We are really sorry, we have not kept our blog updated throughout the latter part of 2019. 2019 has been a year of transition and stepping into newness, which has kept us very busy.
The Business as Mission (BAM), has been moving along at a slower pace than we would like. However God has shown us on many occasions throughout the year (and is continuing to show us), that He is laying the foundations for us, and we just need to hold-on, keep focussed on Him and following His leading.
Some of the highlights for us from 2019, not in any particular order have been:
Moving to Chiang Mai, getting to know our neighbours, settling in at House of Praise Church, having the opportunity to do Paul Bradford’s Train The Trainer course in Malaga,
building relationships with staff and residents at New Life Centre Foundation, Paul hit a mile stone as he turned 50, being invited to attend 2 Lahu Thanksgiving services in Lahu villages, Bible Camp in the mountains with NLCF’s young people and 8 of them getting baptised, falling in love with the beautiful scenery / surroundings of Chiang Mai and finally fostering a 10 week old kitten for about 6 weeks…. Yes you read correctly looking after a foster kitten for 6 weeks and finding him a good home. He was alone on the roof of our
bungalow and eventually came down into our back garden with no mother in sight we took him in. He was skin, bones and fur and very helpless. Unfortunately we could not keep the kitten, since Sarah is allergic to cats, it was also making her asthma flare up. It was sad to see him go, but we are happy that he is now in a good home.
We have spent the last 9 months trying to find out our elderly Thai neighbours name, he has hearing difficulties. None of our other neighbours knew his name(including a couple that have lived a few doors from him for 15 years), since it is hard to have a conversation with him. He talks to you, but does not give you the opportunity to respond, talk back and unfortunately he can not hear you when you respond. For Christmas we gave him a Christmas present with a booklet that explained the birth of Christ and the real reason we celebrate Christmas in Thai and a card, that with we wrote in Thai with scripture. The day before New Year’s Eve, he presented us with a lovely tropical fruit hamper with a handwritten note, signed off with his name. The translation to the note is – “Khun Paul and Khun Sarah, this New Year may you have good luck and happiness always, from Lek”. So we finally know his name is ‘Lek’. We thank God for this first breakthrough.
Praise – Thank God for:
New friendships we have formed since settling in Chiang Mai from March 2019.
For the Bible Camp that took place in Doi Chiang, for NLCF’s young people and the 8 young people that made the decision to follow Christ and get baptised – December 2019.
Getting to know our neighbours.
Finally getting to know our elderly Thai neighbour who is hard of hearing by name, which is a good first step.
Please Pray for:
As we continue to trust God regarding our next steps with the BAM company
As we nurture the friendship with our Thai elderly neighbour now we know his name. Continued creative ways to reach out to him with his hearing difficulty.
The work at New Life Centre Foundation and our roles there and how God will continue to use us there.
Thank you all for the Christmas wishes in the form of emails, cards and gifts, we really appreciate your continued support, prayers that always greatly encourage us.
We pray that this New Year 2020, God will continue to fulfil His plans and purpose in your lives. May it be a year of more evidence of His grace and hands at work in your lives and others that He places into your care to serve. God Bless.
Have you ever had one of those days when God makes it loud and clear everything is going to be okay? When you gain a sense ‘He is thinking of you’, with you and sending people to stand in the gap to pray for and encourage you.
Paul & I had one such day on the 9th of May. As we continue to push forward with setting up the Business as Mission company, we have many days when we feel like things are making sense, then either in a heartbeat or the next day, it then starts to feel like the plan is crumbling and we are back at square one. We are truly being humbled by the process, being taught great patience and stepping into this unknown is make us trust God with every breath and step we take. We have have had days when we feel that the task is too big for us, days when we feel overwhelmed by what God is calling us to do, days when we ask God “Why is it all moving so slowly?”
Spending time in God’s Word as individuals and as a couple, God keeps bringing us to the same lesson “Trust Me, that’s all you need to do Just Trust Me“, “I have called you into this, I will equip and provide… Just Trust me!” It is a daily reminder for us.
