The time has gone so quickly since we wrote our last blog, thank you for your patience. Our first Home Assignment in the UK, has also gone by in such a flash.
It was great to see our family and friends and also visit so many churches. We did about 19 speaking engagements, clocked up over 3,ooo miles visiting churches mostly in the South of England from Bristol – Norfolk and stayed in numerous houses.
We were blessed & greatly overwhelmed by the wonderful hospitality we received. It was great to see and meet up again with some churches we got to visit before we first came to Thailand, but also extra special connecting with some new churches and building some lovely friendships. We would like to say a big thank you to you all, you made us feel so loved & welcome.
It was strange coming back to the UK after being away for almost 2 years, it did take us a number of weeks to re-adjust to the British temperature, which was much cooler when we arrived in the early part of May and we had a few alien moments adjusting to the British culture again! Somehow, we both struggled to eat with a knife & fork, preferring the Thai way of using a spoon & fork! Some of you noticed this and was very accommodating to our needs.
We got to celebrate Sarah’s Mum’s 70th Birthday a few days after we arrived. We were kindly given national heritage member cards, so we managed to take the timeout on a few days, to visit the beautiful and breath taking surrounding of quite a few British national heritage manor houses. Including for our wedding anniversary visiting the Thai restaurant in Windsor where we had our first date! Topped off with seeing War Horse at the New London Theatre for Sarah’s birthday. England has some spectacular locations, scenery, theatre, manor houses and it was all made even better with the lovely weather that kicked in while we there. We really did enjoy our time in the UK.
We left the sunny isles of the UK (leaving you all basking in glorious sunshine) on Tuesday 15 July. Even though we enjoyed our time in the UK, coming back to Thailand, felt so much like home. As we stepped into our apartment the feeling of home just engulfed us, it was quite emotional.
We have come back to Thailand’s humid torrential rainy season, the large group of frogs that bellow joyfully after a heavy rainfall, Bangkok’s gridlock traffic, the howling serenade from the stray dogs at night, loud Thai voices and the consistent all day into the wee hours of the night, banging of drums from the students over at the university behind us – it is a large cacophony of sounds… but we would not have it any other way!
We have been spending the last few weeks getting back into a routine and took a much needed break before going back to work at NightLight. We had the wonderful opportunity to visit Hong Kong for 1 week; a great lively city with lots to do. With accommodation being expensive in HK, according to our budget we stayed in what can only be described as the smallest room for 2 people ever! It didn’t spoil our time though. We managed to pack lots in, even with time out at 2 beaches.
The highlight was visiting ‘Kowloon Walled City Park’ – ‘Kowloon Walled City’, where some of you might know that British born Jackie Pullinger (author of Chasing the Dragon) began her ministry, ministering to the many drug addicts, Triad gangs, homeless & prostitutes via her charity the St Stephen’s Society for many years. Many of these people & Triad gang members are now believers or Pastor’s. It was a great reminder of the work we do with NightLight and continued insight into God’s great grace and redemption for all.
On our return to work, we were warmly greeted and welcomed back with open arms. We missed the women at NightLight so much and we spent much of our first day back, catching up with many of them. Sarah also went straight back into teaching baking on her first day and was super proud to hear about the continued achievements that the baking team have been doing in her absence. It is great to be home and we are ready for the next chapter in our journey.
Next week Tuesday 12 August is Mother’s Day in Thailand, it is a day that is highly revered as it also falls on the same day as the Queen of Thailand’s Birthday. It is celebrated with a 2 day public holiday on Monday 11 August & Tuesday 12 August, giving many Thais the opportunity to go home to visit their Mother’s for an extended weekend. On Friday 8 August NightLight will be giving out gifts to the many Mother’s that work in Nana’s red light district. Please pray that the gifts will be well received and for the conversations that take place.
Please join us in:
Thanking God for –
- Our time in the UK on Home Assignment. The precious time we spent with our family & friends and the many churches we visited.
- Our safe arrival back in Thailand.
- The holiday that we had before going back to work
Please pray for -
- This next stage of our journey, as we undertake various projects & continued outreach. Paul will be starting to teach Bass lessons to the ladies in Thai, pray that he will be confident to use the language and for the women that will attend the lessons. Pray as Paul continues to do the financial reports for NightLight. Sarah will be continuing to teach baking, write grant proposals for the project and begin the process of looking for possible locations for the baking project to operate from, please pray for the baking team that their motivation to move forward with the project continues.
- For an increase in jewellery, t-shirt & flower sales, so the process of paying the women’s salaries and benefits continue.
- For Sarah’s Mum’s health – Her Mum has Parkinson’s, pray for her mobility and for the care she receives. She has recently been in hospital for physio rehabilitation and other health issues.
- For our health, strength & emotional well being.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)
Please click here and on the ‘dignity’ image below to find out more information from the BMS website about the new Dignity initiative.
The last few weeks and months have been an amazing journey for us. We began the process of preparing for our first Home Assignment to the UK, pulling together everything we had done over the last 2 years; photos, memories and stories.
As we reflected back and remembered what it was first like when we first entered Bangkok, the strange sights, sounds, adapting to the culture, the people, and the countless hours of language learning!
There was one thing that we kept seeing and remembering over and over and it gave us great encouragement and hope in Christ. It was… the courageous women that we have had the opportunity and honour to work alongside at NightLight and the trafficked women we have had the privilege to meet.
I (Sarah) have listened as these women, who have been sexually exploited, have shared & poured out their hearts. Held their hands or held them close as another women in the bar, whispers in my ear “I really don’t want to do this anymore”, “what else can I do?”, “How do I survive to support my family?” Giving the reply there is an alternative, this does not have to be how your life is. There is a way out! I have in my presence a courageous woman!
I have seen when a trafficked woman takes her first steps of courage to seek assistance from NightLight. As she enters the room, her body language & face shows the pain, emptiness, brokenness, low self-esteem, lack of self-worth, every ounce of dignity stripped away. As she first shares her story and for a moment, it seems like she is talking about someone else, until the realisation hits her that she played the lead part; it was her that suffered the trauma NOT someone else. The tears streaming down her face as weeks, months, years of pain and abuse release from her body. I have before me a courageous woman!
The gradual progress as a Thai woman (who works at NightLight) moves forward, through her pain, memories of the past, each step a huge stride towards a new future and transformation. This in turn does not just have an effect on her life but the lives of her child/children or even wider family. As she steps into a job with dignity, she then becomes a strong role model for her own child/children, peers and even community; she gains strength, is able to stand tall. She becomes confident and steps into a role, even leadership, that she did not think she would be capable of doing or leading praise & worship. Armed with a new lease of freedom she begins reaching out with love to others who have fallen prey to a similar fate. Before my eyes I see a woman sharing her courage and transformed life with others!
Each woman has her own story of:- tragedy, pain, struggles, hardship & disappointments. However they have 2 things in common: – 1) Courage and 2) Freedom.
They have all found ‘the courage to step into freedom’. Moving through their pain, growing in self-worth, dignity, confidence, hope and walking tall as courageous & free women.
The Definition of Courage:
Courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery. It is also having “heart,” which remains a common metaphor for inner strength.
The most profound thing about women, is that we display courage without even knowing we’ve had it in us all along. If you can rise and face another day in the midst of all your struggles and difficulties, and have not given up… then that’s the most COURAGEOUS thing you can do.
“She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future” – Proverbs 31:25
If you are an individual and would like like to support us financially, you can do so through BMS 24:7 Partners. Clicking on our BMS 24:7 Partner link page.
If you are a church and you would like to support us financially, you can do so through BMS Church Partners. Click this link to take you to the BMS Church Partners page
A ‘Beacon of Light’ has now appeared in the heart of the red light district of Nana, Bangkok. As you walk along the road this ‘Beacon of Light shines bright, since it is so different from all the other establishments on that road and is sandwiched between 2 beer bars! The long awaited NightLight coffee shop, is completed. It has been a long time coming; the once white walled plain room has been transformed into a relaxing oasis, set over 2 floors, filled with the aroma of fair trade coffee and the sounds of swishing sophisticated coffee machines. The volunteers that will work there have received barista coffee training to learn how to make the perfect cup of coffee! A Thai manager who will oversee the day-to-day running of the shop has now also been hired. Even before the official opening, there were men looking in and stepping through the doors to see what was happening. With open arms they were invited in for free tester coffee and a chat. We have a real sense of hope that the men who frequent the red light area, will come for a coffee, relax with a possibility of opening up for deeper conversations. We are praying that God’s hope & love will plant a seed, that they may reflect on their actions or visiting the red light district. For them to be able to come into a coffee shop, where they will not be condemned or judged. There is also a small section at the front of the coffee shop to host a live band, doing worship music for event nights. The soft opening of the coffee shop started on Wednesday 12 March 2014, with opening times from 10am -4pm and over the next few weeks the times will be extended up to 12am.
The NightLight outreach centre will become a hive of activity: The ground floor & 1st floor – hosts the NightLight Coffee Shop, 3rd floor – the counselling/Prayer room, 4th floor – the conference/meeting room, 5th floor – 2 rooms if someone needs somewhere to stay & finally the 6th floor – the 24/7 Prayer Room. In the outreach centre we will also be teaching English, having worship nights & medical clinics etc.
During the most recent medical clinics set over 2 nights (using the 3rd & 4th floor), the Coffee Shop was a buzz with people, from all walks of life. The volunteers were getting their practice in making coffee and mastering the coffee machines and handing out free coffee. While women, street walkers, children and on this occasion also men – a mix of Thai & Foreign, were receiving free medical checks, from our volunteer medical team. It was a wonderful insight to how God will use the outreach centre and a reminder that it is for His Honour & Glory.
We would like to thank you all for your prayers and emails of encouragement. We have mentioned before we do not always get the opportunity to reply to every single one. However we really appreciated your thoughts and prayers. February was a very difficult month for Sarah & I, emotionally & physically this also included some hospital visits for Sarah. As hard as it has been over the last few weeks, it has given us a new sense of perspective & growth. It has also allowed us to see that we have a good support network of friends & Thai family around us in Bangkok. We are leaning on God and supporting each other to take us through. Please keep us in your prayers.
