Thai in United States

Photo Source:  Deepak Meena - Pixabay 
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People Name: Thai
Country: United States
10/40 Window: No
Population: 232,000
World Population: 24,271,000
Primary Language: Thai
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Christian Adherents: 0.50 %
Evangelicals: 0.20 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Thai
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Most of the Thai who arrived in the US did so in the 1970s and 1980s. This was the same time many peoples were coming from other parts of Southeast Asian. Thai people live in over 30 nations of the world. Most come to the USA seeking better economic opportunities and a better life for their children.

The Central Thai people who live in the US are mainly in California, especially Greater Los Angeles. However, there are also many Thais who reside in New York City and Houston.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Thai cuisine is noted throughout the world for spicy curries. Some Thais who come to the West open restaurants. Others own and run jewelry stores, beauty parlors and markets. One cannot say that the Thai have a specific kind of work in the United States. Some work in medicine, trade and retail while many work in factories, especially the ones who have arrived more recently. Many Thai young people come temporarily to study at universities and decide to stay.

Thai families in the USA must find a balance between maintaining their traditional Buddhist culture and fitting into a modern, secular society like the USA. Many young people prefer to speak English and no longer go to Buddhist temples with their parents and grandparents. Many young Thais marry outside the Thai community. The children of these marriages often do not identify with being Thai.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Though the Thai are flexible enough to marry outside their culture, they identify as being Buddhist. It is very difficult to get a Thai person to get beyond the belief that "to be Thai is to be Buddhist," no matter where they live. Buddhists frequently have a difficult time understanding the concepts of individual sin and a righteous, personal God.

The large majority of Thai people practice Buddhism, the major world religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha, who lived in the 6th and 5th century BC in ancient India. The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths by which one can gain spiritual knowledge and escape the endless cycles of reincarnation. Theravada, one of the two major branches of Buddhism, declares that by following the Noble Eightfold Path of right intentions and right actions that a Buddhist can achieve nirvana or a state of freedom and salvation.

To most Buddhists, however, these things have far less meaning than their traditional beliefs, which are usually animistic. In animism, evil spirits must be appeased through prayers, sacrifices and rituals. Buddhism allows people to mix Buddhist teachings with traditional religion.

Two of the important Buddhist yearly holidays are Vesak, the Buddha's birthday celebrated in May or June and Bodhi Day, the holiday in December or January which commemorates the day that the historical Buddha experienced enlightenment under a Bodhi tree.

In all the Thai communities across the world, only a tiny fraction claims to be followers of Jesus Christ. Many Christian resources are available in the Thai language including a complete Bible and the JESUS Film.

What Are Their Needs?

Newly arrived Thai people need help in finding a place to live, improving their English and finding a job. Their children need to be enrolled in school. American Christians can help Thais in these activities. Most of all, the Thai people must hear and respond to the claims of Jesus Christ. He alone can forgive their sins and give them eternal life.

Prayer Points

Pray for the few Thai believers to be bold, and loving in their witness to their Buddhist family members and friends.

Pray for American churches to reach out and share the gospel with American Thai people.

Pray for a movement to Christ among the Thai in the United States that will result in many new believers starting culturally-sensitive fellowships in Thailand.

Pray that Thai would have a desire to read and study the Bible.

Text Source:   Joshua Project