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Theophostic Ministry Finds its Way into Thailand

View Thailand video testimony

Personal testimony of Dr. Larry Dinkins. Missionary to Thailand

I became reacquainted with an old friend while on furlough from Thailand in 1998. We were both visitors at a church in Oklahoma City and "happened" to bump into one another. It was amazing to learn that after 20 years his family had grown to three boys and a girl (the same as my family), and that his oldest son, Jon, was living in the same dorm and on the same floor as my own son at Oklahoma Baptist University. My friend confided in me that Jon was struggling with depression and asked if I could help keep an eye on him. Little did I realize the spiritual and mental turmoil that Jon was enduring at that time would initiate a long sequence of events that would expose hundreds of persons to the principles of Theophostic Ministry and impact yet more with the transforming power of Christ that brings genuine freedom.

My friend's son first real noticeable symptomatology surfaced as depression that was triggered in the spring of 1998 by the rejection he felt from a girl he was dating at the time. This seemingly innocent incident triggered self-hatred, confusion, sleeplessness and lethargy. My friend took his son to a doctor who prescribed an antidepressant and to a minister who diagnosed him as being under spiritual attack. A psychiatrist diagnosed him as borderline psychotic and wanted to hospitalize him. Jon's father, however, was convinced his depression had a spiritual root cause and began to apply the techniques he had learned from a number of spiritual warfare books in order to break strongholds that he sensed were operative in the boy's life. This latter approach reduced the depression significantly, but over the next few months it reappeared in a cyclical pattern five or six times. [Editorial comment: The cyclical pattern described is a common scenario following traditional deliverance ministry in which the lie-based thinking is not identified and dealt with.]

During those months the boy began to understand that the stronghold in his life was tied to a performance-driven self-worth, which took a beating whenever he did not meet certain expectations. This allowed Satan to introduce condemning, confusing and destructive (even suicidal) thoughts into the boy's mind. Such insight into the boy's problem and the seeming subsiding of depression made my friend feel it was safe for his son to return to college for the 1998 fall semester. The boy's erratic behavior returned, however, and a reaction to the medication he was taking exacerbated his condition. At one point he called his father in Dallas, indicating that he had "lost" his car in another city and needed him to drive up and help him find it.

On another occasion he started talking with his mom about jumping out of the 4th floor window of his dorm. She called my wife, Paula, who immediately gathered the boy's belongings together and put him on the next plane back to Dallas. After withdrawing Jon from college, my friend sent his son to a series of counselors to help find the root cause of these episodes. As we talked together, my friend reminded me of Matthew 17:14-15 where a desperate father cries, "Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him." A two-week stay at Meier's New Life Day Clinic helped stabilize the boy's medication, but did not address his core spiritual and emotional issues. My friend then took his son to a counselor in Fort Worth, who believed that he had identified a demonic connection through generational curses (Freemasonry) and spirits of death, etc. This counselor referred my friend's son to a ministry in Idaho, where he met with a member of the ministry staff for a full week of counseling. In these sessions latent anger surfaced, including anger sourced in ill treatment from high school classmates, anger toward himself, even anger directed towards his father. The boy felt that these sessions were beneficial, but still experienced a nagging sense that there were still layers of the onion that were yet unpeeled.

After Thanksgiving, the boy's condition improved to the point that he took a part-time job and began to make plans to return to college in early 1999. However, during the first week of class, the boy's car was struck head on by a schizophrenic man who had failed to take his medicine and felt someone was chasing him. When the paramedics saw the mangled wreck, they knew someone had died. It took 15 minutes to remove the boy from the car with the Jaws of Life. Amazingly, the boy escaped with only minor injuries, but this incident only heightened the belief of everyone around him that he was the object of spiritual attack and destruction.

The next spring my friend was told by a Dallas Theological Seminary graduate about a new approach to ministry called Theophostic Prayer Ministry. This man's enthusiasm for this method caused my friend to immediately order the training tapes. As he listened, tears welled up in his eyes and he found himself asking, "Jesus, are you really this real?" In June of 1999, my friend, his wife and his son traveled from their home in Texas to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to receive ministry from a lay counselor who was well-trained in Theophostic Prayer Ministry. In the single two-hour session that followed, my friend's son received more help than in the other entire ministry that had preceded it. He explains what happened: "Although the counseling and the antidepressant helped, Jesus was the One who delivered me. Jesus dealt with memories in which the enemy had implanted lies about who Christ was and who I was in Christ. God tore down the enemy's lies and replaced them with His truths. Then, at the end, Jesus delivered me from depression. He completely healed me! Since then, the Lord has been reworking my self-image. I no longer strive to earn His love or the love of others. I now know experiential that the Lord loves me for who I am, not what I do."

