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.