So… on the day in question, we were feeling discouraged thinking about the day head, praying about the financial budget for the BAM company that seems to be increasing, Paul feeling frustrated working on the budget and Sarah feeling overwhelmed working on the draft business plan. As we prayed through the requests, it felt like a mountain and we were at the bottom of it looking up wondering how we were going to climb it or if we would we ever be able to climb it?
During our time of prayer, both our phones pinged just after 7.30am alerting us to a message that had come through. 1-2 hours after we had finished praying we decided to look at the message. It was a message from a couple in Bangkok, that used to be in our Life Group and also given us advice on the BAM company, letting us know that they were thinking of us and praying for us. It lifted our spirits to know that we had friends standing in the gap interceeding for us.
After 1pm Sarah heard her phone ping again, but not wanting to stop straight away as she ploughed on with the business plan, she looked at her phone about 30 minutes later. We received a surprise message from our friend Na, whom we had taught in the bakery at NightLight. She was visiting family in a neighbouring province to Chiang Mai and wanted to come and see us on Monday 13th of May. With excitement, Sarah immediately called Na and said “Yes, please come. We are really missing you”. It again lifted our spirits to know that our Thai friend from Bangkok was also thinking of and reaching out to us.
Yet again another ping from Sarah’s phone just before 3pm. This time Sarah opened it at once to see who and what it was. Some more Thai friends and a foreign friend we had volunteered with at NightLight, that are now working together at another NGO. The message via Facebook messenger yet again explained how missed we are in Bangkok, and that our Thai friends have been thinking of us and wanted to see us when they come to Chaing Mai for a training course mid-June.
As I (Sarah) shared the last message with Paul we looked at each other and said in stereo “What’s happening?” There was now a clear pattern forming. It just seemed to be too much of a coincidence to be contacted by so many people in one day with similar messages for us. Paul let out an exhale and said, “Okay God, you’ve got our attention!”.
Just when we thought all the messages for the day had finished, Sarah checked her phone at about 5.30pm and saw an email in her inbox. Again another surprise message from someone that used to be in our Bangkok Life Group, but moved back to the USA last year. We hadn’t heard from her in a number of months, so it was very out of the blue. Her message aptly titled ‘Thinking of you’, once again explain that we had popped into her thoughts that morning while she was praying and she had prayed 2 scriptures for us – Psalm 90: 17 & Psalm 20:4.
May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.- Psalm 90:17
May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. – Psalm 20:4
God definitely had our full attention by the last message. We felt a sense of peace of how much He was ‘Thinking of us’, walking alongside us even in what we initially thought was a discouraging day. The Lord had used our friends to remind us that He is in full control of what He is calling us to do and we just need to ‘Trust Him’.
The events of the day also led us to think of Zephaniah 3:17. A wonderful reminder that not only is God with us, thinking of us, but He also rejoices over us with singing. Amazing!
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. – Zephaniah 3:17
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of packing, that seemed to go on forever. Anyone who has ever moved knows how stressful it can be. We were surrounded by a sea of boxes and suitcases and living out of them was not much fun either. Fortunately, we were relatively organised, even if it did look chaotic. It was a very strong reminder of when we moved to Thailand almost 7 years ago.
In the process of moving, we did not get much done on business planning. Working from home was not possible, due to the array of packing boxes building up in our apartment and working in coffee shops became quite a pinch on our pockets.
Our Bangkok Visitor
We also in the last few weeks before leaving Bangkok, had an unexpected visitor in the form of a RAT!… A problem that we had never experienced in almost 7 years of living in the same apartment. The landlord started some building work and it must have disturbed the rat to enter our apartment on the 3rd floor! We spent the last 2-3 weeks doing everything in our power to get rid of it (giving it rat poison that it seemed to eat like sweeties and come back for more) and also ensuring that it didn’t get into any of the boxes we had packed. So we held it hostage in our bedroom, by keeping the door closed as much as possible and putting up with the racket it made in the early hours of each morning. It did work since thankfully we saw no rat (dead or alive) upon unpacking the boxes in our new home.