It was two months later that my friend sent me a set of the Basic Training Theophostic Ministry audio tapes. I did not listen to them at first, but put them on the shelf along with the many other ministry resources that I would eventually get to. Eight months later as I was preparing to take a four-hour trip from Chiang Mai, Thailand, to the Laotian border on a preaching trip, I decided to survey my shelves for a tape set in order to ease the boredom. High on the top shelf in a plastic case was the set entitled "Theophostic Ministry Basic Training." I dusted off the case and put it in my car and started on my "journey." Soon after I pressed the play button on my tape player, I knew that this was no ordinary series on counseling. Dr. Smith's insight and approach resonated with me at a deep level and kept my interest for the entire eight-hour round trip. I returned to Chiang Mai with a hunger to understand more of this unique approach to inner healing. My first thought upon hearing the tapes was that a psychologist friend of mine, Dr. Esther Wakeman, should hear them as well. Dr. Wakeman is a Fuller School of Psychology graduate and longtime Presbyterian missionary in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai boasts the largest missionary community in the world (around 800). As the only Christian psychologist in the city, Dr. Wakeman was inundated with counseling cases from both missionaries and nationals. She had told her prayer support group just days before I gave her the tapes that her case load was too great and that sessions were going too slowly—she had to find a quicker, more efficient method of ministry. It was at that point she heard the tapes and realized they were an answer to that prayer. Further confirmation was obtained when she used Theophostic Prayer Ministry for the first time and realized that the counselee had received a significant breakthrough to embedded lies in only one session. In the months that followed, Dr. Wakeman trained scores of missionaries in Theophostic Ministry, to the point it was added to the prayer counseling ministry of the local English church in Chiang Mai. Dr. Wakeman has since received Advanced Training in Theophostic Ministry and acts as a mentor to a number of missionaries on the field who are using the method. My wife Paula and I were in the first group trained through the Basic Theophostic video series facilitated by Dr. Wakeman. A basic teaching of Theophostic Ministry is that the counselor should first experience healing himself before he ministers it to others. Through various means, both of us received healing of many of our own wounds, which helped confirm the validity of the approach and gave us more confidence in using it with others. A further confirmation of the effectiveness of the ministry was the amazing outcome of our first experience with Theophostic Ministry using the Thai language.


It began when a formerly Buddhist female Thai believer confided in us during ministry that she was having trouble praying and reading her Bible. As she entered her first painful memory, the tears began to flow, indicating a deep hurt. From that point on, we simply guided her through the painful memory, identified the lie that caused the pain, and then invited Jesus to enter into the memory and apply truth to the lie. Amazingly, Jesus spoke comforting words and replaced her pain with His peace. The next memory was equally horrific and when Jesus appeared to her, she saw herself as a small girl being held by Jesus. The third memory found her on some stairs in deep depression with her head in her hands. Jesus took her face in His hands and she collapsed into His embrace. What amazed us was that after the session, this woman could describe in detail the way the robe of Jesus looked and felt in her hands. The fourth memory was that of an abortion. Jesus stood by the operating table and assured her that the baby was safe with Him in heaven. By this time it was midnight— five continuous hours with only one break! Although exhausted, our Thai friend was rejoicing in her new freedom. We knew it was a complete healing in these specific areas, for when we asked her to revisit the four painful memories; she was able to see herself with Jesus.

The experiences were still in her memory but they were no longer painful; the pain was replaced with peace, calm and repose. Jesus had experientially spoken His comfort and truth to her pain, thus dispelling the lies and bringing resolution.

