Pastor Sam and Carlin “Noi” Yoophum are the ordained Thai/Lao pastors at New Hope International Church. They serve a lively congregation of fifty to sixty attendees every Sunday afternoon. The Thai service at New Hope began in May 2006. The entire service is celebrated in the Thai language. Even the fellowship after the service is celebrated with delicious Thai food.
Their ministry to the Thai people began shortly after Sam and Noi were married. They decided to start a care group in their one-bedroom apartment in the Greenwood area. Noi remembers using their futon for a dining area and Bible study room as well as a sleeping place. On one occasion, thirty to thirty-five people crowded into the small apartment for an outreach activity.
Sam has often reached out to Thai people at his workplace in a medical clinic. He works as an outreach specialist, helping Thai people gain access to health care. Many Thai people come to his clinic. Sam has also become a gospel outreach specialist. Noi remembers the excitement of watching Thai people receive the gift of salvation in their tiny Greenwood apartment.
Sam was born and grew up in Thailand. He lived in the province of Chiangmai. He came from a strong Buddhist background. Sam remembers, “I used to believe that if I die, I will go to hell first and if I have done some good deeds in this lifetime, then I will be able to go to heaven. Many millions of Buddhists still believe that. I thank God that after coming to know God, I have been set free from the curses of sin and death and I am free indeed.”
Noi was born in Vientiane, Laos. She grew up in a Chinese family with four brothers and one sister. She also came from a Buddhist background. In 1975, when she was eight years old, her family moved to Thailand during the Vietnam War. They lived in Bangkok for five years. Her parents put their children in a Christian Seventh-Day Adventist School. Noi loved going to Sunday school and learning about the love of Jesus every week. She remembers, “I was taught Bible lessons and memory verses every week. I remember attending Sunday school, where my teacher had such an impact on my life.” Noi now teaches in the Tai/Lao Sunday school program. She firmly believes that children’s lives are impacted by hearing Bible stories every week.
Eleven years ago, Sam was invited to New Hope International Church during the Warm Beach Camp retreat. For the first time, he heard the Christian message of salvation. He received the message and was baptized. His mother, Nopakun, was amazed at how much God began to change her hot-tempered son. She could not believe it and she wanted to know this God who changed her son when no one else could. Sam began to share the gospel with his mother and, at the age of sixty–seven, Nopakun decided to follow Christ.
In 1981, Noi’s family immigrated to the USA. Noi began to drift away from God. She stopped attending church for seven years, during high school and college. She began to slip back into old ways until one day she desperately cried out to God for help. She began to search for a new church but did not feel that she belonged in any of the ones she tried. In 1989, her brother, Yong, invited her and her brother Kenny to New Hope International. Her life then began to change dramatically and she has served in the church ever since.
In May 2006, Sam and Noi, after much prayer and confirmation from their leaders, started the Thai/Lao service. In July 2006, Sam and Noi were ordained as Thai/Lao pastors. They believe that their ministry extends beyond the Thai/Lao service. They are training and equipping others to reach out to people in other parts of the world. One Thai sister, Toi, returned to Thailand recently and shared the gospel with street vendors, parking attendants, students, customers, pedestrians, friends, relatives, and families and children in slum areas. Many Thai people have received the gospel message from Toi.
Sam and Noi are preparing others to reach out, not only to Thailand but to Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and other neighboring countries. As Psalm 2:8 promises, “Ask of Me and I will give you nations for your inheritance and the ends of the earth for your possession.” Sam and Noi are claiming that promise.