It’s Free – Christmas Hope
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