Friends & Goodbyes
One of the hardest things we had to do was saying goodbye to friends (Thai & expat). Although we are still in Thailand, the distance from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is 9 – 12 hours by road and flight only about 70 minutes but more expensive. Therefore, we will not get to see them as often. We hope they will come to visit us or any time we are in Bangkok, we will make time to see them. Our friends have poured into us and us into them, we have grown together, encouraged each other, laughed, cried and prayed together. We thank God for those friendships. Our prayers and hopes are that we will be able to build strong friendships and be part of a Christ centred community in Chiang Mai.
A few days before leaving Bangkok, we had an encouraging conversation with Pee a Thai taxi driver that we have got to know over the years. We noticed that he had an ‘Amazing Love Festival’ key ring dangling from his keys. We asked if he attended, to which he proudly and happily replied that he attended over the 2 days. He said that he was very moved by the worship and message. It is encouraging to see the impact that the ‘Amazing Love Festival’ has left on the people of Bangkok. We hope and pray that the seed that has been planted in Pee will grow.
Our move to Chiang Mai went relatively smoothly with no major problems. Our belongings were driven up on 27th February by a removal company, and we flew up on the 28th February. We arrived at our new home about 5-10 minutes before the removal van turned up. It was amazing timing considering the driving distance! We thank God that it went well.
We have begun seeking out a Church and have been attending Safari Church, it is only a 10 -15-minute drive from our home. The Church is set in a safari/zoo! The services are held in a conference room which is part of Chiang Mai Night Safari. It is a very unique place to have Church, walking from the car park you can see the giraffes eating their breakfast, free-roaming deer and an array of colourful birds. Attending the Church gives you free access to wander around the rest of the safari after service. We have been warmly welcomed and everyone is very friendly. So far, we have attended the International Service and Thai Service at Safari Church. Over the coming weeks, we will have the opportunity to visit other Churches. We are praying about which Church God wants us to attend.
Some information about Chiang Mai: – Chiang Mai is ranked in the top 10 (about no. 4-7) of the largest (populated) cities in Thailand. It is a mix of rural misty mountains meets urban – a juxtapose of two contrasting environments and ecosystems. Chiang Main is based in the northern hemisphere of Thailand and it hosts 6 indigenous Hill Tribes called the – Karen, Hmong, Akha, Lisu, Lahu & Yao, all tribes have their own distinct languages, culture, traditions and colourful costumes. Chiang Mai is known as the ‘Rose of the North’.
Our New Home & Surroundings
We do love our new home. It is much quieter than Bangkok. Living behind a University in Bangkok, on many occasions for 1-2 solid weeks (throughout the year), the students would be practising very loudly for events until 12am – 1am in the morning. So one of the first things we noticed in our new home was the sound level… it is so quiet and serene, we can hear the birds chirping and wildlife chatting away more clearly. We are not far from a flight path to Chiang Mai airport, but the noise level and frequency from that is still no match to the noise levels we had become accustomed to in Bangkok.
Speaking of wildlife… We thought we had said a fond farewell to the rat in Bangkok, only to be greeted by frogs that happily hang out in the bathroom adjoining our bedroom. The species are Asian Painted Frogs, they are less scary than the rat as long as they are not jumping! Paul has become a dab hand at catching them and setting them free back into the wild.
We have a mix of Thai and foreign neighbours. Our neighbour on our right-hand side is Thai. Upon meeting him for the first time, we tried to have conversations with him, unfortunately, we thought he did not understand us but was still very friendly. We began to wonder if our Thai was really bad or if he spoke a northern dialect we didn’t understand. We have just recently discovered that he does speak central Thai, but he has hearing problems. We pray that we can find creative ways of how we can communicate and get to know him.
Prayer & Praise
Thank God for our smooth move to Chiang Mai.
Thank God that we are settling in well and getting to know our neighbours.
Pray for creative ways of how we can get to know our new Thai neighbour who has hearing problems.
Pray we will build good relationships and friendships.
Pray that we find the Church God wants us to attend.
Pray as we work through the next stages of business planning and finances.
