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.
It is amazing the difference a few weeks makes. Many of you may have read Sarah’s previous blog titled ‘Far Away From Home’ or on the BMS website titled ‘Trapped in Thailand’s Sex Trade’ about *Blessing a young lady stranded in Thailand that Sarah had been befriending. Not long after writing about her situation, NightLight International received enough funding to be able to send Blessing home. It was made even more amazing by the fact that we received enough funding not only to send Blessing home but with the help of IOM (International Office of Migration), we were able to send 4 other ladies back to Uganda at the same time.
Week commencing 22 July 2013 was filled with lots of final preparation for their journey home, packing, arranging for them to have some belongings sent via cargo, contacting their love ones and of cause final goodbyes from us. The goodbyes were filled with many emotions- sadness, but also a great overwhelming power of hope and joy. It was amazing at the airport to see these ladies who had experienced so much pain, trauma and some who had been away for so long; were finally going home. The smiles on their faces were priceless! In a huddle we prayed with them before waving goodbye, to strong and courageous young ladies, with amazing futures filled with hope for themselves, their children and their families. They were heading back home to Uganda with powerful voices, to help others who may fall prey to a similar fate.
Blessings final words to me “I will never forget you or what NIghtLight has done for me, I will call you when I get home”. True to her words Blessing called to let me know she had arrived safely. I spoke with her sister, aunty, daughter, uncle and of course Blessing! They were so overjoyed to have her back home, the telephone line was filled with the sound of laughter and so many expressions of thank you.
We are currently assisting other women from Uganda and a lady from Uzbekistan, hopefully next week (w/c 19 August 2013) there will be another 3 going back home. Amazing!
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does – Psalm 96:3 (NLT)
Join us in thanking God:
- For the 5 ladies that NightLight was able to send back home to Uganda in July. For their safe return home and being reunited with their families.
- That NightLight have 3 further ladies that we are hoping to send home w/c 19 August 2013
Join us in praying:
- For the women who have gained the courage to step forward to receive help from NightLight.
- For the women waiting for interviews with IOM (International Office of Migration).
- For wisdom for NightLight in the best way to support and care for each of the ladies we help; that have either been trafficked or exploited by the sex industry.
- That all the ladies that NightLight has sent (sending) home, receives the best appropriate aftercare with the various organisations we have made contact with in their home countries.
- For the relationships and transitions back with their families and communities to be smooth.
- That Blessing will gain the courage to tell her family that she has HIV. Pray that her family will support her.
*Blessing’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
I (Sarah) looked at *Blessing a beautiful and courageous young African women sat in front of me, as she told us her story, fighting back tears of how she came to be in Thailand. “She was my manager and ‘my friend’; I had been working in her shop for 4 years selling clothing. So when she offered me the opportunity to go with her to China to buy new stock, I said yes. I had no money, so she was paying for my airfare and all other expenses; this was my first business trip a chance in a lifetime. I had never been on airplane and never been outside of Africa. I saw nothing bad in her inviting me to come on this trip with her.”
After hearing the first part of her story, I sensed that Jennie, Annie & I were a bit confused as we reviewed what she had said. At this point it all seemed quite harmless. Blessing continued “My manager then informed me that she had to return back to Uganda, but I should stay in China and continue to buy stock to send back to Uganda. At no point did I think there would be any problems. She told me she would send me money for my return airfare”. Jennie, spoke up “She hadn’t brought you a ticket to return to Uganda?” or “Left you with money to buy a return ticket to Uganda?” Blessing answered with a low “No.”
“My manager had never treated me badly in 4 years, I ‘trusted her’, she was ‘my friend’”, Blessing paused. “She never sent the money! Each time she phoned I asked when it would be sent. When can I come home? Only to be given excuse after excuse. With my visa coming to an end, my manager told me my best option would be to go to Thailand to extend it. Then she would send me the money for my airfare back to Uganda”, Blessing paused again. “She only sent enough to get me to Thailand. However I continued to ‘trust her’ she was my manager and ‘my friend’.