Throughout the process Paula and I would look at each other in amazement as the "Wonderful Counselor" applied His healing touch. At one point we rose to our feet with our hands held high in spontaneous praise to God. We could honestly give Him all the credit and glory because what happened was certainly not due to our great mastery of a technique (it was our first time ministering to a Thai in the Thai language). The three of us expressed to God great and joyous celebration at the end of the session. Paula and I agreed that in our 20 years in Thailand, we had never seen such a graphic display of Jesus' power to heal as we did in those five hours. Since that time I have had the opportunity to use Theophostic Ministry with over forty people, including missionaries, Thai, and tribals. Many of these sessions have been with Thai nationals who, as Bible College students, have a good cognitive understanding of God and the Bible, but because of the pervasive dysfunctional family lifestyle of many Thai, continue to struggle with wounds from their past. At other times we have seen similar positive results during prayer counseling seminars for church members in the English Church

Theophostic Ministry is not a western or American method of ministry but a supra-cultural approach that allows the healing power of Jesus to release the oppressed, bring sight to the spiritually blind, and give freedom to those imprisoned by Satan's lies, including the people of Thailand.

Additional Article
TPM's Role in Member Care for Missionaries

By Dr. Larry Dinkins

Cultural shock is a common phrase used to describe what many missionaries experience when they first move onto the mission field. However, there are two other “shocks” that many people are unaware of that are just as alarming. The other two “shocks” are language and self-awareness. Over my twenty years in Thailand I have seen missionaries handle the first two (culture and language) fairly well, but self-awareness seemed to hamper cross-cultural workers the most. Language acquisition and cultural adjustment are skills that can be learned and are primarily a reaction to the externals of the environment around you.

Self-awareness shock, however, is the internal triggering process that occurs when one is under unusual stress. The "scum" (i.e. lies), which lay dormant in the comfort of the home country, rises to the surface as one is placed in the furnace of the foreign field. Under such circumstances, one is not surprised to hear of missionaries returning to the home side in "emotional body bags" due to the strong triggering of various lies and wounds from the past.

Far too often, mission work in past ages stressed the urgency of the task over the emotional, psychological, and spiritual well being of the worker. One long-term tribal missionary confided to me, "My mission did not allow wounding." She indicated that the highly regarded missionary was the one who could "grit their teeth" and grind out the ministry amid difficult circumstances, even if inside they were dying. Transparent sharing about struggles and weakness was frowned upon.

Fortunately, in recent years, there has been more of recognition of the need for pastoral care of missionaries. In fact, churches are increasing holding mission agencies accountable for the member care of the people they send out. One agency, which is seeking to minister to the spiritual, emotional and psychological issues of its members, is Heart of God Ministries in Choctaw Oklahoma. HGM specializes in aggressive, missionary training for those who desire to do church-planting among the unreached. At their "Beautiful Feet Boot Camp" they take prospective missionaries through a five-month intensive training program designed to equip missionaries with the skills necessary for cross-cultural church-planting and spiritual warfare. Upon graduation the new missionaries are deployed through HGM or a partner organization. So far HGM has sent
50 missionaries to various unreached people groups.

In February of 2004 I was in Oklahoma and decided to make a brief visit to HGM. I shared with the staff materials I had presented at the TPM International Conference in Minnesota back in November of 2003. The TPM approach especially resonated with one staff member who was discipling a number of young men. He had taken these men through basic psychological screening as well as Neil Anderson's Steps to Freedom, but there were residual personal issues and emotional wounding, which he felt were much deeper. I agreed to help facilitate TPM for their staff and these young men and a weekend in April of 2004 was settled on.

Dr. Ed Smith graciously discounted the materials we would need and sent the
Basic video series to HGM. Before I arrived a group of ten people listened to the tapes and filled out the workbook. Various questions were raised during the training, but the bulk of them were answered in the FAQ section of "Healing Life Deepest Hurts". When I arrived I sensed that the group was eager and willing to put the principles they had learned into practice. I used the first morning to debrief the group on TPM and added further teaching, which related directly to them as prospective missionaries.

At the end of the morning we reviewed how to minister TPM in preparation for the practical application of the approach in the afternoon. One brave young man was picked for the live demonstration in the afternoon. This session (my first to facilitate in front of a group) went very well. It was thrilling to see my "guinea pig" forgetting the group ease-dropping around him as he felt the experiential Jesus minister to a number of hurtful memories. At the end of the session it dawned on him how many deep things were shared which made him wonder how his friends would now relate to him. As a result, I had the whole group address him individually to affirm the healing and their now increased respect for his bravery.