If you are an individual and would like like to support us financially, you can do so through BMS 24:7 Partners. Clicking on our BMS 24:7 Partner link page.
If you are a church and you would like to support us financially, you can do so through BMS Church Partners. Click this link to take you to the BMS Church Partners page
We have had various events that have happened over the last month. In mid- January, we had the wonderful privilege of welcoming 2 new BMS mission workers to Bangkok from the UK. They are living in the same apartment building as us and will be staying in Bangkok until about mid-May to study Thai. They will then move onto to Mae Sot to work with an organisation called Compasio. It has been great having them around and has enabled us to see Bangkok again through fresh eyes.
On Sunday 2nd February Peter Dunn BMS Director for Missions visited and stayed with us for a few days; we greeted him at the airport and with no time to spare whisked him straight off to a wedding! The wedding was for one of our NightLight ladies who got married at NightLight’s church plant ‘Song Sawng’. It was a lovely wedding and we were very happy to have been invited to be part of her special day. As a gift Sarah made and decorated the wedding cake, the day before, it was a full weekend! Sarah is very hopeful that by the next NightLight wedding coming up on 3 May 2014, the wedding cake will be completed by the baking team. Teaching the ladies cake baking/decorating is going well, please continue to watch this space.
On that same Sunday the long awaited General Election in Thailand took place. The run up to the Thai election has been surround by lots of activity; on the 13 January, Bangkok was shutdown! 7 major intersections in Bangkok were closed off and are still to date closed. At this stage both sides seem to be at stalemate and unfortunately since the election took place there is still no resolution. We are near one of the closed down intersections, however we are safe, we do have to do detours on a daily basis to get around. This is an area where your prayers are still greatly appreciated.
At NightLight we have had much to thank God for. We welcome you to join us in praising God and ask for your continued prayers for the work, women and staff at NightLight:
- Praise God that we have been able to hire back 2 women to work at NightLight.
- Praise God that one of our Thai staff got married at Song Sawang Church on 2 February. Both of them are believers, please pray the Lord keeps them committed to Him and one another in their future together.
- Praise God that the coffee shop is nearing completion. There have been many challenges in getting this project operational, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
- Praise God for on going partnerships with other organisations here in Bangkok. We are grateful that MST (Men and the Sex Trade) has begun their outreaches again to the men, based out of our outreach centre in the red light area.
- Praise God for skill-specific volunteers who have come to regularly offer and be part of the cake baking/decorating classes, sessions to equip NightLight women to be good mothers, prayer ministry, and English classes.
- Praise God for a great team of volunteers ready to serve at NightLight’s transition house for trafficked women.
- Praise God that we are currently assisting 2 trafficked women from Eastern Europe and 2 from Africa back to their home countries.
- Praise God for how He has been taking care of a total of 87 employees, staff & volunteers lives at NightLight.
- One of our full-time volunteers at NightLight has recently had major surgery. Please pray for a speedy recovery and healing to her body.
- Please continue to pray for the political situation in Thailand. Since November, there has been lots of political division, which has led to city-wide protests in Bangkok and some violence. Pray for resolution to this tense situation, the protection of lives, and for God’s Kingdom purposes to be fulfilled in Thailand.
- Many of the single mothers at NightLight have been tired and discouraged lately. In Thailand, it is not uncommon for mothers to leave their children with relatives in the village while they work in the city, but this trend has led to family breakdown over generations in Thailand. Pray that these women at NightLight will be encouraged as they care for their children. Pray that they understand the importance of their role in their children’s lives, and that God will give them perseverance to mother their children.
- Pray for the ministry of CityLight Coffee – construction is just about complete, and we are praying to be able to have our grand opening at the beginning of March. Please pray for the construction to be fully finalised soon and for responsible Thai staff to come alongside this shop and ministry.
- Pray for orders for the various business projects at NightLight (jewellery, screen printing t-shirts, and paper flowers). Since the New Year, 7 women have requested to return to work at NightLight, but we could only afford to take 2 back. Pray for orders to come in so we can provide work for these women.
- Sarah along with another volunteer has begun the process of writing grants and doing general fund raising for the baking project. Pray that God will provide them with the wisdom to know which grants to apply for and what to write.
- Pray for Paul as he takes on a new financial project at NightLight. Pray that God will provide him with knowledge and guidance.
- From 19 February – 21 February all NightLight’s employees & volunteers will go on a spiritual retreat. Pray for God to do a lasting work in each of our hearts.
We thank you greatly for your continued support, encouragement and prayers. We appreciate all your emails and love hearing from you.
Happy New Year!
We hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas. Thank you to everyone that sent us cards and Christmas messages. It is always very encouraging hearing from you, we really do appreciate it.
December & Christmas has come and gone so quickly. With our day-to-day roles, a 2 day staff retreat and the addition of Christmas activities, we were very busy indeed; however it was a good busy providing us with a continued reminder of what the season is all about, what it means to imitate Christ. Reaching out to others and the amazing gift we have every day, not just at Christmas time ~#Jesus – life, light, love, freedom, peace, joy, hope & grace.
With NightLight Thai church plant ‘Song Sawang’ (Thai word for send the light). We had the privilege to spend some time with CFBT (The Christian Foundation for the blind in Thailand) a school for orphaned blind children with multiple disabilities. It is always incredible to see the women of NightLight whom God has transformed & blessed, now reaching out to all these precious children, as they gave gifts to them, held them, sung to them and prayed over them. A beautiful reminder of our God’s abundant amount of grace, our God of forgiveness and God who waits patiently for us and gives the gift of second chances. This school reaches out to each child with love and care, knowing that even with their disabilities each child is teachable, each child still has hope. As we looked around the room at so many children abandoned and remembered that God knows each one of these children by name, they are not forgotten.
On the night of Tuesday 17 December, NightLight International did a Christmas outreach. To women who are sexually exploited & have been trafficked in the Nana area – we sang Christmas carols in a brothel! We watched the faces of women lit up with joy and sing along with us. To women in the bars, and street walkers – 725 earrings + Christian tracks were given out. About 59 gift bags were given to women in the brothel & African women on the streets. To see God’s light & love pierce through and change a dark atmosphere is incredible. To witness women who generally have blank faces, when working in the in the bars and on the streets; receive a simple free gift and a smile break through and conversation with them that develops – it is not just a smile that bursts through but something has also touched their hearts.
Friday 20 December, all staff at NightLight reached out into the local Bangkok community visiting 2 hospitals, the homeless & the slum areas of Bangkok. Split into 6 teams, we again joined with women who were once victims and are now transformed; give back love, joy, hope & pray for the elderly at Bangkok Police Hospital; holding frail hands, smiling, speaking words of encouragement to the patients, carers & staff. We watched them see weak eyes fill with tears from being touched by receiving their gift – with tears filling up in their own eyes. The team that we were in gave 62 gift bags, which touched 62 hearts. The reason for the season – #Jesus.
On the same Friday 20 December in the afternoon, we had our first time of celebrating Christmas Issan style (Issan is in the North East of Thailand and is where most of the women who work at NightLight come from).
The Thai staff at NightLight organised everything. We were all instructed to wear traditional Thai or Issan costume. With ‘Luk thung’ (traditional Thai music) & a ‘Mor Lam’ (traditional Thai singer) singing vibrant & lively Issan Christian songs, the women of NightLight taught us how to ‘Ram thai’ (Traditional Thai dancing) we were ready to party. It was a truly amazing experience and definitely lots of fun.
After this busy period we were very grateful to be able take a much needed
break to Hua Hin (about 3 hours south of Bangkok); to relax by the sea and reflect on our year with NightLight and another year in Thailand.
To top off the end of our year, Sarah’s brother, sis-in-law & nephew came to Thailand. It was lovely seeing them and spending some quality time with them; it was made even better by the fact that we will get to see them all again in 5 months’ time!
Yeah! In 5 months’ time, we hope to be back in England from the 8 May 2014, on our first Home Assignment. We will spend the first few days settling in and time with our home church, we will then be available on request as BMS Speakers from Sunday 18 May to Sunday 6 July 2014, including weekdays (we will be unavailable during the weekend of 14-15 June 2014). Churches wishing to request us as BMS Speakers should use the Speaker Request form online at http://www.bmsworldmission.org/speakers Please note your request will need to be submitted by Monday 17 February 2014.
We thank God for all of our experiences in 2013 and really thankful for those of you who have prayed, emailed, written, brought us mince pies & Christmas pudding or supported us in any other way. We look ahead excitedly to all that God has in store for us for 2014. We hope that 2014 is a year of fruitfulness, peace and blessings for you all.
Please continue to pray for peace in Thailand in the midst of all the political protests; elections are due to take place on 2 February 2014.
We are well and NightLight have briefed us on what to expect since they experienced similar protests and political unrest in 2010 for the same reasons (this political issue has now been in the fore front for about 7 years).
We are not worried or afraid, actually the opposite, we feel a sense of peace! We have been praying in our regular staff meetings for God’s will, direction, wisdom and peace to prevail. We understand that the news can sometimes over sensationalise the way the events are. We think you have probably had more information from the BBC & Sky News than we have had in country.
If some of you are unsure what the Thai protesting is about. Here is our guide that will fill you in.
What is it all about?
The anti-government group (also royalist) want the current Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, to step down, so they began holding demonstrations at the end of November. The protests up to 30 November had been peaceful with no trouble. The opposing group for the government the ‘red shirts’ (anti royalist) want Yingluck to stay in power.
The reason why the anti-government are against Yingluck Shinawatra, is due to her brother former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been a controversial figure. He is a billionaire who was accused of corruption and fled from Thailand after a coup in 2006. Some Thai residents think she has just been a puppet for him. He has been living in exile in Dubai; those against Yingluck have accused her of being his proxy. There are even stories of him running government meetings by phone.
Earlier this year, current Prime Minister Shinawatra’s party introduced an amnesty bill to the legislature which her opponents feared would allow Thaksin Shinawatra to come back to the country and resume power. So this was the reason they began protesting in November.