This definitely feels like a new season for us, with lots of new beginnings. We continue to thank you all for your continued support and prayers.
“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 18-19
Yours in Christ Paul & Sarah
For all of you that continue to follow our blog. We wanted to let you know you, how we hope to update our blog going forward.
The BMS system for writing Prayer Letters / Newsletters changed towards the end of 2018. Which means we now write slightly shorter but more frequent letters per year so you will receive a BMS Prayer Letter / Newsletter from us every 2 months throughout the year.
We would, therefore, like to follow the same format for our blog and aim to update our blog every 2 months in line with our BMS Prayer Letter / Newsletter.
Our blog will be an extended version of our BMS Prayer Letter / Newsletter (since with the Newsletter we can only write a limited number of words and add a limited number of photos to it). Therefore our blog will be added extras and some behind the scene photos.
Thank you for being our faithful followers.
Sarah & Paul
We hope the year has started off well for you. For us it has started off well and it feels like we have done so much already. We have made some major decisions, travelled to north Thailand to begin acting on the decisions, travelled to Malaysia to arrange another visa and honoured to witness the beautiful miracle of nearly 2,000 people (mostly Thais), walk in freedom and accept Christ for the first time!
After accepting God’s call to set up a Business as Mission, we began to pray about the location. We had 3 locations in mind; to remain in Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket. We had the opportunity to research all locations and meet with other organisations that we could partner with in the future. After lots of prayer and careful consideration, we have now made the decision to leave Bangkok and move to Chiang Mai (North Thailand).
The first week of January we went to Chiang Mai, to begin the process of looking for a new home. Thank God, within a few days of being there, we found a home that we fell in love with. We also had meetings with some lawyers and looked at commercial properties for the business, which at this stage was purely for research, as we look into the task of financing the business.
We have started to pack and just realising how much we have accumulated in almost 7 years of living in Bangkok. We will be move to Chiang Mai on the 28th February. It will be a 9-hour drive from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for the removal service we will be using.
Moving is very daunting, especially to a new location (Bangkok is very different from Chiang Mai), added with the many unknowns as we plan and move through the process of setting up a BAM. We are trusting God and know we cannot do it in our own strength.
Paul attended evangelism and discipleship training in November 2018 to be a counsellor, for the ‘Amazing Love Festival’ a gospel and evangelism event led by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The event has been years in the making. Over the past several decades, 3 church denominations in Bangkok struggled to partner together for the sake of the gospel. These churches eventually saw the impact that other festivals held in Chiang Mai and Phuket had, and they realised they could trust the Lord.
The unity from International and Thai churches across Bangkok, over the last year has been so strong. Seeing them come together in prayer, training and preparation in the run up to this event – an amazing miracle. The Amazing Love Festival took place over two days on the 19th – 20th January at the Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre (BITEC), it was a completely free event for everyone.
Our hearts were overjoyed as we worshipped with the Thais and others. Many Thais hearing the gospel for the first time. Over the two days, 40,000+ people attended the festival. It was streamed live, 79,000+ viewers watched from 60+ countries. Most viewers were from SE Asia. 1,000+ online viewers replied that they accepted Christ. God used Franklin Graham (Billy Graham’s son) to give a message of God’s truth, hope and peace in Christ. Paul being a counsellor, prayed with those that came to Christ. His heart was touched, as he listened and prayed with a 10-year-old boy that accepted Christ.
Live Stream: Amazing Love Festival – Saturday 19th January 2019
Live Stream: Amazing Love Festival – Sunday 20th January 2019
It was amazing to witness the huge crowds go up to accept Christ. It was like a peaceful flowing river, wave after wave of people. It brought tears of joy to my (Sarah) eyes. Nearly 2,000 accepted Christ for the first time and 600+ recommitments over the two days! Thailand has never seen anything like this before. God has opened the doors, we pray we will see many more Thais (and others) come to freedom in the saving grace of Christ. Keep praying for the follow up and discipleship of our dear new believers.
Prayer & Praise
Thank God for us finding a new home in Chiang Mai.
Thank God for the many lives that accepted Christ at the Amazing Love Festival.