Later, the group paired off and practiced TPM on each other. Having been a trainer my entire career, it always amazes me how "neophytes" in this method can quickly grasp the principles of TPM and minister it effectively. That was not to say that there were no blockages or sticking points that afternoon, but I would say that two-thirds of the group experience significant breakthroughs. More importantly, I sensed that many were beginning to understand principles that would help them to deal with lie-based thinking in the long haul. The ultimate goal is to send new missionaries to the field with much more "shalom" in their lives. Having completed this training does not mean that their personal issues will not be triggered on the field. Anytime you seek to plant the flag of Christ in unreached groups controlled by Satan, you will be buffeted. But my prayer is that as the fiery arrows start to fly and hurts are exposed, that they will run instinctively to the greatest counselor and missionary - Jesus.

Additional Article


Theophostic Ministry in Cross-cultural Contexts

Dr. Larry Dinkins

In its beginning, Theophostic Ministry primarily impacted people holding a monoculture Western worldview (specifically the United States of America). Soon, however, news of the method spread to other countries. As practitioners from diverse ethnic groups applied the Theophostic Ministry principles to their own cultural settings, they quickly confirmed the universal relevance and effectiveness of the approach.

The success of Theophostic Ministry as a cross-cultural tool came as no surprise to those who expected the biblically based therapy to work as well in Mongolia as it did in Minneapolis. They understood that, as human beings, we are all made in the image of God, all share in a fallen world and all have a personal history of woundedness. Wounding occurs in all cultures. Because the Theophostic process is biblically rooted in who we are emotionally and spiritually, it is able to bring freedom in Christ to people in widely disparate contexts. Theophostic Ministry is, in fact, supra-cultural. It is supra-cultural because Jesus, who understands all cultures perfectly, is a supra-cultural healer. He alone knows the essence of people's lies and is able to select the most appropriate way to deliver truth to them. When the "Wonderful Counselor" shows up in a person's memory, the truth He reveals is always personally and culturally appropriate for that person.

Our confidence in the supracultural effectiveness of Theophostic Ministry, however, should not deter us from making this method as accessible as possible in the local context. My work as a missionary in Thailand during the past 20 years has made me aware of how greatly the Thai worldview and values differ from my largely Western viewpoint. I have found these differences to be especially pronounced in Theophostic Ministry sessions where religious, family and cultural values are probed in depth. In translating Theophostic Ministry's counselee's manual into Thai, I realized afresh how challenging it is to communicate Theophostic concepts in an unambiguous way to people of other backgrounds. Thai people come out of a Buddhist/animist background and their understanding of certain words and concepts is very different from the way Westerners perceive them (i.e. there is no word in Thai for guilt). Such limitations underscore the need for ethnic sensitivity on the part of those who administer the Theophostic process in multicultural settings.

Counselor/ministers who become culturally competent are able to direct their ministry sessions in such a way that lies can be more easily identified and removed. As was true of John the Baptist, our role as Theophostic ministers is to "prepare the way," to locate and push aside the cultural rocks and boulders that hinder people from receiving truth from Jesus. In Thailand, for instance, a good understanding of Thai thought patterns and predominant defense mechanisms facilitate this process. The closer the minister can get to the ministry recipient's worldview, the better the process (or method, ministry) works. The wider the gap, the more difficult it is for the people to receive ministry. We may not agree with the worldview of the people we are ministering to, but we can at least attempt to understand how they view life and, with that knowledge, pave their way to lasting healing.

The influence of culture in a counseling/ministry session should never be underestimated. In their book, Counseling the Culturally Diverse, Derald and David Sue state, "Race, ethnicity, and culture are powerful variables in influencing how people think, make decisions, behave, and define events. . . . It is crucial that counselors and therapists understand and can share the worldview of their culturally diverse clients (2003:15,18)." Obviously, the best match between counselor and ministry recipient occurs when both parties share the same culture and language. The next best match happens when a non-native counselor does his/her best to learn and understand the target culture. What we must avoid is entering another cultural setting as "tourist counselors" who drop our professional pearls of advice without attempting to understand the culture and then exit. Such an ethnocentric and insensitive approach to ministry will hamper genuine ministry.

Probably the majority of those who administer the Theophostic process in America do so with people of a similar background. However, as our own culture becomes increasingly diversified and pluralistic, this situation may change. We are no longer a "melting pot" in which ethnic differences are assimilated into the whole. We are fast becoming a "tossed salad" in which ethnic differences are maintained by great numbers of people entering our ports and crossing our borders. This is graphically displayed in my home state of California where 40 percent of the population is foreign-born. As a Caucasian, I relate most readily to those of European descent. However, my Los Angeles neighbors might just as likely be of African, Asian, Indian or Latino descent. Those who offer Theophostic Ministry should anticipate this trend and prepare accordingly.

