Southern New England Conference mission team with local Lao team members clean teeth for needy people in Laos.
Eight years ago, Jonathan Nino, pastor of the Gardner and Fitchburg SDA churches in Massachusetts, and his wife, Gina, saw the great needs among the people in Laos. A vision to go to meet those spiritual, mental and physical needs grew and they established an organization called Oon Jai, or Warm Heart.
Recently, Nino traveled with four people from the Southern New England Conference to work with 11 local Lao team members in providing 143 dental cleanings and a little over 1,000 pairs of reading glasses to refugees needing them.
Oon Jai is a registered business in Laos, a Communist country where religious persecution is still experienced.
“Over 97% of the country has not yet heard the sound of the Word of God,” Nino said.
Nino said Oon Jai works with local churches and local chiefs to bring its programs to villages, creating and strengthening bonds between the two groups.
“The whole goal of our short-term missions is to be able to support the churches that are still there,” Nino said. “We become a bridge between the community and the church.”
He said because the chiefs see Oon Jai as a business, they have no problem with them coming in to provide services to the village.
“The one looking good is not the church, it’s the chief,” said Nino.
In addition to its dental and reading glasses programs, Oon Jai also runs a farm and center of influence with one of the only vegan restaurants in the area, Oon Jai Marketplace. There is also a small English language school that operates on Sundays.
Nino said over 80% of Laos is farmland and many farmers that do come to know God end up losing their jobs because they want to be faithful to Him and keeping the Sabbath. Oon Jai’s farm employs and provides for some of them.
The English language school is permitted to operate every day during July when Nino takes another group to help. He said they hold a Vacation English School with games and activities to integrate the children into the English language as well as to provide food for their families in the afternoon.
For more information or to learn how to volunteer, visit www.oonjai.org.