In spite of this Shinawatra’s party does have supporters, they are rural Thai folks and in the past their demonstrations have been even larger. The city residents in Bangkok mainly support the opposition Democratic Party.
About 100,000 people protested in Bangkok at the beginning of the rallies, on 24 November. The number has dwindled since then. The protests had been peaceful but by the end of November, there were clashes and as a result of this, four people died and many more were injured. Around 33 countries issued travel warnings against visiting Thailand. It has however become less dangerous in recent days, so many countries have chosen to lift their warnings.
A complete halt to the protest was requested for Thursday 5 December. This is the official date for the King of Thailand’s birthday (also Father’s Day). King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is the longest serving monarch in Thailand. Every year the King delivers a traditional speech. In his 86th birthday speech he urged for unity, peace and for Thai’s to support each other for stability and security for the sake of the country.
Please pray for Thailand
- For peace and unity to prevail.
- For the leadership from both sides to act wisely.
- For the cessation of violent conflict and loss of life.
- That this will not have a drastic effect on Thailand’s economy.
- That Thailand may come to know hope in Christ, rather than hope in man.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6
We are so blessed by the amazing ways that we are seeing God at work here in Bangkok & Thailand in NightLight and other projects around the city; Lives being transformed, open doors of opportunities – new projects, outreach and God’s justice prevailing.
We are so grateful for all your prayers for us and the work of NightLight. Knowing we are being lifted up by brothers and sisters in others parts of the world sustains and lifts our spirits. Please know we are truly thankful.
- A piece of land in the northeast of Thailand (Issan) has been offered. We hope we will be able to set a prevention program there. Many of the Thai women that work in the bars in Bangkok come from this area. Please pray for favour from the government.
- For funding for several trafficked women that NightLight is assisting to return home.
- For NightLight shelter staff as they begin to care for the women who have recently moved in.
- Three women recently left NightLight for family reasons or work elsewhere. Please pray for protection over them in their new communities.
- For funding for the Baking Project, for equipment i.e ovens etc. & all the training involved in teaching the women.
- The continued construction of the CityLight Coffee shop, that all plans will run smoothly. For the right staff & volunteers to come forward to work in the coffee shop.
- A Business Manager to assist with the operations at NightLight.
- God has opened up a door for deepening relationships with women trafficked from Central Asia. Please pray for continued favour with them and their manager.
- For the Jewellery sales to increase, this provides more opportunity for more women to be employed by NightLight. Giving the women a chance of a new life and transformation. All sales from NightLight jewellery contributes to the women’s salaries.
Praise God for:
- Three African women have recently moved into NightLight’s aftercare shelter.
- NIghtLight assisted with the repatriation of some of the trafficked women in our care – 1 Central Asian women, two African women and one baby back home.
- NightLight’s newest empolyee recently accepted Christ.
- The Baking Project – Some to the women are learning to make bread, cakes & sugarcrafting skills. We have been the opportunity to sell our baked goods at an International School in Bangkok.
- 16 staff and volunteers were recently able to attend a training course on trauma.
- Construction of CityLight Coffee shop is continuing smoothly. NightLight is hoping it will be ready to open in late January 2014.
- NightLight has been given the opportunity to partner with World Vision and sell NightLight products at several of the local Bangkok shopping malls every month.
- We hosted a party for the trafficked African woman we are assisting. It was a joy to see them laughing and dancing to songs from their home countries.
We greatly appreciate your prayers, support, encouragement and emails. Unfortunately we don’t always have the chance to reply to all the emails we receive, but we do love hearing from you. Thank you.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. – Philippians 4:6 (NLT)
It has been all systems go since we started working full-time with NightLight on Monday 1 July. We have hit the ground running and been involved with so much, no 2 days have been the same.
We attended the annuel TBMF (Thailand Baptist Missionary Fellowship) retreat at the beginning of August. It was a wonderful time of spiritual & physical refreshment and also great to catch up with so many other mission workers from around Thailand. This also provided some much needed rest for Sarah as she managed to slip in the shower 2 days before the retreat; causing a minor fracture to the third toe on her right foot! We are please to report 6 weeks later, it has healed well and she is walking around with no problems.
The NightLight coffee shop that we have being requesting prayer for; finally on Monday 9 September, during our regular Monday volunteer staff meeting, we began to hear the sound of banging hammers. Waiting for
the building work to start has been a long time coming, so the sound of crashing bricks, clanging tools were the best sounds in the world! We all started to cheer and clap! The coffee shop which will be called ‘CityLight Cafe'; is situated in the heart of the red light district in Nana. It will once finished be used to reach out to the many men that frequent the red light area, we are hopeful that men will use it as a safe place to think twice before going to the many bars in the red light area. In the run up to this happening, we reported on the monthly outreach parties that we held and the surprising number of men that came to these parties; this was even when, the space was just an empty room void of furniture etc. just white walls!. Thank God that building work has now commenced, we continue to pray for wisdom on how the space will be used and for the many lives that will be transformed there. Besides the coffee shop on the other 4 floors, the outreach centre also houses the prayer room, conference room and a 24:7 prayer room. Once the coffee shop is finished Sarah will be involved in running regular workshops to teach the women to make cakes, bread, sugarcraft etc. to supply the coffee shop and expat community. Paul will be involved with reaching out to the men that come to the coffee shop.
God’s timing is perfect, with no idea when the coffee shop building work would start. On Monday 2 September, we decided to take a leap of faith and start teaching the women how to make bread.
Sarah is working with another volunteer on this and the “Baking” project is evolving. The women are having a great time & lots of fun. Many of them making bread for the first time; the types of bread we are teaching, the Thai’s class them as bread for foreigners, so this is all new to them. They are so proud of the bread they are producing, they have a right to be, they look fantastic, taste delicious and are excellent enough to be sold! From October we hope to start supplying an International School in Bangkok and the Expat community. We already have orders lining up. It is amazing that God uses all gifts & talents for His honour & glory. Yes! Even ‘Baking!’
Please pray that it will be a smooth process for the building of the coffee shop. On Saturday 14 September. One of our neighbours (a beer bar) to the construction project filed a complaint because the noise was disrupting her sleep at 1:30pm in the afternoon! An inspector came and now he wants a bribe to let us continue. The enemy trying to put a spanner in the works! We will not be paying the bribe, please pray for no further trouble. We hope that through our actions and words, we will be an example of Christ to our neighbours and the builders.
With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord – “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. – Ezra 3:11 (NIV)
Join us in thanking God:
- For the spiritual & physical refreshment we had at the TBMF retreat.
- That Sarah’s fractured toe has healed well.
- For the building work that has now started on the coffee shop.
- For the new bread & cake making project that has recently started.
Join us in praying:
- For Paul to finish off the annual financial report accurately (he is translating a lot of it from Thai to English!).
- For the new NightLight jewellery collection being launched at the end of end of September. For production to finish on time.
- For the jewellery sales to increase. The sales from the jewellery provides the monthly salary for the women who have been helped by NightLight from sexual exploition.
- Wisdom to know which projects to undertake.
- For the smooth process of constructing the coffee shop. For understanding from our neighbours (which are both beer bars). That we as Christians will act wisely so that our actions will be a witness to them.
It is amazing the difference a few weeks makes. Many of you may have read Sarah’s previous blog titled ‘Far Away From Home’ or on the BMS website titled ‘Trapped in Thailand’s Sex Trade’ about *Blessing a young lady stranded in Thailand that Sarah had been befriending. Not long after writing about her situation, NightLight International received enough funding to be able to send Blessing home. It was made even more amazing by the fact that we received enough funding not only to send Blessing home but with the help of IOM (International Office of Migration), we were able to send 4 other ladies back to Uganda at the same time.
Week commencing 22 July 2013 was filled with lots of final preparation for their journey home, packing, arranging for them to have some belongings sent via cargo, contacting their love ones and of cause final goodbyes from us. The goodbyes were filled with many emotions- sadness, but also a great overwhelming power of hope and joy. It was amazing at the airport to see these ladies who had experienced so much pain, trauma and some who had been away for so long; were finally going home. The smiles on their faces were priceless! In a huddle we prayed with them before waving goodbye, to strong and courageous young ladies, with amazing futures filled with hope for themselves, their children and their families. They were heading back home to Uganda with powerful voices, to help others who may fall prey to a similar fate.
Blessings final words to me “I will never forget you or what NIghtLight has done for me, I will call you when I get home”. True to her words Blessing called to let me know she had arrived safely. I spoke with her sister, aunty, daughter, uncle and of course Blessing! They were so overjoyed to have her back home, the telephone line was filled with the sound of laughter and so many expressions of thank you.
We are currently assisting other women from Uganda and a lady from Uzbekistan, hopefully next week (w/c 19 August 2013) there will be another 3 going back home. Amazing!
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does – Psalm 96:3 (NLT)
Join us in thanking God:
- For the 5 ladies that NightLight was able to send back home to Uganda in July. For their safe return home and being reunited with their families.
- That NightLight have 3 further ladies that we are hoping to send home w/c 19 August 2013
Join us in praying:
- For the women who have gained the courage to step forward to receive help from NightLight.
- For the women waiting for interviews with IOM (International Office of Migration).
- For wisdom for NightLight in the best way to support and care for each of the ladies we help; that have either been trafficked or exploited by the sex industry.
- That all the ladies that NightLight has sent (sending) home, receives the best appropriate aftercare with the various organisations we have made contact with in their home countries.
- For the relationships and transitions back with their families and communities to be smooth.
- That Blessing will gain the courage to tell her family that she has HIV. Pray that her family will support her.
*Blessing’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
I (Sarah) looked at *Blessing a beautiful and courageous young African women sat in front of me, as she told us her story, fighting back tears of how she came to be in Thailand. “She was my manager and ‘my friend’; I had been working in her shop for 4 years selling clothing. So when she offered me the opportunity to go with her to China to buy new stock, I said yes. I had no money, so she was paying for my airfare and all other expenses; this was my first business trip a chance in a lifetime. I had never been on airplane and never been outside of Africa. I saw nothing bad in her inviting me to come on this trip with her.”
