Mike and Bee Arter serve as Foursquare Missions International (FMI) missionaries to Mae Sot, Thailand, located in the westernmost part of the country where the Asian Highway links Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). Known as “Little Burma,” Mae Sot borders Myanmar and has the largest population of Myanmar people living outside the country. The couple has two young daughters.
Traders from countries such as India, Malaysia and China intermingle with the Thai population in Mae Sot, giving the town a reputation as one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse communities in Thailand.
How did you end up as a missionary in Thailand, and what do you love about the country and the people?
Mike: I grew up in The Foursquare Church. I am the son of two retired Foursquare pastors, Donald and Sally Arter. I also served for over 12 years in the U.S. military, which prepared me for serving on the mission field, adapting and learning quickly about cultures, and blending in to new environments.
I attended the Foursquare WorldBase Field Ministry School in Bangkok in 2004, and then returned to Bangkok for a semester abroad in 2005. After graduating from Life Pacific College (also called LIFE Bible College) in December 2006, I asked the Lord for just two weeks to say goodbye to my friends and family, and then I moved permanently to serve in Thailand before the start of 2007.
I love the beauty of God’s creation in Thailand. I also love Thai values that promote a deep love and respect for family. Young people are motived to hard work, not because they want a nice house or material wealth, but because they want to support their families.
My heart for Mae Sot is to see spiritual and emotional healing in the young people. The youth in Thailand are searching for love and acceptance in many wrong places, which causes terrible future repercussions in their lives. I long to see young people give their lives to Jesus Christ and experience the power of our one true God and His Son, Jesus Christ. I believe that the general population of Mae Sot will come to know the Lord through the younger generation.
What are some of the spiritual challenges you encounter in Thailand?
Mike: Thailand is 94.6 percent Buddhist. The Thai people wear amulets around their necks to ward off bad karma, and they rely on many idols and gods to promote their success. They believe that all fortune and misfortune are related to their own good and bad deeds in this life or in a previous life.
Thai people seek merit by giving food to monks and going to temples to offer flowers, money and food. The Thai people live in a spiritual realm where they must bow to idols and ask permission to pass along the street. Being Thai is equated to being Buddhist, and to separate from Buddhism means that one is not a true Thai.
Another challenge comes from the prevalence of sex trafficking. There are many sewing factories here in Mae Sot, and most of the factories employ young women who cross the border into Thailand looking for work. Sex trafficking is a real and significant problem along the border. Many young women cross the border looking for work and are coerced into a van and relocated throughout Thailand to work in sex shops. Many girls, as young as 12 years old, begin prostituting themselves so they can afford fashionable clothes.
What is your primary role and responsibility?
Mike: My primary role is to serve the local Foursquare church. I help disciple and train youth in outreach and evangelism. I will also assist in the teaching at the Bible training center that will open next year.
I currently work in several local schools as an English conversation teacher. Through teaching English in the local school, I am able to learn more about the youth in Mae Sot and understand their struggles and challenges. This helps me connect and bring encouragement to young people and make the love of God more personal when I am given opportunities to pray with them either in school, in the classroom or at our youth center.
Are there short-term missions opportunities or other ways people can partner with what you are doing?
Mike: Short-term missions teams that have come to help build the Elpis refugee school, now teaching over 400 refugees from Myanmar, have blessed us. We need people who are willing to come and teach at the school to improve students’ English-speaking skills. We will need people—either short-term or long-term—to come and teach at the Bible training center, to raise up leaders for evangelism and church planting. We need people who are willing to come and invest in our youth group as well as engage in outreach evangelism in Mae Sot.
Additionally, there are open doors for reaching into the local schools through “English camps.” The camps are two- or three-day events at local schools. Activities include playing games, sharing the love of Jesus, teaching songs and building self-esteem in young children.
There are also opportunities for teams to come and assist in mercy ministry by giving out blankets and other needed items to the hill tribes, as well as praying for the sick.
We also need special funding to cover travel expenses and supplies to our hill tribes. The average cost of travel is between $1,000 and $1,200, which covers fuel cost and supplies to bless the people in the hill tribes, as well as food and shelter for the team. Currently we are only able to visit once or twice per year. There are still many hill tribes that have not yet heard the gospel.
Another way to help is by sponsoring Thai students and future Foursquare leaders who want to attend our Bible training center. The cost is about $60 per month to cover food, utilities and training materials. The sponsors are connected with the students through letters and photos, and become a vital part of their future ministries.
Bee and I would like to thank all of those who have been giving and supporting us through your prayers and your finances. We thank God for each of you, and we believe in the power of prayer. God moves when His people pray!
How to Pray for the Arters
- Pray for their family and for all missionaries serving in Thailand to have strength, health and an anointing in power from the Holy Spirit.
- Pray for resourcing for more teachers at the Elpis refugee school, which is a branch of ministry out of the Foursquare church in Mae Sot.
- Pray for the young people in Mae Sot to open their hearts to receive Jesus Christ and for deliverance from alcohol, drugs and other issues.
- Pray for provision to purchase land to build a youth center.
How You Can Bless the Arters
In addition to donating to the Arters and their ministry efforts, you can send a letter or a note of encouragement, or even a gift on a holiday. To send correspondence to Mike and Bee, email them, or write to them at the following address:
Mike and Bee Arter
P.O. Box 47
Mae Sot, Thailand 63110
By: Amy Swanson, a pastor’s wife and director of women’s ministry at New Life Church (Santa Barbara Foursquare Church) in Santa Barbara, Calif.