Rosanna Hutagalung grew up in Singapore as part of the community of the Bedok Lutheran Church. This church had started when Pastor and Mrs John T. Nelson moved from America to take up the assignment. Pastor John had a deep impact on Rosanna. His example provided encouragement for Rosanna to love with the self-giving love […]
Rosanna Hutagalung grew up in Singapore as part of the community of the Bedok Lutheran Church. This church had started when Pastor and Mrs John T. Nelson moved from America to take up the assignment. Pastor John had a deep impact on Rosanna. His example provided encouragement for Rosanna to love with the self-giving love that Jesus demonstrated when he lived on earth. She learned to be compassionate and forgiving, and to be willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the gospel.
As a young woman Rosanna worked very close to the Thai Good News Centre and eventually spent a year there working as an intern. As she got to know and like the Thai people she met there, she began to wonder if Thailand might be a place where she could serve one day as a missionary.
Initially, the Bedok Lutheran Church in Singapore encouraged Rosanna to go to Malaysia, to serve among the Senoi policemen and soldiers who guard the Malaysian/Thai border. She did this for a year but then had to return to Singapore, as Malaysia would not grant missionary visas.
In 2002, after studying in Singapore, Rosanna was then asked to go to Thailand. She spent a year in language school and was then posted to a church in Bangkok, where many of the members were professionals and teachers. There they called her Ajahn (teacher) Rosanna. As she served in Bangkok, Rosanna focussed on women’s ministry as well as teaching, preaching and ministering to elderly people living in the slums. Thai people are very nice but cautious – they don’t trust immediately – and it takes time to build relationships. Rosanna took her time to learn about Thai culture, before she felt comfortable ministering to the people.
The Bedok Lutheran church then asked Rosanna to serve the Isaan people. The Isaan live in the north eastern region Thailand near the Thai/Lao border and are the largest unreached people group in Thailand. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thailand had established a church in this region and it was here that Rosanna relocated to serve for the next 16 years. It was in Thailand that she learned how to reach out to non-Christian hearts and gain their trust.
Rosanna started a Saturday club for the children, most of whom came from Buddhist families. The parents would not allow their children to go to church services, but they would allow them to attend the Saturday club. Rosanna taught between 20 to 30 children and also trained four girls to help with the teaching. She let the parents know that while teaching English she would also be teaching Bible stories. Rosanna used a good children’s Bible to share parables over their lunchtime. Many of the non-Christians came to know the Bible stories better than the church members. During Rosanna’s time with them, three children came to be baptised.
It was important for the parents to know that Rosanna would not be forcing their children to be converted to Christianity (one of their main concerns). She therefore invited them to attend Christmas and Easter programs. The villages nearby had a public pavilion, which is where Rosanna would invite the local churches to act out parables. Hundreds came to see these dramas and as the Thai people were riding past on their motorbikes, they would stop and curiously stand on the edge of the pavilion to watch. Rosanna knows of at least 3 who came to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, because of watching one of these dramas.
Rosanna was based in an area which did not have a lot of foreign visitors, because of their rural location. Rosanna encouraged volunteers from her home church in Singapore to travel to Thailand each year and run a camp at the local school. They would teach English and do a drama based on the parables of Jesus. After they left, the Thai people would say, “we have brothers and sisters in Christ who are far away and have not forgotten us.”
Rosanna also worked with an international church who had started a preaching station in one of the villages. She had learnt fluent Thai by this time, and her role was to give a short devotion and teach Thai Christian songs which were written by Thais. They loved these songs so much – songs they could sing from their heart.
Thailand was her home and where she expected to stay until her retirement. She had formed deep friendships and felt accepted among the local people. There were times, however, that Rosanna felt very tired and alone. When she needed to drive from her home to Bangkok, it would take 10-12 hours. Sometimes she would say Lord, “I’m so tired, when can I have my rest? When can I be laid back for a while?”
After 18 years in Thailand, Rosanna returned to Singapore in 2020 for a three month furlough. She then was not allowed to return to Thailand as COVID-19 spread throughout both countries and borders were shut. In December 2021, after the former pastor retired, the Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Singapore (LCS), Rev Lu Guan Hoe, asked if Rosanna would be willing to serve at the Thai Good News Centre in Thailand. Rosanna believes it is God’s plan that she now spends some time reconnecting with the LCS community and serving there. Rosanna was worried that she would not find the Thai food as delicious as she enjoyed in Thailand, but she has been pleasantly surprised at its authenticity.
Rosanna can see how God is with her, giving her all she needs to serve him, wherever he places her. She continues to tell people about Jesus who is her hope, and about the hope she wants others to know too.
Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to www.lca.org.au/international-mission/act-now/pray
Read more stories about our partner church in Singapore at https://www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/international-partners/singapore/