After hearing the first part of her story, I sensed that Jennie, Annie & I were a bit confused as we reviewed what she had said. At this point it all seemed quite harmless. Blessing continued “My manager then informed me that she had to return back to Uganda, but I should stay in China and continue to buy stock to send back to Uganda. At no point did I think there would be any problems. She told me she would send me money for my return airfare”. Jennie, spoke up “She hadn’t brought you a ticket to return to Uganda?” or “Left you with money to buy a return ticket to Uganda?” Blessing answered with a low “No.”
“My manager had never treated me badly in 4 years, I ‘trusted her’, she was ‘my friend’”, Blessing paused. “She never sent the money! Each time she phoned I asked when it would be sent. When can I come home? Only to be given excuse after excuse. With my visa coming to an end, my manager told me my best option would be to go to Thailand to extend it. Then she would send me the money for my airfare back to Uganda”, Blessing paused again. “She only sent enough to get me to Thailand. However I continued to ‘trust her’ she was my manager and ‘my friend’.
From Uganda to China to Thailand, the calls from her manager occurred less and the money she sent her began to run out. Blessing began to realise that she was stranded in Thailand, with no money, no job, nowhere to stay, no phone number to call her manager (since she withheld her phone number each time she called). Through tears, Blessing said “Do you know what my manger, ‘my friend’, said when she called? She said told me that I am a grown woman and I should know what to do, to make some money. She was referring to me selling myself on the streets. Me – selling myself on the streets – I have degree in teaching you know!” Annie, Jennie & I looked at each other in amazement; Annie asked “Was it not possible to get a teaching job in Uganda?” Blessing replied, “There are no jobs in Uganda, you have to take what you can get and that’s why I was selling clothes in a shop.”
I couldn’t stop my mind from wondering, reeling, hearing my own thoughts: This is not how a friend acts or treats you! Blessing, please, please stop calling her your friend! How could this women do this to her? Deceiving her in this way? Taking her from the known to the unknown? Leaving her stranded in a strange country? Her life pulled apart in a matter of weeks due to deception?
Blessing exclaimed, “I didn’t want to sell myself. I have a degree in teaching; I have skills and so much ability. So I headed to North East Thailand and managed to get a teaching job with an agency. I tried to earn my keep. I enjoyed my job and most of all I enjoyed working with the children.”
I wish I could say this was then end of Blessing’s ordeal, however unfortunately due to the expiry of her visa, the agency took advantage of this and deceived Blessing paying her for only 1 month after having worked 3 months. Again she was at a loss, unable to fight her case because of her expired visa.
“I tried,” Blessing said, “I tried to do what was right, but it all seemed to go against me. With my money running low I headed back to Bangkok. I didn’t have enough money to rent somewhere on my own, so I was introduce to some ladies who rented a room together. They were streetwalkers who went out every night. Some of them knew I didn’t have much money and were encouraging me to work the streets. I just couldn’t do it at first, but my manager started calling again and demanded I pay her back for the ticket to China and to Thailand! My family also did not know of my circumstances, so they were expecting me to send money as well. Especially for my daughter; yes I have a 4 year old daughter, who I love dearly! I saw the ladies come back on many occasions counting all the money they had made for the night, as I watched my money disappearing away. I was encouraged by them to work the streets again. By this stage I felt I had no choice – with no money for rent, food or to send to my daughter and no-one to turn to for help. I was completely torn and broken. One of the girls told me the area I should go to, what to say and do.” As she wiped away the tears rolling down her face, Blessing sobbed, “I will never forget that first time going with men. I didn’t want to do it. I expected none of this to happen to me. My desperation had brought me to this moment. I need help; I want to go home, I want to be with my daughter!”
Blessing’s situation is not uncommon, but it still is so hard to hear and comprehend. Over the 2 months I have gotten to know Blessing very well. Our friendship has bloomed; I have seen her face light up when she speaks excitedly about her daughter and what she hopes for her. I heard about the things she hopes and dreams of for her own future. In the midst of all of this is a deep pain of how being on the end of deception and mistrust has worn her down, lowered her self-esteem and trust of people. For example when we paid her rent for the first time, she was convinced that we were not coming and that we were not going to be true to our words. She thought we were fake! She needs continual reassurance, and I keep encouraging her that her past experiences do not have to dictate her future.
I share in her pain, I cry when she cries; I share in her joy, I laugh when she laughs; I hug her when she needs to be held. I know my prayers for her have not gone unheard; she can put all her hope and trust in God. He is faithful to his words.
Psalm 25:3 – No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.
Blessing recently sent me a sweet text message recently that read. ”I am so blessed and proud to know you, thank you for all your help”. I feel so blessed to know her to, that’s why I called her “Blessing” in this story.
*Name has been changed to protect identity
BMS World Mission partnered with NightLight Internationl. BMS appreciates your prayers; to keep up with the weekly prayer needs in the countries that BMS are working in. Please see the BMS Prayer Guide
What a difference a few weeks makes the heat and sweltering daily temperature of 38 Celsius in March – May is slowly ebbing away. The dense heat has been broken with amazing thunder storms and intense rain. The rainy season is settling in with daily temperatures of about 32 – 34 Celsius and high humidity, so we feel like we are walking around in a large sauna! Every day we walk near a department store that always does brilliant displays based on the seasons; they have made a great one using umbrella’s.
This month ‘June’ sees us celebrating a number of things and reaching miles stones:
Wednesday 12 June, we will start as fill in Life Group (Cell Group/Small Group) Leaders every Wednesday; leading worship, prayer and bible study.
Sunday 16 June, will be Sarah’s birthday and I (Paul) should know, since following close behind is our 2nd Wedding Anniversary on Monday 17 June… so there are no excuses for me forgetting either!
Friday 28 June, will be our last full-time Thai lesson; that we have been attending every day for the last 10 months for 3-4 hours per day. This works out to about a total of 640 hours and also includes the 8 written Thai tests we also had to do. It is surprising to look back and see how far we have come in that time. We have had plenty of opportunities to use the Thai we have learnt and this will continue as we use it with the many Thai staff at NightLight. We hope to have private lessons of 2-4 hours per week and start to learn more Thai Christian/Bible terminologies. Please continue to keep this in your prayers
Saturday 29 June, will mark 1 year since we have been living in Thailand! The time has gone so quickly, we have seen and encountered so much. However we know this is still the beginning of our journey in Thailand, we are continuing to look to God for His guidance.
Monday 1 July, we will officially be starting at NightLight full-time. We are involved in quite a few projects already, but this will now be a full uninterrupted work day, without us having to rush off to language classes. There is a full work schedule laid out for us. We will be also be starting when quite a few volunteers at NightLight will be going on Home Assignment, so we will be undertaking their roles as well. Please pray as we adapt to our roles and the workload. As a reminder Paul will be working on NightLight’s accounts, financial reports and continued outreach to the men. Sarah will be doing jewellery design, buying/merchandising and outreach to the women. Our roles may shift and change, but these are the initial roles assigned to us.
We were able to have a lovely weekend break during the last long bank holiday weekend in Thailand (end May). We headed to Kanchanaburi, which is about 3 hours outside of Bangkok. Visiting the bridge over the River Kwai and enrolling on a 1 day Thai cookery course, which was a lot of fun.
We had the opportunity at the beginning June, to work with 2 organisations working in Bangkok, bringing about transformation in the community. Paul spent his time receiving training and hitting the streets with the MST Project an organisation reaching out to the men in the red light district in the most amazing ways and seeing miraculous results.
Sarah spent her time with Rak Teh an organisation reaching out to the homeless around the Sanam Luang area of Bangkok. There were about 90 volunteers including Sarah; that provided food and a listening ear to about 240 homeless people in only 1 hour 30 minutes!
We are so thankful to God for bringing us this far. We have seen many people in pain, in despair, affected by corruption and those that have been deceived. However we have also seen God’s hope, transformation, light pushing through into the darkness and many miracles. We are continuing to place ourselves in God’s hands as to how he wants to use us here in Bangkok. All in God’s perfect timing.
Prayer Points. Please join us in:
- For how God has used us so far in Bangkok, during our first year
- For all the people that God has placed into our lives to make our transition in Thailand a blessing
- For all the volunteers at NightLight and the great work they do
- For the amazing opportunities we have had in our first year
- As we celebrate Sarah’s birthday & our 2nd Wedding Anniversary
- As we begin full-time with NightLight on Monday 1 July
- As Sarah befriends and looks after the African trafficked women. Pray that God gives Sarah wisdom and strength in the best way to support them
- For the work of so many other organisations working in Bangkok and the wider Thailand area seeking to bring about transformation in many communities
- For us to be confident using the Thai language
- For our health & Sarah’s Mum
BMS World Mission partnered with NightLight International
It is hard to know what to do in a seemly helpless or hopeless situation. We have been reminded of this recently due to a tragic situation that NightLight faced. An African trafficked women called *Harriet died 2 weeks on the streets of Bangkok, the reasons why are unknown. Other women who have been trafficked and forced to work the streets; are frightened by the news and unnerved. The unknown is as frightening as the known because it can leave the door open for it to happen again. It has created desperation; however when they find out there are options it gives them hope. NightLight is currently helping 13 women all from Africa and this number is increasing weekly.
It has been a challenge as I learn more of the facts and meet the women who are victimised by the plight of human trafficking. They are no longer numbers or statistics, but women whom we meet on outreach and they become our friends. I have cried out to God “Where are you Lord? Can you see all the pain they endure? In the midst of all this suffering and injustice, is there any hope?”
As we get to know these women and find out what they enjoy doing, what their dreams are, about their families and their children. They are brave, beautiful, strong and courageous women. As the friendships form, we begin to see the hope. It’s there. Not in the way we would like it to be; it’s hard, chaotic and complex, but there is hope!
It not about denying the horrible truths of suffering in the abyss of human trafficking; the injustice is painful and death hard to comprehend. But there is hope in sight and it is not the end. Restoration, healing and transformation is happening. I guess the hope comes in the guise of those we can still help.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” -Proverbs 31:8-9
“If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.”― William Wilberforce
*Harriet’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
We thank you for your continued support, prayers and encouragement.
