An Evening at Pattaya’s Newest Church

“While there’s a large number of Scandinavian living in Pattaya and Rayong, there’s no center for them to get together”, Helde Sirnes openly says to ScandMedia.
         “Pattaya is already home to 1000 Scandinavian expatriates most of whom are married to Thai partners with nearly one thousand half-Thai children.  Besides, over 4000 Norwegians visit Pattaya on holiday during November-March.  Definitely, there’s huge demand for a service center, a kind of place where they all meet and come to whenever they are in need”, says Hilde.
         The regular church service is scheduled at 5pm on the 2nd and 4th week of the month and normally 50 people or more show up. However for the bigger event such as Easter holiday, 150 people have joined and 250 people came on the Christmas day.
         Beside the regular services, the church also functions as a social club serving Scandinavian community.
         “We need to establish all kind of services our community need.  We organize social evening for adult, a learning group like book reading for kids, a children playground, a children choir  and soon we will have cooking class for the Thai partners who want to learn how to cook Norwegian food.”
         Since opening in October, the church has conducted several marriage ceremonies.  Getting married in Thailand is cheaper than elsewhere.
         “Norwegian couples fly to Thailand to get married. We have over 600 couples each year.  We want to promote Pattaya as a perfect place to live. In Norway, people are more interested in the dark side of Pattaya while in fact there are so many good things about Pattaya that people haven’t seen.  Most of people we know are good and they have great lives here”, Hilde reveals.
         “I believe it is very important to know that someone is out there helping you whenever you need. Scope of our services is almost everything ranging from immigration, health and business, legal and so on.  We will connect them to the right people who can be of help”, Hilde explains.
         One good thing about Pattaya is that there are many Norwegian pensioners mostly tourists spending about three months or more and that has made life at the church a lot different from the Swedish church in Bangkok where most of the church-goers have quite busy lives.
         “Long-staying tourists spend more time in Pattaya, meaning they have more time to come to the church, more time to participate and more time to get involved in our activities. 
         Recently, we have accepted two intern students from Norway.  They have been doing great jobs for us.  The church is just the right place for them to learn all kind of social work especially they can team up with a group call “Be a patient’s friend” giving help to people in the hospital or in jail or whoever in need.  In the future I hope to have more interns from Denmark, Sweden and Finland so that we can serve the entire eastern Scandinavian society”, Hilde says.
         Back in June, three Norwegian famous painters, Kjell Pahr-Iversen, Alfred Vaagsvold, and Berit Marie Friestad have showcased their art in Bangkok. The event went very well and soon after the exhibition, all of the artworks were given to Pattaya church as contribution of the artists.  “Any interested person who wants to buy the paintings can purchase from us and income will be used for the church’s activities”.
         Even the church expenses are subsidized by Norwegian government, sponsorships are openly welcome.
         “We always need budget so that we can keep our mission running without any interruption.  Our main income at the moment comes from weddings but we still need a lot more to cover running expenses especially as we are new here.”
         “There’re so many things needed to be done and with your contribution, we will make things happen until we can facilitate our community with full scale of services”, Hilde says.
Recently, the church organized mini jazz concert, performed by a Norwegian pianist who is also the music teacher of Bangkok Pattana School together with his wife and a Thai saxophonist from Bangkok Connection.  Over 70 people have shown up that evening.  Obviously, this has shown an evidence of growing bigger of the church and stronger of the Norwegian community in years to come. 
         The church located on Tuppraya Soi 5 tel: +(661) 820 1645.  Fax: +(663) 836 4716.

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