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.
In many of our blogs over the last year, we have mentioned about the many baptisms we have seen and the many lives we have seen transformed. God has been at work in the lives of those that were at the brink of despair, those that felt helpless, bound, not able to walk in freedom, where the enemies lies had blurred the truth, those that felt all hope was gone, those that didn’t feel they had any ability or worth.
NightLight is known as NightLight ‘International’. This years retreat, definitely lived up to the ‘International’ status . A total of about 90 – 100 staff, volunteers, employees, survivours of trafficking from all corners of the world – USA, Australia, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Brazil, Thailand and the United Kingdom came together, to fellowship, worship, rejoice together at the baptisms and unite.
We have now lost count of the number of baptisms we have seen, whilst in Thailand. They have been a true testimony to God’s power and all that He is doing. Every baptism we have seen has been as beautiful and as precious as the first.
The most recent baptism at the retreat were made even more special, with 11 women from different countries in Africa attending from NightLight’s International Anti-trafficking programme.
Over the months the Thai women of NightLight have welcomed and embraced these African women with such great unconditional love, compassion, acceptance and understanding. We have watched as the Thai women took care of the babies of the African women, allowing them to enjoy and have time for themselves during the retreat. There was definitely no shortage of babysitters! As the babies were passed around and lovingly cared for.
Number of women baptised 6 African women & 1 Thai woman. We rejoiced with the angels as each life was set free in Christ.
All the nations you made will come and bow before you, Lord; they will praise your holy name. Psalm 86:9 (NLT)
It is an amazing moment when you watch those you have been teaching and working with over the years, rise like phoenix’s from the ashes. When God uses people and situations that were broken and brings them to restoration, fullness, hope that brings Glory to His name.
We have shared in several of our last blogs, about some of the bakery women who had become confident enough to enter into business training. It was a breakthrough, because they requested they were ready for this type of training. I (Sarah), didn’t feel I had the Thai business language skills to train the bakery women to the standard they deserved. So after months of praying (over 1 year to be exact!), and searching for a professional Thai company that could run the business skills course, I almost gave up since we didn’t have a large budget to pay for the training either. Thank God, He never gives up on us, just when I thought all was lost, Paul & I were introduced to a Thai Christian Business Coach, that completely ticked all our boxes.
The Thai business teacher was fantastic and was able to teach the women with such grace, patience and understanding. The women had nothing but praise for the teacher and the information they were learning.
2 of the women after completing the first 2 modules of the business training, decided to take it to the next level and wanted to be enrolled on the individual business mentoring programme.
I was over joyed, especially since 1 of the women in 2016 was adamant, she never wanted to do any form of business skills training EVER! I am not sure what changed her mind, but I watched her flourish with each session as she come up with the most original ideas… I could see that she was even shocked at some of the ideas she was coming out with. They learnt all aspects that will enable them, to start up their own business in the future, should they wish to do so – business planning, financial planning, designing their own logo/brand, marketing and presenting their businesses on video.
The bakery has been a foundation for these women to step out, grow and realise their own potential, to let them know that God has a plan and purpose for their lives and that they have great ability to put their minds to anything not just baking/sugar crafting but anything.
Paul & I was proud to witness these women, who once didn’t think they could achieve much. Successfully complete the Individual Business Mentoring Programme .
In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:10 (NLT)
We truly thank God for these many precious moments.
Here is an account from the Founder & CEO of NightLight – Annie Dieselberg
“Recently, my laptop was stolen at the airport.
I had left it accidentally at the security gate, and someone decided to help themselves to it. Thankfully, airport security personnel immediately checked the cameras and were able to locate the man who stole it. Within a half hour—and with only two minutes to spare—I got my laptop back and caught my plane.
I recently shared this story on Facebook and was struck by how many people “liked” the post. I realized that the fear of having something stolen or lost is a feeling most people can easily relate to. Hearing that my laptop was returned so efficiently gave people just a little bit of hope.
Maybe that’s why Jesus told the parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the prodigal son. The theme of losing something valuable and searching to find it resonates with people around the world, in every era. When what was lost is not just a coin but something of our very own, the intensity and emotional connection with this experience grows. It’s a fear every parent understands.
It’s not as easy to relate to victims of human trafficking and exploitation. Yet every night in Bangkok (and around the world), lost daughters walk the streets in hopes of being found. Their parents do not know where they are and sometimes have not yet even realized that they are lost. These daughters cannot find their way home from this foreign land. They stumble around in the dark; their vulnerability being exploited night after night. The immediate terror and panic of being truly lost eventually gets pushed down beneath layers of coping strategies, but it doesn’t take much to trigger the fear, the trauma, and the alienation. Their dignity, their freedom, their lives have been stolen from them.
**Anna was hired to work as a maid for a family in the Middle East. Once there, however, she was enslaved and forced to work for no pay under a cruel boss. Her employer brought her to Bangkok, where she was beaten and thrown out on the streets with no documents and no means of taking care of herself. Suddenly on the streets, alone in a foreign land, Anna realized she was hungry, desperate, and very lost. Anna had to turn to prostitution for survival. Soon after, she was picked up by the police and thrown in the immigration detention center, where she stayed for 4 months and had no way to access help or family. She did not know if she would ever find her way home.
One day, however, our help line number was given to Anna. Calling us from the pay phone inside the detention center, she begged us for help. Recently, Anna was finally delivered from the jail with a ticket to go home. The immigration truck brought her to the airport the night of her departure, and we were waiting there to celebrate with her. Anna could not stop thanking us, though she said she had no words to adequately express what she was feeling. She had been lost and was found. She was now on her way home.
“We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way,” wrote St. Francis of Assisi. When a child, mother, sister, or daughter is found and returned, even the angels celebrate. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. We celebrate this love which compels us to join in the search, to set the captives free, and to help those who have lost their way to find their way back home. For these women, this is a demonstration of love they will never forget”.
**Anna’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
Praise God for:
The number of women that NightLight has assisted and repatriated back to their home countries, through the anti-trafficking programme.
The amazing restoration, transformation, confidence building and counselling, to help women walk in freedom, that come into the NightLight International Programme Centre.
The many women that are still lost hoping to be found. Pray that NightLight’s help line number makes it’s way safely to the women who need us to help them.
Pray for NightLight to be in the right places at the right time, to reach out and help those that have been trafficked.