- Please pray as we both become more involved with the outreach.
- Pray for the men and women we reach out to. For restoration, healing, transformation and a sense of hope.
- Paul has been part of the men’s ministry organising the men’s retreat. He will be on a men’s retreat from 17 May – 19 May. Pray that it will be a time of infilling, sharing, bonding, learning and rest.
BMS World Mission partnered with NightLight International
This is taken from a series of stories titled “A Few Good Men” on the NightLight BlogAt NightLight we believe that men are part of the solution in regard to the issue of sexual exploitation. We are committed to reaching out to the men who come to Bangkok to participate in the sex industry. These following stories will highlight “a few good men” that we work with or encounter in the Nana red-light district in Bangkok. This week we are featuring a journal from Paul Brown. He and his wife, Sarah are from England and recently joined the volunteer staff at NightLight.
It was not too long after we arrived in Bangkok that I went on my first outreach night in the red light area of Nana. Nana’s appearance during the day is a far cry from its much darker and seedier face during the night. I joined the ladies for prayer prior to them going on outreach. On this occasion, I was able to accompany them around the area but not into the bars.
There seemed to be no doubt they were looking for love or companionship, but under these circumstances, it would not be of the lasting kind. I began to think about what these guys had left at home? Loved ones who were completely unaware as to what their husband,friend, father, brother or sons were getting caught up in the city of Bangkok? What were they jeopardising at home for something so fleeting?
What really struck me about the atmosphere around the bars and clubs is how comfortable the men seemed to be with everything that was going on around them. It was if this was just another form of amusement, like being at a fair ground, choosing which rides would provide them with the most pleasure. It was quite frightening how this was taken to be the norm.
Just before Christmas, NightLight hosted an outreach party in the outreach building in the red light area; hoping to reach out to the many men who frequent the bars, the women including those that work in the bars and the children. It was good to see the women but great to see some men come in for the free food, a chat, a listening ear and listen to us belt out some carols! Many of the men that came stayed right until the end, enjoying the company, and I am sure it provided them with an alternative to spending their time in the bars. We don’t know what effect we had, but I believe that we have shown love as Jesus did, not expecting anything in return. Some asked us, and no doubt themselves, why were we doing this? I believe a seed has been planted, which God will faithfully water.
It is encouraging that in some ways the outreach centre is already functioning as an alternative safe place, especially for the men. My hope is that the coffee shop which is planned to be opened later this year will have a real impact in that area, particularly on the men. That they will see it as a welcoming place, a safe place to come and chat, and we will let God do the rest.
Pray for the success of the coffee shop and the work of NightLight and perhaps similar work in your area to help NighLight with this fight.
Volunteer Staff – NightLight Bangkok
For those of you that receive the BMS prayer guide this week 3 – 9 March is taking the time to pray for those, who remain vulnerable to abuse, sexual violence and exploitation.
If you don’t receive the prayer guide please click on the below link to take you to the BMS website:
Please know that your prayers do make a difference. Please read this account witnessed from one of the women currently working at NightLight:
How do we cope with the sad stories we hear so often? This is question that is repeatedly asked. We do encounter tragic stories, but we are also receiving the privilege of hearing and seeing lives transformed by God’s persistent love. This is what compels us to reach out into the darkness over and over.
On Valentines Day we had a party in the NightLight outreach centre in the heart of the red light area (similar to the party held at Christmas time). Eleven Nightlight women joined to help with the party. Some painted nails, some taught women how to make jewellery, some did artwork with children, others played the guitar and sang, one gave facials, and others served food and greeted people as they entered.
We was sitting near to where *Minni (a NightLight worker) was doing the nails of a young streetwalker. We noticed the woman wiping tears so leaned closer to hear what Minnie was telling her. “Most people don’t care about women like us. How many do you know who love streetwalkers?” *Minni began to share – “But God loves us. God doesn’t care about what we have done. My life has totally been changed by God’s love.” *Minnie was sharing her story of transformation from the streets into God’s family. She paused her nail painting to give the woman a hug and told her, “I didn’t used to care about other people. I was selfish, but now I find I really care about other people and when I see them hurting, I just want to hug them.”
*Minnie told the woman that if she needed prayer for anything we would be happy to pray for her. The woman said she had never felt this kind of love and when *Minnie spoke about Jesus she felt something warm that spoke to her heart. We prayed for her and she cried. She said she felt lighter and more at peace.
*Minnie’s testimony comes from her life experience. She was orphaned at a young age. She ended up on the streets when she had no way to provide for her child and grandmother. As a streetwalker, *Minnie sought pleasure and significance through the men and the pleasures that their money can buy. As she became addicted to a lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, and sex, *Minnie began to feel desperate. Someone told her about Jesus. She prayed to Jesus asking him to get her out of this lifestyle and soon after she was directed to ‘NightLight’. Now *Minnie is passionate about Jesus and longs to share Him with the women who are still on the street. Watching *Minnie’s face light up as she shared about Jesus brought joy to our hearts. Hearing her passion and vulnerability in sharing her life transformation spoke deeply to our hearts.
It’s women like *Minnie that make it all worth it. *Minnie was once one of these young girls at risk on the street but now she is a powerful witness for Christ. Eleven women whose lives have been transformed came to the outreach party to serve and be a light to the very darkness that once exploited them. The love they now know compels them. The same love compels us and not only helps us cope but fills us with joy in the journey.
*Minnie – Her name has been changed to protect her identity.
Please remember that your prayers into these situations makes a difference.
“By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice and received what God has promised them” – Hebrews 11:33 (NLT)
BMS partnered with NightLight International / NightLight Design
We hope that the cold weather in England does not last to much longer and warmer spring weather is just around the corner. Here in Bangkok it is still supposed to be winter, but with the average daily temperature between 32 – 36 degrees (last week it topped 37 degrees!) it is far from feeling like winter. The temperature during the night drops to 24 – 27 degrees and sometimes we do actually feel cold! Pulling on an extra blanket while we sleep!
Thank God we have now finally received our work permit and also have a 1 year visa stamped in our passports. It has been a complex process, but NightLight has been great with helping us getting this all arranged. This now means we no longer have to leave Thailand to a neighbouring country every 90 days to extend our visa. We just need to present our passports at the Thai Embassy in Bangkok every 90 days.
We have come a long way with the language study, but each stage gets harder and harder.
We have just completed our 6th written language test on Thursday 28 February.
At the moment we have 2 tests per month, including written dictation every day in the lesson and homework every day, we are studying like crazy. It is definitely testing our patience. We would love to say that writing Thai is getting easier… but with 44 letters, 12 short vowels, 12 long vowels, 8 special letters and no spaces between the words when you read or write and a whole range of rules on how to read it! It is really stretching and challenging us. We are thanking God, in each test I (Paul) am getting on average 60% – 70% and Sarah is doing slightly better with 80% – 90%, which we guess is not bad! The plus side is that learning to read and write the language is improving our speaking skills.
We still have at least another 3 months of language learning to go and once we start work full-time may have 1 lesson for a couple of hours per week including learning Christian Thai terminologies. We have been encouraged that putting the time put into learning the language/culture, sets the foundation for us as we prepare to go into full-time work, live in Thailand long term and operate on a daily basis.
Although we have not started at NightLight full-time, we are continuing to get involved with the outreach and gradually getting involved in projects; such as leading bible study as a couple in Life Group. Sarah has been working on 2 jewellery projects for NightLight, together we are working on understanding the spiritual aspects of Thailand and creating an inventory for NightLight on this and I (Paul) am currently on the men’s ministry team organising a men’s retreat for May.
We are thank God for bringing us this far and look forward for all that is to come. Please keep us in your prayers as we continue with language study, begin to take on work and create a work/life balance.
Since our last blog Christmas has come and gone so quickly. We hope you all had a very peaceful time and we hope this New Year holds many blessings for you all.
This month is ‘Human Trafficking Awareness/Prevention Month’. In this blog we wanted to remind you of the horrible reality that this modern day form of slavery brings. It is not just a problem that is encountered in certain countries; it is a ‘worldwide issue’ affecting millions of women, children & men everyday. It has become the second largest profitable crime in the world. In the last 10 years, the UK has seen a marked increase in internal/international sex & labour trafficking within the UK. Take a moment to learn what human trafficking looks like and be prepared with information for people at risk. The UK report line is – ‘Crimestoppers: Read The Signs – 0800 555 111′
Please take some time to read about some of the recent cases in the UK and watch the You Tube video on the Metro article and watch the news report on the BBC article. Please click on each heading to take you to the articles:
This is what awareness & prevention can do: This is an account of a conversation on a recent outreach night in Bangkok:
On a recent outreach night we visited a bar in the red light district. The music was loud, blaring as always. The women on the stage were swaying just enough to vie for men’s attention but not enough to wear themselves out. We have many friends in this bar, and it was not long after we arrive several girls come over to us for hugs and a drink. “P” was one of the women who came to sit with us. She was very affectionate and so happy to be with friends who actually care about her life.
“P” chatted away about this and that. We strained to listen but could just about catch it all, against the music blaring loudly in the background, we almost missed her words, “My friend told me I can get a job working in a massage parlour in Korea and make 80,000 baht a month (£1,700).” We were about to do the rhythmic nod of the head (you know the one, where you don’t really know what someone is saying but are trying to look like you do!), when her words set off an alarm. A job offer? In Korea? 80,000 baht? Our passive nods turned into an alarmed reaction. We quickly warned her that these offers are usually just traps leading to slavery or forced prostitution. She was shocked, and of course disappointed. It sounded like such a great opportunity. “P’s” husband left her with over 300,000 baht in debt (£7,000) and because she has been unable to pay, the amount has now grown to 400,000 baht debt. “P” works at an office in the day before coming to work in the bar at night. She sleeps 4 hours a night. At 42, “P” knows she is too old to get many customers and yet the hope of money from a few clients and even from drink tips is enough to reel her in to the scene of sexual exploitation. One job at a massage parlour in Korea, making 4-5 times what she makes through two jobs here sounds like an answer to desperation.
