Mission video leads to surprise reunion

by Lonnie Wilkey/Baptist and Reflector, posted Monday, November 19, 2018 (25 days ago)

Estriberto Britton ( left) and Thi Mitsamphanh experienced a surprise reunion during Tennessee Baptist Mission Board’s Summit at West Jackson Baptist Church last week. Britton was the camp pastor when Mitsamphanh gave his life to Christ at the age of 13. Mitsamphanh was featured in a WinTN video during the convention’s Summit.
Photo by Chris Turner
JACKSON, Tenn. (BP) -- In 1995, 13-year-old Thi Mitsamphanh was attending All Nations Camp at Linden Valley Baptist Conference Center, sponsored by the Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention (now the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board).

During the week, he heard a sermon from the camp pastor that literally changed his life. But all he could remember later was that the children at camp called him "Uncle Estri."

Mitsamphanh recalled that during that time he was trying to find meaning in life. "At that camp, a man preached a message of hope, forgiveness and life found only in relationship with God through His son, Jesus."

He noted that message "resonated deep within my heart and I surrendered my life to God."

Mitsamphanh always remembered the pastor but never saw him again and attempts to find him failed.

"The decision at age 13 to follow Jesus proved to be pivotal," said Mitsamphanh who was featured on a WinTN video during the 2018 Tennessee Baptist Mission Board's Summit in Jackson, Nov. 11-14. 

"The years went by and I grew in my faith and love for Jesus," he noted. "I committed my life to serve Jesus and God used me as a church planter and pastor."

Mitsamphanh, who came to the Nashville area when he was 4 years old with his parents from Laos, later went to college and seminary and started the International Baptist Church in Memphis in 2007 where he served for 10 years before returning to the Nashville area more than a year ago to become pastor of International Community Church, Smyrna.

Earlier this summer, Mitsamphanh and his wife went to Bangkok, Thailand, to visit his brother. While he was there, he felt God calling him to Thailand to serve. He knew that LifePoint Church in Smyrna had planted a church in Bangkok and that the church there had been without a pastor for more than a year. One thing led to another, and Mitsamphanh was called to be the teaching pastor at the Bangkok campus, beginning in January.

Mitsamphanh's story about camp was mentioned during the video testimony at the Summit. Estriberto Britton, a member of Tulip Grove Baptist Church, Old Hickory, and a former staff member of the Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Board, was sitting in the balcony when the story was shared.

"The video came on and I started weeping," Britton told the Baptist and Reflector. "I knew there was a connection."

Later in the exhibit area at West Jackson Baptist Church, Britton saw Mitsamphanh. He walked over to him and asked, "Are you Thi? I am Estriberto Britton. He jumped up and hugged me and we both wept."

Britton said the experience was so emotional. "God works in mysterious ways. I had no earthly idea that he had given his life to Christ while I was camp pastor that week."

Mitsamphanh said he, too, was overwhelmed with emotion when he met Britton. "I told him, 'I've been looking for you since I was 13.' God is good."

The church planter and pastor will be leaving the U.S. soon for a new experience in Thailand, but he accomplished one thing before he leaves that he had been looking forward to for a long time -- a long overdue reunion with "Uncle Estri."

Britton added, "It's amazing at what God has done. To Him be the glory. I am privileged to be a part of it."

Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
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