I have drawn the substance of this article from a series of case studies I conducted in Thailand on 42 clients. Thirty-three clients came from Thai/Chinese/tribal backgrounds, nine from Western countries. Since my studies primarily related to the Thai, many of my conclusions will reflect an Asian perspective. However, the principles underlying my conclusions will be applicable to a broad spectrum of cultures.

Linguistic Issues

While clear communication is important to any ministry, it is especially important in Theophostic Ministry because in Theophostic sessions emotions are "stirred," making nuances of meaning even more difficult to discern. The Thai language, for instance, is a tonal language comprising five tones. What happens during a counseling session could conceivably hinge on the use of, or misuse of, any single tone. So the ideal arrangement would be to have a qualified native speaker lead the session. Less ideal, but also effective, would be to have a counselor who is ethnically acculturated facilitate the process. But if neither a native speaking or acculturated counselor is available and a translator is required, the next best solution would be to use a reliable person who will translate in a clear, truthful manner.

The ideal translator would have experienced Theophostic Ministry him/herself, or would at least be familiar with its principles and terms. I know one counselor in Thailand who ministers through a translator, but studied Thai for a month before beginning ministry in order to gain at least a level of survival Thai. Her ability to at least greet her client and make small talk has been very helpful in building a bridge of trust with her clients. At the beginning of the session it may be necessary to agree on basic definitions of key words. Since most Thai have Buddhist backgrounds, they are likely to interpret words such as sin, shame, lies, soul, or forgiveness differently than Westerners do.

Sometimes facilitators (or counselors?) will be able to use a common language (not the native tongue of the client, but one in which the client is conversant). If the common language is English, the facilitator should simplify his/her speech and avoid clichés or slang. Whenever communicating via a common language, it is helpful to have a native speaker as a second counselor, and if he/she can speak the precise dialect, that is even better. Although I am personally fluent in Thai, I like to have a native Thai with me during ministry. My Thai helper has been invaluable in clarifying various questions that come up.

Role of the Counselor/Minister

In Thai society, respected elders, family members, fortunetellers, shamans and monks handle the counseling role. There are certain expectations for those who give personal advice in the Asian context. In his book, Cross-Cultural Counseling, Art M. van Beek writes, "Asian-Americans in general prefer a counselor who is polite, does not pry into areas that might cause them to feel shameful, and is professional and to the point" (1996:99). This means that if "feeling shameful" is part of the lie, then it must be addressed, but with a soft volume and in a polite manner that maintains a professional aura. It is also important in a "shame culture"—a culture in which shame is synonymous with disgrace—to create a safe environment by assuring the person that the session is confidential. The thought of a personal or family problem being spread to others is not only embarrassing to the person or family but also indicates family failure to the Asian mind.

Room Arrangements

The ministry room needs careful preparation before a session begins. In Thailand it is important to create a hospitable environment by first offering the client an obligatory glass of cool water. Positive additions might be a low table with hot tea and Thai treats along with a box of tissue. In every culture there is a culturally acceptable distance between people who are seated. Sitting too close might be offensive or distracting, but sitting too far away might show aloofness. The best policy is to check with a native to learn the spatial arrangement that is most conducive to effective ministry. In Thailand, the height of chairs is also important. A client would feel uncomfortable if his/her chair happened to be higher than the counselor's. In some cultures, clients expect a desk between themselves and the counselor. Van Beek comments, "Native Americans tend to prefer to have a desk between themselves and the caregiver, something most pastoral care trainers would discourage. The same is true of most Asians" (1996:28). Although I use a table at times, my preference is to have an unobstructed view of the client in order to read non-verbal clues.

Eye Contact

In European cultures, we are used to constant or near-constant eye contact. Thai and Chinese, however, prefer short periods of eye contact followed by eye avoidance. I have noticed that my social position as an "Ajarn" (respected teacher) affects a client's eye contact with me. If a client seems to be avoiding my gaze, I do not take it negatively. I assume he/she is just being polite. Although the person receiving ministry may close his or her eyes for extended periods during the ministry sessions, the counselor/minister should keep his/her eyes open in order to observe any nonverbal clues.