Women in vulnerable situations like “P” are perfect prey. She has enough ambition to work two jobs and to make real attempts at improving her life. She is not sitting around waiting for something to drop from the sky. She has initiative, she is intelligent, and she is desperate – the perfect combination for a trafficking victim. She believes there is an answer out there for her situation and if it is presented just right she will take the bait.
One conversation in a bar may have prevented “P” from being sold into slavery. If the offer is legit, it will prove itself, but one conversation opened “P’s” eyes to the risk and realities. Sometimes, that is all it takes.
Trafficking Prevention Month is almost over, but hopefully trafficking awareness/prevention is not just the “flavour or a gimmick for 1 month” but the beginning of something greater. By making a choice to become aware, you to have the opportunity to prevent trafficking. Someday, you may have a conversation on a bus, at the store, or at the beauty salon. Because you have become aware, an alarm will go off in your head and you will react as we did, informed, and ready to prevent him or her from being trafficked. YOU can prevent trafficking! Choose to know. Listen to the vulnerable. Speak up. You just might save a life!
If you want to support the work of BMS, please click on this link BMS World Mission:
We continue to thank you for all your support, encouragement and prayers.
สุขสันต์วันคริสต์มาสและปีใหม่ (suk-san-wan chris-mas la bii-may) – Happy Christmas and Happy New Year
The fact we have now been in Bangkok for nearly 6 months seems to have crept up on us, in all the busyness of Christmas.
Christmas in Bangkok is in full swing, amazing lights and decorations adorn many of the cities shopping malls and trains stations; however with the thermometer reaching 32 – 36 degrees everyday, it is strange listening to and singing to Christmas songs about the cold and snow!
Being a Buddhist country, Christmas day here is officially NOT a public holiday! Some Thai’s love celebrating the giving of gifts and we have heard that New Year celebrations is the main focus. We were actually due to finish our language lessons on Christmas Day with a Thai writing test – oh joy! We discussed this with our language teacher and she brought our written test and finishing day forward to Friday 21 December. Learning to write Thai has brought a whole new set of challenges including homework every day! Nevertheless we thank God and actually feel quite proud that in a 20 day period we can now read and write quite a lot of words in Thai; the only glitch is, we don’t always understand the words we are either reading or writing!
Sarah took part in NightLight’s ‘Christmas International Women’s day’ (which you can read about in her blog titled ‘You’re Beautiful…’). We had another retreat to head to, which this time was NightLight’s staff retreat in Wang Nam Keaw, 4 hours northeast of Bangkok (known as the Switzerland of northeast Thailand!). Spending time in worship, prayer, discussing the successes, future plans, goals and dreams of the organisation, with lots of interactive involvement; in such beautiful surroundings it was hard not to be inspired… we were also privileged to witness the annual Geminid meteor shower, which we didn’t expect to see!
In the outreach building, located in the heart of the red light district, myself (Paul), Sarah and the other volunteers prepared for NightLight’s Christmas outreach party. The outreach building – which will eventually be a coffee shop, reaching out to the men, inviting them to chill out and provide an alternative from the lure of the red light district, a safe space for children and ladies upstairs and a prayer room. At present it is just an empty shell, but with a few Christmas lights, decorations and some activities – jewellery making, manicure’s, facial’s, children’s play area, some food and of course a listening ear at the ready, it was amazing to see the space transformed. With the door opened wide, us singing Christmas carols and free food, that the ladies from NightLight had made, we were ready to welcome in everyone & anyone with open arms into an atmosphere of love and acceptance. At first people were a bit sceptical… “FREE, everything is free?” God answered our prayers and before we knew it, the room was buzzing with local Thai’s, people from Sweden, Australia, Africa and America, most of those that came were men! Who openly told us if they had not seen or walked passed our party they would have gone to a bar instead!
Sarah & I ended up speaking to a man from Sweden called Charlie, who was travelling alone and doing a short stop off in Bangkok before heading to Bali. We spent about 3-4 hours with him, just letting him talk and listening. He was clearly in need of a listening ear as he honestly shared with us his life, losses and brokenness. He keep saying “This is great, I am so glad I walked passed here, as I don’t know what I would have done or got up to tonight. Thanks for letting me talk, I am not leaving this party until it finishes; this is such a wonderful atmosphere… not sure what it is, but something is different…” True to his word, Charlie stayed until the very end, happily participating in our carol singing. When the party finally came to an end, we exchanged details; he invited us to his home in Sweden and we promised to pray for him. Extending love and a listening ear – It’s free.
We are both so used to celebrating Christmas with our family & friends from the UK and we miss everyone dearly. We are really grateful for all the Christmas cards and gifts that we have been receiving over the last few weeks, which has reminded us of you all – Thank you. God has blessed us with new a family & friends here – Song Sawng Church, staff at NightLight and our Life Group, so we know we are not alone.
We will be heading off to Pranburi in Hua Hin, which is 3 hours south of Bangkok, for Christmas (Sunday 23 – 28 December). We are sure we will meet new people, continue gaining new experiences and just in case you were wondering, the resort we will be staying in, will be serving turkey on Christmas Day!
If you want to join us from a far, with Christmas Thai style, we have included ‘Silent Night’ written in both Thai script and English phonetics.
We hope you all have a blessed and peaceful Christmas as you celebrate our saviours birth, who brought free hope, light & love to the world.
*ราตรีสงัด ราตรีสวัสดิ์ แสนสงบ และเจิดจ้า
raa-trii sa-ngat | raa-trii sa-wat | saen sa-ngop | lae jerd-jaa
Silent night | holy night | all is calm | all is bright
rob maan-don | lae gu-maa-raa | thaa-rok bo-ri | sut la-mai
Round yon virgin | mother and child | holy infant so | tender and mild
ban-thom pen suk-sa-baai | ban-thom pen suk-sa-baai
Sleep in heavenly peace | Sleep in heavenly peace
“It doesn’t take much to make someone feel good about themselves!”
11 December 2012
It is another night in the week for most people; It is Tuesday night in Bangkok, the night air is hot & humid, people are rushing to get home from daytime jobs and the roads are blocked with traffic. The streets of Sukhumvit are transforming from the bustle of the daytime to nightclubs & bars switching on their array of neon coloured lights, women, children and men position themselves on the streets to beg for the night; the scent of Thai food permeates the air, foreign, Thai & Asian men mingle together exploring which bars take their fancy.
For NightLight this is not just another night; Tuesday night is one of the nights (including Friday’s), we take to the bars in the red light district to be bring light, love and hope to the women who work in the bars and on the streets in the sex industry.
We gather in the prayer room before heading out, calling upon the Lord for His protection, guidance, praying for the women who work in the bars, the men who come to the bars, for God’s light & love to push through the darkness, for God to fill us with great love & compassion, thanking God for the opportunity to go into the bars, for friendships already built – for friendships to come, for God to set divine appointments and most of all remembering God’s grace and love for each person in this world no matter who they are or where they come from. This night is even more special as it is ‘Christmas – International Women’s Day - well for NightLight it is! We split into 4 teams of 4 people, hoping to reach as many bars and ladies as possible.
In the walk to the bars all of us are mindful of our surroundings, stilling praying as we walk. A hunched elderly lady sat on an old flattened cardboard box on the floor, with sunglasses, say’s “Sawadee kh (hello)”. We take the time to stop and speak with her, she then explains she is having eye problems; she agrees to allow us to pray for her, she firmly clasps her hands as we touch each eye as we pray for her.
Our team approaches the first bar with, lady’s dressed in small bikinis, lounged either side of the doorway, luring people to enter. A heavy thick black curtain covers the doorway, the Mamasan (the person who manages the female workers in the bar), opens the curtain for us and greets us warmly. It is strange what you can end up thanking God for; NightLight are ‘Thanking God’ for the good friendship that has grown with this Mamasan, which has opened the opportunity to come to this bar and spend time speaking with the women.
We enter into the darkly lit bar, the heavy beat of loud western music fills the air, a podium to the left and a central podium with dancing poles fills most of the room. We are armed with bags filled with red pouches containing earrings made by the ladies at NightLight, Christian tracks and Christmas cards written in Thai. As we began to hand out the gifts the atmosphere changes – giggling, laughing, joy, disbelief – “Is this for me…?” “How do I look?” I hear some ladies ask. “Khun suay (you are beautiful)”, I state clearly.
We visit about 3-5 bars and received the same response in all, including giving the these gifts out to the club owners as well – God’s love is for everyone.
In a red light district in Bangkok on Tuesday 11 December women and men alike were sat in bars quietly reading Christian tracks and discovering God’s truth. I must admit it brought tears to my eyes to watch them!
We headed onto the streets to spend some time with the street walkers, again giving gifts to each one we met. We spoke to and handed gifts out to ladies from Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Africa and also providing them with Christmas cards written in their own language.
Seeing their smiles, thankfulness and eagerness to wear their new earrings, looking in mirrors is etched in my mind. Some of the best quotes from the ladies:
“For me…but why?”, “This card is written in my own language” (staring at the card and then speechlessness),”I don’t have to give anything?…”
We judged no-one, but accepted everyone; I remembered 3 bible verses Romans 15:7, Genesis 1:27 and I Corinthians 8:13
- Accept one another, then just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” – Romans 15:7
- “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Gensis 1:27
- An accepting Christian values the other person so highly that he would rather sacrifice a personal preference, even a right, than risk losing a relationship or being a stumbling block to that person. – 1 Corinthians 8:13
We cannot forget that Jesus died for us even when we were still sinners, he accepted us with all our faults. It is therefore important for us to have acceptance towards others, making them feel valued, respected and loved. Learning to accept others just as Jesus did, it brings glory to God and display’s the unity and power of God’s love. Every person bears Christ image, since we bear God’s image no-one is insignificant, no-one is worthless, seeing others as God sees them and treating them as He would. It is just not possible to honour God, and at the same time treat another person in a dehumanising, disrespectful way.
Each lady I met, I stared into their faces and said “Lord if you are using me to make her feel valued, respected and loved, then let your will be done, I have faith in you that you will do the rest”. I accepted each one as God’s children and saw His face in them all. See it doesn’t take much to make someone feel good about themselves!