Pray that all new believers are discipled well and continue to grow.
Pray that our move to Chiang Mai will go smoothly.
Pray we will find a good lawyer in Chiang Mai.
Pray for finances to get the business registered and set up.
On Monday 8 October we went to Phuket, in the south of Thailand for 5 days. We were there to have meetings and see if this is where God wants us to be. We will soon write more on what is happening behind the scenes as we following God’s leading on our next steps.
Even though we have been in Thailand for over 6 years, there is still so much we continue to learn along the way. We know that part of the month of October Thailand celebrates an event called the ‘Vegetarian Festival’… Sounds harmless doesn’t it! For all these years living in Bangkok, it seemed to have a harmless vibe to it.
The festival has it roots in Chinese Taoism and is a celebration to the nine emperor gods and happens during the ninth Chinese lunar month every year. There are many Chinese and Chinese Thai, in Thailand, so the festival has become a fixed event in the Thai calendar. It is now a mix of Taoism and Buddhism. In Bangkok’s China Town and many stalls around the city, they switch to only selling vegetable/vegan based dishes (ahaan jay – อาหารเจ); those that are participating in the Vegetarian Festival will abstain from eating meat, following a very strict vegan diet for 9 days as a way to cleanse their bodies. Many wear white from head to toe. The air is filled with the sound of loud fire crackers, beating drums, clashing symbols, the temples are dressed with lanterns, candles and filled with people making merit. The smell of incense fills the air, Chinese dancers and dancing dragon costumes parade past in a flurry of bright colours.
In Phuket we saw a different side to this festival. Phuket is the where the Vegetarian Festival is thought to have originated
from, since over 30 percent of the population have Chinese ancestry. The festival starts with the lantern pole raising ceremony, which happens across many temples around the island. The lantern pole is supposed to attract the 36,000 gods of the Chinese pantheon.
Then there are rituals held to invoke the gods along with fire walking, bladed ladder climbing and the nail bridge crossing. The ceremonies also take on a more gruesome twist with parades around Phuket. Spirit mediums walk with knives, saws, fish hooks or any other items capable of piercing the bodies and faces of those that are possessed. Those that are possessed believe they are acting as mediums of the gods and will puncture their faces and bodies believing that the Chinese gods will protect them for harm and little blood scarring from the self mutilation.
As we walked around Phuket one afternoon, we could hear the pounding of the drums, symbols, raised voices and loud fire crackers popping in the distance. It was heading towards us, we caught sight of row upon row and group upon group, of people dressed in white and spirit mediums dressed in brightly coloured and highly embroidered and patterned aprons, holding swords and knives. The police appeared from no-where to stop the traffic at the intersection to allow the parade to pass though, we stood on the corner, not wanting to cross the path of the parade. The cacophony of sounds became louder, more confusing, as each group stopped in the centre of the intersection and began yelling and beating themselves with the swords and knives they were holding. We could see where some of them had already used large sharp objects to pierce their faces, as deep marks and fresh scars marred their skin. Many of them looked possessed, their eyes bulged, entranced and bewitched, with each strike some of them drew blood from their bodies.
I could hear Paul quoting the verse “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind…” The verse that came to my mind was “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth…” I could feel the tears stinging my eyes not from fear, but as I looked on as each group did the same act, my heart broke. I began to think if this is breaking my heart, how much more much is it breaking God’s heart to see His Children so far from Him, yielding to gods and spirit that they believe are calling them to self mutilate and appease them in this way.
From a western prospective it would be easy to think that in the UK, an event like the ‘vegetarian festival’ would never happen. However, how different is this from halloween? As Christians in the west, we are quite sheltered, and because we do not see the rituals or ceremonies that happen alongside halloween, we see it as harmless… It is just about costumes and trick or treating right?. Wrong! Halloween is effectively no different from the vegetarian festival – It is a time of evil, darkness, witchcraft, fear, death, honours the devil and darkness and more than likely has many rituals that go alongside, but we just don’t see.