Body Language

As we minister, it is important to remember that over 50 percent of communication is nonverbal. In Thailand, people are often reluctant to verbalize their feelings, and even their nonverbal clues are often subtle and indirect. This means our ability to carefully read nonverbal clues during ministry is critical. For instance, when we probe an area, we may notice the client's head drop a little. Although he/she may be hesitant to verbally share feelings, this small movement may indicate an area of shame that needs further probing. Accurate reading of nonverbal clues is important, because without them we can come to unwarranted conclusions. In Japan, for example, when "…Japanese smile and laugh, it does not necessarily mean happiness but may convey other meanings (embarrassment, discomfort, shyness, etc.)" (Sue and Sue, 2003:128). A similar phenomenon occurs in Thailand, but in that society there are a total of twelve different smiles, all with distinct meanings (Tongtongtavy, 1997:25).


A favorite expression of Dr. Smith is, "If you do not feel, you will not be healed." In the Buddhist context, however, controlling and not expressing one's feelings is viewed as a sign of maturity and expressing them as a sign of weakness; feeling and desires are perceived to be emotions that lead to suffering and thus need to be squelched. Derald and David Sue acknowledge this characteristic; "Asian-American clients who may value restraint of strong feelings and believe that intimate revelations are to be shared only with close friends may cause problems for the counselor who is oriented toward insight or feelings." (2003:144). Daniel Boyd, a counselor in Thailand, adds the following observation:

An area which is difficult is the exploration of feelings. To again drastically simplify Buddhist teaching, I will quote my friend Mr. Gasemo, who said, "The goal is not to be a plus or a minus, but a zero." This means that, for Buddhists, feelings are to be subdued, whether they are feelings of sadness or joy. This is the "middle way". . . . Sometimes I have had clients who would not articulate their feelings, and I felt that this was their reality, that their feelings were so well suppressed that they operated at that ideal zero level. On other occasions I have felt that clients were afraid to admit their feelings to me because this would indicate that they had not achieved the zero level. This I could interpret as a defense, as posturing. But even when feelings are expressed, the language barrier comes into play. Most of the feeling words do not have direct translations. Feelings is a tough area, and I find myself processing this frequently (199:111).

From Boyd's analysis, we find that cultural factors push the Thai towards the ideal of "zero" on the emotional scale. I take this factor into account when ministering to them. Just as patients in a hospital have different "physical pain thresholds," the Thai may have a lower "emotional pain threshold" than people of more emotionally expressive cultures. This means the 4-5 that a Thai registers on a 1-10 emotional scale might be equivalent to an 8-9 in another people group. In fact, one might say that Thai generally begin their ministry sessions with negative readings. Thus, if a minister/counselor tries to "stir up" a Thai client's lie to a 9-10 too quickly, it might overwhelm and confuse him/her. Fortunately, in Theophostic Ministry the intensity of a client's emotions is not as important as being able to follow the emotions to the lie-based thinking in the memory that is causing his/her pain.

As Westerners, we tend to label our Asian clients' reluctance to share their feelings as defense mechanisms, while the underlying reason for their hesitancy may actually be more cultural than willful. Sue and Sue confirm this observation, "Unenlightened therapists may assume their Asian-American client is lacking in feelings or out of touch with them" (Sue and Sue, 2003:129). This means the minister must be able to discern the difference between actual defense mechanisms and merely cultural traits. The Thai I have worked with have proved surprisingly emotional when I have built a bridge of trust with them that allows them to expose their lies.

When counselors cannot achieve direct access to their client's feelings, there are a couple of approaches they can try. Appealing to a client's sense of family may help. Asian parents want to do what is right for their children and posterity. One way to tap into their feelings is to remind them of the negative repercussions that can pass down to their children and grandchildren if they fail to deal with their own wounding. Showing them the biblical basis of this cause and effect sequence may help them become willing to open their hearts and cooperate. A second approach uses the close connection that Asians feel between the mind and body. Sue and Sue explain, "Instead of talking about anxiety and depression, the mental health professional will often hear complaints involving headaches, fatigue, restlessness, and disturbances in sleep and appetite" (2003:334). As they mention these physical factors, the counselor can move to the feelings underlying them by asking, "How does ____ affect your moods and relationships?" The feelings connected to be physical complaint may lead directly to a root lie.