“It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, that counts.” ― Corrie Ten Boom
If you want to support the work of NightLight, please click on the link to take you to: www.nightlightinternational.com
You can support by purchasing either the jewellery made by the ladies we help at NightLight or by giving a donation. Your prayers are also greatly appreciated.
We continue to thank you for your support, encouragement and prayers.
With all that we had done the week before it was time for us to head off to another retreat. We took a ‘rot tua’ (bus), from Bangkok to
Chiang Mai, which was about a 9 hour drive, but actually quite a comfortable experience (compared to the 14-16 hour sleeper train we took to Laos a few weeks before). It was wonderful to have 2 days to spend with Pete & Lizz Maycock and their lovely children – BMS workers, in Chiang Mai, working with the Kar’ren Christian hill tribe before heading another 3 hours further up north by mini bus to Mai Sai, Chiang Rai.
TBMF – Thailand Baptist Missionary Fellowship.It was really wonderful to meet with all the mission workers in Thailand linked to TBMF. An opportunity to listen to the work they have been doing in Thailand and also gain words of encouragement from those who have served in Thailand for many years. There was a very international mix: England, Sweden, America, Australia, Philippines, India and Thai, which made up about a total number of about 70 people including the youth and children.
We received a reminding message that, “That as we work with others, we must remember the unity in the body of Christ, building each other and growing in spiritual maturity. We all have different roles to play but we are one in Christ”.In the beautiful surroundings of Mae Sai, Chiang Rai the retreat had a slightly slower pace which we were grateful for. Providing us with time to spend in devotion and worship in the mornings. We were also given the opportunity to share a bit about ourselves in one of the morning sessions.
With some free time in the afternoon, there were fantastic trips organised to explore Mae Sai that was pulled together by Pete Maycock. On one day, we visited the ‘Golden Triangle’, giving us the opportunity to look out onto Burma and Laos at the same time, while standing in Thailand. We then took a 20 minute boat ride to Donesao Island, north Laos. It was interesting being in Laos again, albeit a different area and for different reasons and only a short time of 1 hour to brows the array of markets stalls. On another day we visited the monkey caves, where the cheeky monkeys roam free, added with the further adventure of trekking around in 2 caves! The evenings were filled with time to learn more about each other, pray together, a games night and also a talent night – with the BMS crew singing a medley of Beatles songs… we think we preformed the best!!! However no favouritism or 1st prizes at this conference, everyone gave it their best shot.
When we arrived back in Bangkok, we reflected on how great it was to know, that we are supported by and are part of a wider family in Thailand. We felt refreshed, relaxed and ready to ease back into the continued process of learning our roles with NightLight & language lessons, which we re-started on Monday 29 October. We are now on module 3 and continuing to push through the many barriers of learning a new language.
Please visit our photo page to view more photo’s of our time in Thailand so far. You can click here to take you to the photo page.
We have had an action packed week! The evening of Sunday 7 October we headed off from Hua Lamphong, Bangkok by train to Vientiane, Laos, to extend our visas. It was a long 14 hour journey over night on a sleeper train with an even longer journey back of 16 hours! We didn’t have much time to do any sight seeing since most of the time was taken up with actually getting to Laos, leaving us with only one full day in the country, to hand in our paperwork at the Thai consulate on Tuesday 9 October. Then returning back to the consulate to collect our completed visas and begin the journey back to Bangkok on Wednesday, arriving back in Bangkok on Thursday. Thank God we have our extended visas and can now can begin the process of getting 1 year work permits with NightLight.
Over 4 weeks has passed since our last post! We have just recently completed level 2 in our language learning… Are we any better!!! Well some of the frowns and perplexed looks on the locals faces are becoming less, so maybe there must be a break through happening, this is good news and we thank God.
Rainy season in Thailand is in full swing and over the last few weeks it has rained everyday, with the average temperature of about 28 – 34 degrees been broken with; wind, heavy down pours and mighty thunder storms (something Sarah doesn’t like much!). There is flooding in parts of Thailand and were the drainage is not good some of the side roads in Bangkok have been prone to flooding, however they do drain through within a few hours. The flooding this year have not been as bad as the flooding Thailand experienced last year. We have been looking at the news in the UK and see that parts of England, Wales and Scotland have experienced some of the worst flooding that it has seen in decades.
We have been taking the time to learn more about Thailand’s customs, beliefs and rituals. Every day we see people taking new offerings of fruits, sweet fizzy drinks with straws! (red drinks in particular) and flowers adoring the many shrines in and around the Bangkok area.
Nearly every home and business property has small, ornately-decorated ‘spirit houses’ which are raised on plinths, which houses either a statue of Buddha or other revered gods in front of the buildings. The spirit houses are set up in order to place offerings, generally to appease the spirit(s), to keep them happy, or so they will be protected by the spirit(s), or that the spirit(s) will provide them with good health, business and prosperity etc. We have even seen trees adorned with offerings!
The spirit(s) (Phi – pronounced Phee) are common beliefs especially in ‘Anamistic Buddhism’ and are also included in Buddhist prayers. Thai people, are very superstitious, wearing armlets acquired from revered temples, miniture Buddha’s, or their respectable monk charms around their necks. We have asked some of the local Thai’s on many occasions which spirit they are offering to and still not received a straight answer. The best reply we’ve received “phi aray ko daay! – whatever spirit!”, which implies they are not sure which spirit(s) they are either, however they do know that most of the spirits like sweet foods and drinks! We have heard stories of grown men and women frightened to stay at home by themselves gripped by fear of these spirit(s).
Please click on the video to watch
We would love to tell them, that there is no need to live in this fear… ‘fear of the unknown’. That God did not send His Son to die for us, so we would live a life bound by fear of ‘spirits’. It has reminded us of 2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. As we continue to take the time to build relationships and friendship, we are praying that God will use us and provide us with the words and of cause the language, to teach His truth. About 95% -97% of the Thai population is Buddhist. There is a small Muslim presence and a Christian community of just about 1% of the population. Around 75% of the country’s Christians are from the north of Thailand. There are a lot of Thai people here who have not yet heard!
We have had some break through with the staff that work within the grounds where we live (none of them speak English or are Christian). With perseverance and weeks of everyday in Thai, asking the security guard ‘How are you today?”, with his replies of “I am fine!!!” and nothing else. To eventually a few weeks ago we went through the same motions of asking how he was and receiving a reply “Actually I am not so well and haven’t been for a while!!!”. We told him we would pray for him, his reply “When you go to Church on Sunday”, our reply “We will be praying for you everyday, we have been praying for you already!”. Sarah hopes to do a little workshop with the housekeeper teaching her how to make jewellery. We don’t know what it will lead to, but we know that the Lord is capable of moving things in ways we can’t imagine.
We will be taking some time from language during the month of October. We have quite a busy schedule lined up and would miss to much of language lessons for the month. We have to do a visa run again (we did one back in July to Malaysia), but hopefully this should be our last one out of the country, since NightLight are planning to get us permanent work permits. We will be heading to Laos this time to arrange our visas. Then the following week we will be going on a retreat with NightLight/Song Sawng Church to Kanchanaburi, west Thailand, this will be a great opportunity to continuing building relationships and friendships with the staff, ladies and the men that also attend the church. Then the 3rd week in October we will heading up to Chiang Mai first then Chiang Rai, north Thailand for The TBMF (Thailand Baptist Missionary Fellowship) conference. This will be a wonderful time to meet all the mission workers linked to TBMF from across Thailand including BMS workers Pete & Lizz Maycock (who work in Chiang Mai) and the lovely Bob & Charmaine Trendell (who work in Mae Sot).
* Please keep us in your prayers as we travel out of Thailand and around Thailand for the month of October.
* The relationships and friendships that we are forming.
* Continued work with NightLight including the nights we go out on outreach.
We thank you greatly for your continued prayers, support and encouragement.
It amazing to think that it has been 2 months since we arrived in Thailand (29 June – 29 August). A lot has happened during this time. The learning curve we are experiencing is challenging but also fun at the same time.
At present our main area of focus is language study and we have been encouraged by many to make this our first priority. We both see the needs here and have the urge to get stuck in with work; however it is very easy at this stage to take on board to much and then language lessons fall by the wayside. Our language lessons are going well and on Friday 31 August we begin the 2nd module. I am sure we will have lots to say about the 2nd module as each stage in the language learning process gets harder and harder!
We are being introduced to the work of NightLight. The need is so great in the areas they are reaching out to. During the day Bangkok is a wonderful vibrant city, full of markets, street vendors, city workers and traffic all add to the ambience. At night there are areas of the city that morph into the sex industry and red light districts. On Tuesday’s and Friday’s NightLight go into these areas to do much needed outreach, with the aim to reach out to women and men with the same love, compassion, mercy and grace that Jesus gave. We had our first experience of being with the Friday outreach team on August 17, witnessing first-hand of how Jesus’ love can break through into such dark areas. Before going out we met together for prayer.
We headed for the areas that NightLight have been working in since 2005. Walking through the crowded streets, bars and go-go bars with bright neon lights and girls luring anyone to enter. The enticement of sex in these areas is ‘made to appear as normal entertainment’ added to this was the high number of clubs dedicated to ‘kathoeys’ – lady boys’. The areas felt oppressive and we could sense the spiritual warfare. We began speaking to the ladies, there was no forcing the ladies to speak with us, but a gentle conversation, smile and a hug make a huge difference to the ladies who want to get out of the industry and for us to be made aware of those ladies who have been trafficked and forced to work in the industry. During our first night of outreach, we spoke to many ladies; we carried a counter clicker, and in just a 3 hour 15 minute period counted 678 prostitutes which included ladies trafficked into the country; many of those trafficked are Thai (from rural areas), but also come from Uganda, Uzbekistan and Eastern Europe It is unfortunate to add that this number relates only to those we could see.
