­tions he will visit have some par­tic­u­larly cruel con­flict affect­ing the whole country which needs extra support, and living just a short flight away makes all the difference.

Lily will co-lead the Thai min­istry, which provides fin­an­cial support for about 30 young people attend­ing 11 rural churches across the province. She will develop the dis­ciple­ship pro­gramme, assist­ing churches to min­is­ter to youth well. She will also work together with some of the young women who grew up with Jamie and Lily (and are now in their early 20s), train­ing them to replace her. It’s encour­aging to see these young ladies step­ping into the call of God for their lives and to be able to support them to do it.

Both Jamie and Lily are trained teach­ers, so Lily is also explor­ing the idea of opening a Chris­tian preschool. Buddhists do not have a problem sending their chil­dren to Chris­tian schools, thus it is not only a good oppor­tun­ity to witness the Gospel in the com­munity, but it also provides employ­ment for the young people.

Support Jamie and Lily

1 Comment
  1. Christine Purdie

    May God bless you both and your family and all the people you meet.
    Thank you for giving young people hope in this sad broken world.

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