Personal History and Checklists

When ministering in a cross-cultural context, counselors should spend more time in recording personal histories and filling out checklists of potential issues. I often use a simple two-axis chart to trace the client's positive and negative turning points in life. Clients enjoy telling their life stories and in the process reveal potential areas of concern. (While this exercise exposes their presenting problems, I am primarily interested in learning what happened to them during their formative years.) I also use a culturally sensitive checklist that allows my clients to record their involvement in such categories as idolatry, the occult, sexual sins, addictions, rebellion, fear, anger, violent acts, etc. I suggest the client mark an "F" or "P" before relevant topics to indicate either familial or personal involvement. The subtopics under these headings often reflect distinctively Thai sins, strongholds, demonic involvements, or wounds.

When I began ministering Theophostic in Thailand, I translated the 200 plus words on the TPM Emotional Identification Sheet into Thai. I soon found, however, that a condensed list of typical Thai emotions was more effective in helping my Thai clients identify their feelings. I now ask my clients to identify the ten emotions that resonate most strongly with them, have them reduce that number down to three key emotions, and use these three emotions as the starting point in my ministry sessions. While Dr. Smith lists eight categories of lies in the Lie/Emotional Identification Sheet, I have noticed that four categories crop up with great regularity when ministering to Thai. They are shame, tainted ness, invalidation, and powerlessness.

As was discussed earlier, counselor and client in cross-cultural settings may need to agree on definitions of essential terms before the session begins. I might ask them how they define words such as shame, sin, guilt, soul, spirit, lies, and wounds to mean. Otherwise, an untaught Thai believer could think the Thai word we use for spirit, "Phi" (ghost in Thai), is a departed ancestor or relative who may return to disturb them. A brief overview of demonology may also be helpful before ministering in that area.

Although the client may have read the counselee's manual, it is still a good idea to review the basic Theophostic principles before ministry begins. Because counseling/ministry is an unfamiliar concept to many Asians, they need to be reassured of what will happen during the session. The groundwork laid by the facilitator at the outset will pay dividends later on as trust builds and the client responds more openly to Jesus' probing light.

Group Counseling/ministry

Thai people enjoy doing things as a group. The individualistic, one-on-one approach of the Western mindset is sometimes intimidating to them. We have found it effective to have a group of around 20 to 30 Thai come to a retreat center for five days of teaching/counseling/ministry. For the first two or three days we teach them inner healing principles from the scriptures and worship together. The Holy Spirit uses this time to pinpoint painful areas in their lives they can ask prayer for during the individual ministry sessions, which are offered days three to five. This retreat format is also useful in training future facilitators, since there is a lead counselor, a second counselor and an observer at each individual ministry session. As soon as a person has received ministry, he/she can then be included in ministry as an observer. The Thai are much more open and responsive to individual ministry after having participated in larger group settings.

Sexual Issues

Ed Smith believes that "…somewhere around 50 percent of the female population in America has been sexually wounded in some form or fashion" (Smith, 25). In my case studies of Thai women, I found the figure closer to 75 percent. The Thai sex industry has been clearly documented and is known the world over. Cases of incest, fathers with minor wives, abuse, prostitution and homosexual relationships were common in my studies. At one point I counseled with two upper-level Bible school students who were planning to get married. The woman had been raised in a brothel, which her mother ran, and the man had been a male prostitute. Although believers and biblically trained, they had never investigated these personal issues in a counseling/ministry setting. As with many others in my studies, the entrance of God's light was dramatic after their shame barriers were finally broken and they were willing to feel the pain of their repressed lies. Both students had experienced an absence of physical touch on the part of parents (especially fathers), and when they were touched, it was most often inappropriate touching. When Jesus brought truth to these painful memories, He met them with His embrace as well. While Thai are more hesitant to express their emotions than we are in the West, they are also more open to the spiritual realm. When they finally catch on to the idea of Jesus experientially entering into their pain, the dams in their hearts burst open, releasing a flood of suppressed emotions.


Do ask for explanations — "Please explain what you mean by ____" should be a frequent statement.

Do be unshockable — be prepared for both culture and counseling shock when working cross-culturally.

Do familiarize yourself with biblical texts that have special meaning for the target group.

Do familiarize yourself with culture-related phobias — certain cultures have a propensity for certain dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors.

Do broaden your contact with people of other cultures — become aware of other worldviews and values. Attend cultural events and activities of your target culture.

Do pray at the beginning and end of each session.