Wherever you are in the world or whatever your understanding is of spiritual warfare. As Christian, when confronted with evil or the enemy in any shape or form, we don’t need to hide away, or shake with fear. We do as Christians need to be aware of the battle that is happening and know that it is very real. Sometimes it hard for us to understand, because as humans we think if we can’t see it or feel it then it is not real or true. God clearly reminds us of the spiritual warfare happening – Ephesians 6:10-19 The powers of darkness does not have the final say ever. When we place our faith in Jesus, we are in a position of VICTORY always!
I like the way that Priscilla Shirer explains it from her Bible study series The Armour of God: “The enemy’s approach is not just aimed at individuals. He has a collective cultural and global methods designed to derail entire nations and people groups from God’s intended plan. He carefully crafts and proliferates philosophies, doctrines and moral perspectives across entire demographics in order to steer whole societies away from God.”
For God to open our spiritual eyes to the spiritual warfare we can not see in the natural.
For us not fear or be afraid of the enemy, because God has already overcome the devil, darkness and death. We are victorious ALWAYS!
To be able to discern what is from the enemy and not just think it is just ‘harmless’.
Pray against the enemies deception, lies and the ways he tries to deceive us.
To be in a position to share God’s truth, light and love, with those who have not yet encountered Christ.
It has been a long time since we wrote an entry to our blog. We do have good reasons and we will be sharing them with you over the coming months. Since there has been a time lapse, we feel we need to go back before coming forward.
“And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.” Acts 20: 37 – 38
When God says it time to move… You’ve got to move! We shared with the churches we visited during our Home Assignment in the UK between June – July, that we have now left NightLight. It was a decision that was very hard for us to make, we prayed, we shared with our Life Group (Small Group), we listened for God and His perfect timing. When God’s clear answer came, it was a bitter pill for us to swallow…
The ladies at NightLight have become our family, and God was telling us it was time to leave them. Over the 5-6 years we were there, we witnessed God’s transformation in many of the women lives, seeing them step into freedom, accepting Jesus, getting baptised, moving forward with confidence, self worth and stepping into leadership roles.
Just like a family we had many joyous occasions, where we would laugh together to the point of happy tears, barely able to catch our breath. When the times of sorrow came, we cried together baring each others pain.
Whilst we were there, God taught us so much about ourselves. We had the great honour of pouring into the women, however without realising it, many of the ladies also poured into us. God has an amazing way of surrounding you with people, when you need it most. We counselled and prayed for each other, sharing deep and personal areas of our lives that could only be shared when an amazing family bond had been formed.
A few days before our last day at NightLight, they prepared a leaving gathering for us. It was the day we had been dreading, the day when the reality that we were actually leaving kicked in. Nothing could have prepared us for wave of emotions that we felt. Many of the ladies shared how we had impacted their lives, what we meant to them and how much they were going to miss us.
There was not a dry eye to be seen; another but final moment when we would all weep together. I (Sarah) was a blubbering mess with tears and snot everywhere (sorry, it was not a pretty sight!). I don’t think I have ever cried so much when leaving a place of work…even Paul shed a tear! The women have left a huge stamp on our hearts, which we will never forget. We will miss them dearly.
Since leaving we have been able to keep in contact with some of the ladies and those we know really well, have invited us to their homes.
So, God says it time for us to move on… So in obedience to Him, move on we will do. We do not know all the plans for our next stage, but God is revealing the puzzle to us a little at a time. We sense that God is calling us to start up a Business as Mission company, of which we are completely looking to God for guidance. We will still be with BMS, and they are supporting us through this next stage. We are not sure if we will remain in Bangkok or if it will be another location in Thailand. As we step into this unknown and a new journey, we do know that it is all in God’s hands and by His grace, he will reveal all to us in His perfect timing.
We will be sharing with you how God’s plans have been unfolding over the coming weeks and months.
In the meantime can you please pray for us, as we seek His will with all the preparation, business planning, the location in Thailand, finances, our visas, our Thai business partner and finding a retail space.
Thank you for all of the cards and emails we receive from so many of you. They always arrive, when we need a boost of encouragement.