The other thing we saw that was hard to comprehend and was heartbreaking was the number of children we saw out at that time of night; we were informed that many would be out on the streets until the early hours of the morning (up to 4am). Some of the children are Thai, but many are from the neighbouring countries of Cambodia, Laos and Burma. With the economic prospects lower in these countries Bangkok looks more attractive. Some escape to Bangkok, while others are trafficked to work the streets begging, or selling
flowers, they earn about 200 -500 baht (£4 – £10) per day. Some have their money confiscated by their manager (those that oversee them) in exchange for a possible place to stay or food. The team at NightLight have formed great friendships with most of the children they come across. We asked one little girl if she wanted something to eat and before we knew it, there were boys and girls coming from no-where who hadn’t eaten; we watched a table full of about 6 children munch there way through bowls of kuaytiaw naam (noodles with soup). These were children overseen by adults from afar, but who seemed to have not been fed by these adults for the day. Being so close to the red light district these children are at high risk of sexual exploitation.
When doing this particular type of outreach its hard to think that providing hope to the ladies and children is possible. However we are seeing God moving in miraculous ways, with hope pushing through the boundaries.
In July, we met a young lady (Nicola– her name has been changed) who began the brave journey of contacting NightLight, after speaking to one of the team on an outreach night. It was an immense first step for her as she was in possible danger from her traffickers. She was unfortunately trafficked from Uganda, deceived with the hope of a legitimate job in Bangkok. She has 3 children, and just wanted to earn enough money to support them. It was not the life she had envisaged and regrettably she was subjected to harrowing situations. NightLight was able to move Nicola to a safe location and with a link to IOM (International Office of Migration), provide a ticket to repatriate her back to Uganda. Nicola wanted to go home especially to see and be with her children; however she was unsure of what she would be going back to with no job and family support. Before leaving for Uganda she attended church services and for the first time, she began to realise how special she was in God’s eyes. We were able to give her a beautifully illustrated Bible for her children, which when presented to her brought her to tears. We received wonderful news; within 1 week of Nicola arriving home a partner organisation in Uganda was able to provide her with a job and counselling which she greatly needs. This outcome was such an answer to prayer and an encouraging reminder that with God ALL things are possible.
We will God’s willing be heading out with the NightLight team again on Friday 31 August.
For those who pray:
* Please prayer for the continued work of NightLight. God’s covering and protection when we do the outreach.
* The ladies that are helped by NightLight.
* The men who use the sex industry. 80%-90% of Thai men along with tourists use the sex industry. Remembering that many of the men maybe lost, empty, broken, hurting and seeking to fill voids with comfort or intimacy. Outreach to the men, is an area that Paul will be working on.
It has been a good few weeks since our last blog; we must apologise as we published this blog without finishing it…We didn’t realise!
We have been super busy with: Prawns causing problems, a lizard called Liam, continued language study, eating strange foods, looking for our permanent home, a short visit to Malaysia, food causing problems again and moving into our new home!… all in that order.
We are establishing a routine and beginning to form our own network of friends and have also become part of church life group. On Sunday mornings we go to Evangelical Church of Bangkok (ECB), which is an international English speaking church. The congregation is made up of American, UK, African and Asian’s; it is such a blessing to see so many people from so many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. We have also joined one of ECB Life Groups (you may know these as: Cell groups or Small groups). We meet together on a Wednesday evening for fellowship, food, bible study and prayer. On Sunday afternoons in the same building that ECB worship in, we attend Song Sawng (translated means ‘Send the Light’), which is the Thai church linked to NightLight International. Many of the women who work at NightLight attend this church and it is amazing to see and hear how God is transforming the lives of these ladies.
Unfortunately on Monday 16 July, Sarah ate some prawns that caused her some uncomfortable problems. The problems didn’t start until the next morning… lots of toilet visits! As a result of this she had to miss language lessons. Thinking that a day’s rest at home with plenty of water would to the trick this is what she did. In the evening she began to feel a bit better, and we hoped that a good nights sleep would do the trick. The next morning (Wednesday) we head off to language school via the Sky Train, however 2 stops in, Sarah unfortunately began to feel dizzy and feel like she was going to be sick! So off back home, missing another day of language lesson. She took re-hydration solution and more bed rest. Worried, I (Paul) decided to take her to the hospital to see the doctor on Thursday. She was given antibiotics, told to continue the hydration solution and rest. Thank God feeling better. Time passes very quickly with language study, so over the 3 days we missed about 12 hours (since it is 4 hours every day). You miss so much in this space of time.
We then had a lizard who decided he wanted to become residence in the home we were staying in. Good for him… bad for Sarah who is not a great lover of anything that doesn’t look cute or moves funny.
The following week on Wednesday 25 July we had to head off to Penang, Malaysia, to renew our visas. To extend our visa’s we had to leave Thailand and re-enter again. It was a lovely opportunity to see Penang, which was the first time for both of us. We spent 4 days in total returning back on Saturday 28 July. During this time we also had contracts going through for an apartment that we had found and was hoping to move into on Sunday 29 July (we had to be out of the home we were staying in by Monday 30 July, so we were working to a very tight deadline)
Thank God while the contracts were being sorted our new Landlord allow us to move in on Sunday 29 July, we packed up our 9 suitcases + Paul’s guitar into a pick up truck that God provided (we had no idea how we were going to move all our things from one side of town to the other, God provided 3 guys & the pick up truck to help us move – we’re still not sure how that happened!). The 3 men carted all our suitcases up 3 flights of stairs and were more than happy to help.
Unfortunately very shortly after moving in… Sarah became ill again (again unfortunately food related)! However this time, we think it might have been due to Sarah’s stomach still not completely well from the 1st incident; this time with the food being too spicy being the trigger. Back off to the hospital more antibiotics, plus the doctor thought it best to run tests etc. I (Paul) am happy to report that Sarah is well, taking pro-biotics and on the mend with no further food incidents to report! She has lost weight, but would definitely not recommend this as the way to do it!!!
It is so lovely to be in our own home… INCLUDING THE FACT THAT WE CAN NOW COOK OUR OWN FOOD!!! It was good to finally be able to unpacked and choose clothes from a wardrobe. We worked out that since leaving IMC (International Mission Center), Birmingham we had been living out of suitcases for over 2 months! Our new home is a little haven, form the busy streets of Bangkok, off from a main road, it could be mistaken for being in the country. There is a communal garden and swimming pool, Thai boxing gym, a University situated at the back with a sports field (in Bangkok there are not many fields/parks), thank God this university field is also open to the public, there are 2 tennis courts, where we can hear and see tennis being played. We can also see and hear an array of wild animals including a pack of dogs that seem to serenade us about the same time every night (21.30 – 22.30).
Daily life takes longer; when we need business things done, we have to rely on people to arrange things on our behalf, as most offices/businesses only converse in Thai. This applied to us getting the internet set up, we hadn’t expected it to take so long. However they have a phrase here ” Mai pen ri”, which means “no problem’, but it can also mean “in their own time”. We were only checking emails briefly at an internet cafe. We are happy to say that on Monday 20 August we were finally connected at home with the internet. We now feel like we have fully moved in.
With all of the food fiasco’s with Sarah, I (Paul – who has a cast iron stomach), have been more adventurous with the food here. After the Sunday Thai service, we have fellowship time with food. What normally tends to happen is before you know it you have a plate or bowl of food placed into your hands, before you even have a chance to say “No”. With no excuses like Sarah – “dichan booay, puat thoon kh – I am not well, my stomach is aching”. I found myself one Sunday eating something rather different. I initially thought it was ‘burgundy coloured tofu with burgundy coloured soup’, at this point I actually thought it tasted quite nice. Until I was informed it was ‘kuai-tiao mu nam tok – cubes of raw coagulated pigs blood, enriched with pigs blood soup with noodles’… Mmmmmm! I am still living to tell the tail and have had no stomach problems!
We will end this update here, to give you a chance to read catch up and send further updates over the next couple of days; with the aim to bring you up to date with all that we have done so far.
Please continue to pray for Sarah’s health and for Sarah’s Mum who has not been well.
We can’t believe 1 week has passed already, it has been full of feeling greatly welcomed, newness, adjustment, defrosting/melting (due to the heat and this is not even the hottest period!) and subjecting the local Thai’s, especially where we are staying to our awful Thai pronunciations!
The day before jumping in at the deep end with language study (Tuesday 3 July), we had one last day of visiting one of the key sights in Bangkok, the ‘Wat Arun – The Temple of Dawn’ (this is the same place/picture we have as our strap banner on our blog). It is one of the most elegant pagoda’s and landmarks in Thailand. With our paltry Thai! We managed to take 2 local river boats to the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. An unbelievable sight to behold; it is hard to put into words, the amazing detailed workmanship or scale of this particular temple. In another blog entry we will explain more about the spiritual aspects of Thailand.
In the afternoon we had a tour of what will be our work place in the coming weeks, months and years with NightLight International. The offices are not big, but the work, outreach,
restoration and prayer that is happening is far greater. Stunning handcrafted jewellery, paper flowers (and believe us they look so real) and hand printed t-shirts are some of the work being produced here and sold to help these ladies gain an economic alternative out of the sex industry. We have begun to meet some of the ladies who work at NightLight and as the relationships are built, we will hear more from them. They have already traded with us; we will help them with their English and they will help us with our Thai!
We started our language lessons on Wednesday 4 July, morning sessions from 8am – 12pm. Four hours everyday of what we can only describe as a ‘baptism of fire’.
Thai is a very tonal language with 5 tones, which means that 1 word could have five meanings! So it’s important to try and pronounce the word or tone correctly, just in case you say something completely out of context or inappropriate!!! It is also a totally scripted language, so the Roman letters are purely to help us learn to pronounce it. 3 days later (12 hours total so far), we have face ache from learning all the Thai tones, vowels and consonants! The whole lesson is practically in Thai, which mean the majority of us in the class sit there with blank faces. However there is an upside, we are starting to make friends with others who are in the same boat as us; who come from a range of different countries: India, Japan, Korea & Israel. Also fortunately our ‘Khruu’ (Thai for teacher), has a brilliant sense of humour, so this is helping to make the lessons fun. We have a long way to go, but we’re in for the long haul.
Please continue to keep us in your prayers for the language learning and also as we have started the process of looking for a permanent home. Please pray that we will find a home at a good price and good location as this will further help us to settle and build friendships with the locals.