Don't take anything for granted or make quick assumptions — patterns of behavior in other cultures may be very different from the one you are used to.

Don't label or categorize too quickly — it is easy to stereotype or over generalize.

Don't get sidetracked by superfluous questions about a person's cultural background — the aim is to gain insight, not satisfy your curiosity or debate them about relative moralities.

Don't assume that people will follow preconceived cultural trends — there are always exceptions within groups. Try to understand the general characteristics of the group, but don't hold rigidly to preconceived notions. Treat the whole person whether or not he/she fits into the expected cultural norms.

Don't take excessive notes — the most relevant notes are those which help identify the lie.

Time considerations

In the West we are time conscious, but the Thai (and many other peoples) are event conscious. A ministry session here often lasts an hour or an hour-and-a-half. However, I have found that most sessions in Thailand last around two hours (about the limit of my stamina). Yet, when necessary I have extended the session much longer in order to show the client I am committed to helping him/her.


...The Thai believe in a complex world of good and bad spirits, both of which effect life's circumstances, and are taught to fear, appease and placate evil spirits rather than take authority over them. Their "dark rooms" are cluttered with cultural, religious and emotional lies. The rats (demons) that surround the garbage (lies) that accumulates in Thai lives seem to be "bigger and bolder" than in the West, where they tend to exert their influence in a more subtle fashion... One needs to be aware cultural sensibilities when dealing with this topic. There may be bonds and agreements made with other people that need to be broken though identifying the lies that hold them in place. Theperson needs to understand that what needs to be broken is the lie-based belief and willful choices made that lies behind the soul-tie and not necessarily the relationship with the person. Also, if necessary, seemingly innocent religious paraphernalia need to be identified and removed due to the beliefs held by the person concerning these items. I knew a Thai believer who evidenced strong demonic oppression while wearing an amulet she thought was an innocent necklace. There is much to be aware of in the area of the demonic, but it should not divert our attention from the main goal, which is waste management (lies). When the garbage is removed, the rats lose their occupation rights.

Intergenerational Issues

Derald and David Sue identify three levels of acculturation that occur as Asians are confronted with Western culture—traditionalist, marginal person and Asian-American (2003:231). The traditionalist clings to the old cultural beliefs and is often found in first generation immigrants. The marginal person is in transition and is weighing out the respective benefits of both the old and new cultures. The Asian-American has made many adjustments and feels basically at home in the new culture. In ministering to people from other cultures, it is helpful to know how acculturated they are to Western thought. How far generationally are they removed from the culture of the country of their origin? The issues that arise as succeeding generations accept new worldviews can be huge and thus need to be taken into account.


Although Theophostic Ministry was developed in an American context, it has spread around the globe. What needs to happen now is to learn how to apply the powerful process to other ethnic groups, both here and abroad, in culturally relevant ways. Not only do missionaries need to be culturally sensitive when using Theophostic Ministry, but also counselor/ministers on the home front, who will increasingly encounter clients from different backgrounds and worldviews. Paul's goal as an evangelist, "I have become all things to all men in order to win some" (! Corinthians 9:22), should also be the goal of those of us who are in inner healing ministries.

I trust that my research has served as a graphic reminder that Theophostic Ministry is a basic framework for ministry, not a straight jacket counselors must strap themselves into. It is more of a set of principles than ironclad rules or inflexible steps. The future global effectiveness of Theophostic Ministry will in large part depend on our ability to adjust the approach to the local context while maintaining an uncompromising commitment to the core principles.

Beyond Tolerable Recovery, Edward W. Smith, Alathia Publishing, Campbellsville, Kentucky, 2000

Counseling the Culturally Diverse 4th Edition, Derald Wing Sue and David Sue, John Wiley and Sons, Inc. New York 2003

Cross-Cultural Counseling, Art M. van Beek, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota 1996

Pastoral Counseling in a Global Church edited by Robert J. Wicks and Barry K. Estadt, "Thailand" by Daniel Boyd, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York 1993

Working with the Thai: a Guide to Managing in Thailand, Suchada Tangtongtavy, White Lotus Co., Ltd., Bangkok, Thailand 1997

This article was written by an author that is not affiliated with Theophostic Prayer Ministry. Therefore his or her views and findings do not necessarily represent the teachings of this ministry. The official teaching of TPM can be found in the Basic Training Seminar Manual. It is from this manual that all other publications, articles and media is to be evaluated.

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