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Confessions of faith: Kannika Killion

A new Christian is excited to learn more about God’s Word and grow in her faith.

Growing up in a predominantly Buddhist country, Kannika Killion did not imagine she’d be living in the United States or attending a Christian church. But God led her from her home in Thailand to Joplin, Missouri, where she found a WELS church—and answers to her questions.

Thai woman and 2 small girls with birthday cake
Kannika Killion celebrating with the children of members at The Vine, Joplin, Mo.

A world away

Kannika is originally from Pathum Thani, Thailand, a little town near Bangkok. She grew up in a very traditional household, and she says younger generations didn’t usually voice their opinions or ask a lot of questions of their elders, especially when it came to religion. Like most Thai people, Kannika and her family were Buddhist. She remembers going to the temple, talking to the monk, and praying to the statue of Buddha. She says she never quite understood why she was supposed to pray to a statue. “I just couldn’t get it out of my mind,” she says. “I want to know what for and how come?”

She says there were also restrictive rules to follow, like not eating after mid-day. “I just don’t understand why you can’t,” she says. “When I asked the elders, they couldn’t give a good explanation. And when you start to speak out, you get in trouble. They say, ‘You don’t believe it? You don’t believe us?’ ” So Kannika continued going through the motions out of respect for her elders, but her questions remained. “I guess you could say I was religion-less,” she says. “I just wasn’t into it.”

Sidebar about KannikaWhen Kannika was older, she worked at a rental company in the airport. It was there she met her future husband, Dana, a Seattle native who was visiting Thailand for a couple of years. During one of his trips, Dana got stuck at the airport, and he and Kannika got to know each other. “We got along so well,” Kannika says. Before long Dana met Kannika’s family, and the two were married. They ended up moving back to the United States to be with Dana’s family.

The Killions stayed in Seattle for a year before deciding to move to a more affordable city. They did some research and after finding a great house online, they decided to head to Missouri. Kannika says it seemed kind of random at the time, but it was all part of God’s plan.

Finding a church home

When the Killions arrived in Missouri, they didn’t attend church for several years. But that all changed a little over a year ago when Kannika’s coworker and neighbor Katlin Owens invited her to a Bible study at The Vine, a new mission start-up in Joplin.

“One day Katlin said to me, ‘Hey KK, you should come to our Bible study! Come check it out. It’s gonna be so much fun.’ ” Kannika agreed, primarily because she wanted to support her friend. But she says she was also curious. “I am the kind of person that I wondered what is this for,” she says. “It was interesting the way the pastor talked. It caught my attention. I just want to learn more. Where I came from, religion was more restricted. When I learned about the Bible, I thought it was so much fun.”

Thai woman is baptized and family posing for photo
Kannika Killion was baptized at The Vine, Joplin, Mo., in January. (Right): Participants were all smiles following the baptism. Left to right: Pastor Jordan Bence, church members Matt and Katlin Owens and their children, Kannika Killion, and friends of the church Evan and Lauren Young.

While she was attending the six-month Bible Basics class, Kannika says one of the first things that made an impression on her was the Creation story and learning how the earth was made. She also found herself thinking a lot about sin. “I thought I was doing so good in my life. I never thought that we all are born sinners. It makes you live life thinking we are not perfect. It opens my eyes, like who am I to judge other people? It has made me be more kind toward others.”

Sidebar with zooming callKannika also appreciates being able to ask questions. “One thing I like about Christianity: you can talk, you can find answers, you can discuss.”

She says Jordan Bence, pastor at The Vine, is good at teaching and explaining things. “He is always such a helpful person,” says Kannika. “For me, I started at Bible 101, at ground zero. He has so much patience to explain to me. He is smart and really cares about you.”

Kannika says that the other members she’s met at The Vine are just as helpful and caring. “Everybody is so nice, everybody wants to participate when we have events going on, everybody is just hands-on,” she says. “They welcome you no matter what, and they are so excited to talk to you. When I show up, they say, ‘Hey KK, how are you doing?’ They always care, and everyone seems so happy.”

While Kannika was taking Bible Basics, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but that didn’t stop the group from meeting. Church services were livestreamed, and Bible classes continued online. After Kannika finished the class, Pastor Bence asked her if she had thought about getting baptized; she said yes. Pandemic restrictions pushed the date back several times, but on Jan. 13, 2021, Kannika was welcomed into God’s family. “It was a very good day for me. All my sins were washed away!” she says.

Although she’s come a long way in the past year, Kannika says she’s “still a baby” when it comes to knowing the Bible, and she can’t wait to learn more. “I’m just eager to have my questions answered and people explain to me more,” she says. Kannika also hopes her story will encourage others to keep learning and growing in their faith. “One thing I want to share: When you start learning, it makes you want to know more,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to make the first step to start. If you pay attention and learn, your eyes will open, and it will make your life all about what Jesus has done for us.”

And that knowledge brings comfort and peace. “It’s like Pastor Bence always tells me, ‘Hey KK, Jesus will always be with you. You don’t have to be the smartest and know every word in the Bible,’ ” says Kannika. “My heart is feeling bigger; it makes me feel so good that Jesus will always be here with me and he always has my back at all times.”

Read more stories from home mission congregations at

Author: Alicia Neumann
Volume 108, Number 4
Issue: April 2021

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