A winning combination
Born into a Buddhist family in Saraburi, Thailand, Nateekan Nithan attended Asia-Pacific International University (AIU), a Seventh-day Adventist institution in Muak Lek, to earn a bachelor’s degree in English. His parents were Buddhist farmers, but when Nateekan was about 10 years old, his aunt converted to Adventism. She later became a college professor at AIU. His aunt’s conversion introduced Christianity into his family circle and was the reason Nateekan decided to attend the school.
A few months after Nateekan arrived at the AIU campus, he learned that his parents could no longer afford the cost of tuition and fees, so he moved in with his aunt and began commuting to school to reduce the cost of food and lodging.
While studying at AIU, Nateekan discovered that all his professors—even for his general education courses—talked about Jesus in their classrooms. Am I here to study English or Christianity, particularly about Jesus Christ? he wondered.
His first general education classes were “The Life and Teachings of Jesus” and “Fundamentals of Christian Beliefs,” in which the lecturers introduced Jesus to Nateekan as taught in the Bible, particularly in the Gospels. The courses sparked a deep spiritual interest in him, and slowly a seed of faith was implanted in his heart.
Nateekan excelled in his studies, which distinguished him among his peers. He also became good friends with some of the professors. The professors recognized by Nateekan’s questions and changed behaviors that the Holy Spirit was working with him, so they helped him to learn even more about Jesus. They showed him kindness and compassion and prayed with and for him frequently. Nateekan began to see Christ through his teachers, and this increased his desire to become more like his Saviour.
THE ROLE OF MENTORS
When Nateekan was pursuing his studies at AIU, God provided many spiritual mentors for him. Among them was his academic advisor, Anita Sundaresan, who played a crucial role in caring for his academic and spiritual life.
“I was very moved by the genuine love and concern she showed,” Nateekan says.
Nateekan began to realize that such affection was motivated by true love in “deed” and in “truth.” To love in “deed” means to do something about it, and to love in “truth” means to love that individual genuinely.
As Nateekan was nearing the completion of his studies, he became convinced that Jesus is his Saviour, and he wanted to be baptized and become a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He kept that desire to himself, though. How can I be an Adventist, a Christian? he wondered. I need the consent of my parents.
Nateekan graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in English without being baptized into the Adventist faith. About a month later he returned to his parents’ home and began to assist them with their farming business. His desire to continue studying the Bible, however, was still strong. He longed to know more about Jesus.
So he contacted Professor Sundaresan, who connected him with one of the pastors at AIU. Nateekan and the pastor studied the Bible together for four months. Nateekan’s dream of becoming a Seventh-day Adventist Christian finally came true when he was baptized on Sabbath, September 19, 2020.
AN ONGOING JOURNEY
Nateekan wanted to apply for a job as an English teacher; however, he was unable to receive his graduation diploma because he still owed tuition to AIU. How can I work as a teacher when I don’t have my diploma? he asked himself. He also shared his dilemma with the pastor with whom he had been studying the Bible. The pastor suggested that Nateekan take the matter to God in prayer.
God heard and answered his prayer. Three days before Nateekan was baptized, God moved upon the heart of one of his professors at AIU to pay his debts to the school for him. Nateekan was very grateful to the professor and thrilled at the power of prayer.
“Prayers can move giants looming over believers’ lives,” Nateekan says. “The greatest of the giants in life can be defeated when we pray.”
He added, “The Lord used the professors at AIU, friends, church services, and my aunt to show me the way to Christ. I am so grateful to them and to God!”
When we love people genuinely, we attract them to Christ. The true love of Christians for one another should attract others to the faith.
NOT ONLY A CONVERSION STORY
This is not only a conversion story—it’s also a story about the power of Christian education, which leads people to search for the ultimate meaning in life: Jesus Christ. Religious education transforms people and inspires them to be agents of change. That’s the purpose of Adventist educational institutions all around the world: to be evangelistic centers directing students to the Person of Jesus Christ.
The words of the prophet Isaiah are an admonition to every Christian teacher: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).