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.