From Uganda to China to Thailand, the calls from her manager occurred less and the money she sent her began to run out. Blessing began to realise that she was stranded in Thailand, with no money, no job, nowhere to stay, no phone number to call her manager (since she withheld her phone number each time she called). Through tears, Blessing said “Do you know what my manger, ‘my friend’, said when she called? She said told me that I am a grown woman and I should know what to do, to make some money. She was referring to me selling myself on the streets. Me – selling myself on the streets – I have degree in teaching you know!” Annie, Jennie & I looked at each other in amazement; Annie asked “Was it not possible to get a teaching job in Uganda?” Blessing replied, “There are no jobs in Uganda, you have to take what you can get and that’s why I was selling clothes in a shop.”
I couldn’t stop my mind from wondering, reeling, hearing my own thoughts: This is not how a friend acts or treats you! Blessing, please, please stop calling her your friend! How could this women do this to her? Deceiving her in this way? Taking her from the known to the unknown? Leaving her stranded in a strange country? Her life pulled apart in a matter of weeks due to deception?
Blessing exclaimed, “I didn’t want to sell myself. I have a degree in teaching; I have skills and so much ability. So I headed to North East Thailand and managed to get a teaching job with an agency. I tried to earn my keep. I enjoyed my job and most of all I enjoyed working with the children.”
I wish I could say this was then end of Blessing’s ordeal, however unfortunately due to the expiry of her visa, the agency took advantage of this and deceived Blessing paying her for only 1 month after having worked 3 months. Again she was at a loss, unable to fight her case because of her expired visa.
“I tried,” Blessing said, “I tried to do what was right, but it all seemed to go against me. With my money running low I headed back to Bangkok. I didn’t have enough money to rent somewhere on my own, so I was introduce to some ladies who rented a room together. They were streetwalkers who went out every night. Some of them knew I didn’t have much money and were encouraging me to work the streets. I just couldn’t do it at first, but my manager started calling again and demanded I pay her back for the ticket to China and to Thailand! My family also did not know of my circumstances, so they were expecting me to send money as well. Especially for my daughter; yes I have a 4 year old daughter, who I love dearly! I saw the ladies come back on many occasions counting all the money they had made for the night, as I watched my money disappearing away. I was encouraged by them to work the streets again. By this stage I felt I had no choice – with no money for rent, food or to send to my daughter and no-one to turn to for help. I was completely torn and broken. One of the girls told me the area I should go to, what to say and do.” As she wiped away the tears rolling down her face, Blessing sobbed, “I will never forget that first time going with men. I didn’t want to do it. I expected none of this to happen to me. My desperation had brought me to this moment. I need help; I want to go home, I want to be with my daughter!”
Blessing’s situation is not uncommon, but it still is so hard to hear and comprehend. Over the 2 months I have gotten to know Blessing very well. Our friendship has bloomed; I have seen her face light up when she speaks excitedly about her daughter and what she hopes for her. I heard about the things she hopes and dreams of for her own future. In the midst of all of this is a deep pain of how being on the end of deception and mistrust has worn her down, lowered her self-esteem and trust of people. For example when we paid her rent for the first time, she was convinced that we were not coming and that we were not going to be true to our words. She thought we were fake! She needs continual reassurance, and I keep encouraging her that her past experiences do not have to dictate her future.
I share in her pain, I cry when she cries; I share in her joy, I laugh when she laughs; I hug her when she needs to be held. I know my prayers for her have not gone unheard; she can put all her hope and trust in God. He is faithful to his words.
Psalm 25:3 – No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.
Blessing recently sent me a sweet text message recently that read. ”I am so blessed and proud to know you, thank you for all your help”. I feel so blessed to know her to, that’s why I called her “Blessing” in this story.
*Name has been changed to protect identity
BMS World Mission partnered with NightLight Internationl. BMS appreciates your prayers; to keep up with the weekly prayer needs in the countries that BMS are working in. Please see the BMS Prayer Guide