“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son”. John 1:14 (NLT)
Christmas is a special time of year, not because of the sights, smells, and sounds, but because it is at this time that we recognise and celebrate the day that ‘God came near’.
What is it that you place the highest value on at Christmas?
There is no official celebration of Christmas in Thailand, with many places open for business as usual on the 25th December. However, the shopping malls of Thailand are all in full swing, selling gifts and adorned with spectacular Christmas decorations, and the twinkle of Christmas lights; with many of the malls trying to out do each other! Large illuminated hot air balls at one mall representing the journey of Christmas, another mall bringing the fantasy of a Winter Wonderland… in the middle of one of the hottest cities in the world – Bangkok! The bizarre, but funny shopping mall with Mr. Men Christmas! Lastly, one mall, we are still trying to work out what their decorations represent!!!
Looking around Paul & I have wondered through each mall – the smiles, laughter, happiness, hundreds of photos /selfies being taken, a medley of Christmas music and gift buying fills the air. It is so easy to get drawn in!…but a strong realisation kicks in, that all of this is nothing compared to the greatest and most amazing gift that came into the world!
“The noise and the bustle began earlier than usual in the village. As night gave way to dawn, people were already on the streets. Vendors were positioning themselves on the corners of the most heavily traveled avenues. Store owners were unlocking the doors to their shops. Children were awakened by the excited barking of the street dogs and the complaints of donkeys pulling carts…
…Meanwhile, the city hums. The merchants are unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he had just sent God into the cold. And the people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. They were all too busy to consider the possibility.
Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren’t looking.
Little has changed in the last two thousand years, has it? – Max Lucado (click here to read the full sample of God Came Near)
This gift is the largest and most expensive, it has no monetary value, it is a gift that brings much hope, love, peace, grace, mercy, atonement, forgiveness and ever lasting life (to name but a few). We are sure that if many people knew the great significance of this gift, they would reach out to receive it with all their hearts. Pass this wonderful gift on.
“After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child”. Luke 2:17 (NLT)
NightLight has been sharing God’s gift and presence in the red light district and local community. December has been a hive of activity reaching out to Thai women / men and international women.
NightLight successfully run a number of medical clinics throughout this year and ran the last one before Christmas at the beginning of December. The medical clinic, provides much needed medical assistance to Thais and international women from the sex industry or those that have been trafficked. It also provides continued opportunity to pamper the women with nail painting, a listen ear and prayer.
Thank God that 1,900 Christmas gift bags were hand out to women and mamasan’s (mamasan = A women who manages women in bars and brothels). With each woman being told they were remembered, loved and how precious they are.
Christmas caroling in the brothel of International women. Some listened with tears in their eyes. Many are Russian Orthodox and far from home in a foreign country at Christmas. For them to be seen and thought of at Christmas (or at any time) is no small thing for women in prostitution.
On the Anti-trafficking side of things – To date NightLight has sent home 45 International women this year! The anti-trafficking team has worked hard with many women that are now walking in freedom, and have been repatriated back home to be reunited with children and families.
As part of one of NightLight’s Christmas party morning activity, we were split into about 5 groups, to visit various hospitals around Bangkok. We visited the Veteran’s Hospital, to visit the patients, hand out gifts and pray with them.
The afternoon activities continued with games, Christmas carols in Thai, dance performances and of cause an array of amazing Thai food prepared by each group.
Freedom Bakery Update
Many of you have asked about the ladies from the Freedom Bakery. They did an amazing job during the month of October, confidently leading and teaching baking & decorating workshops at 2 external organisations. They taught and brought hope to vulnerable women making the decision to leave the sex industry and those that have been internationally trafficked to Thailand. They taught a total of 6 workshops.
It was incredible to see the bakery ladies that over 2 years ago had no bakery skills, were fearful of the oven, frightened of the mixers and insisted the microwave was going to blow up, move so enthusiastically and with purpose. They are all teachers in their own right!
November saw, the same women from the Freedom Bakery begin learning soft business skills. The ladies have expressed a desire to hopefully in the future open their own business. Therefore, Paul and I, felt it was very important to ensure they received the right business training to guide them. They have completed 2 modules in product development, marketing, packaging, how to start a business, finance and funding.
The training has been well received by them. In the new year they will decide, whether they wish to continue with further training to be mentored in exploring setting up their own business in the future. It has been excellent see the ladies’ progress and development reach new levels.
We would like to say a big thank you for all your continued support, prayers, emails, cards and letters and gifts we have received for special occasions. We really appreciate them all.
We will be taking a break for the Christmas period, to recharge our batteries, before heading into the New Year 2018.
We hope you all have a blessed & joyful Christmas and a peaceful New Year 2018.
Please note: We will be in the UK on home assignment from May 2018. If you would like us to come and speak, please contact BMS, who will be organising the dates on our behalf.
*Faces have been blurred to protect the identity of the ladies from the International Programme Centre
2016 for us, has been filled with witnessing lots of great and wonderful things! The one we witnessed recently was no exception, it was an absolute privilege, it was the most humbling baptism we have ever seen!
There were no huge crowds of people, no church building, no projector for worship or songs, no drums, no piano, no microphones. There was no baptism pool, swimming pool or the sea. It was held in a small back room next to a small kitchen and cooking area with a largish black plastic bucket, the kind you use for carting rubble, holding ice for drinks or in our case washing lots of dishes at a time!
A small crowd of us gathered to witness with 1 person playing an acoustic guitar.
The young lady getting baptised *Humble, is a lady we are assisting through our anti-trafficking program along with her children.
Whilst in our care, she had been asking lots of questions about Christ, He became real to her and made Himself known to her in her dreams. We were in the process of assisting to help get her repatriated back to her home country, and she wanted to get baptised before going home (which was due to happen a few days later). With such a short space of time, there was not enough time to arrange a formal baptismal service. The quick preparation and thinking – “What can we use to baptise her in?”turned it into the most humbling baptism ever.
She shared her testimony, made her declaration of faith and expressed her great love for Christ.
As *Humble stepped in to the black bucket, and knelt down. The water was poured over her head…in name of the Father…. in the name of the Son… in the name of the Holy Spirit. Tears of joy rolled down everyones cheeks as we rejoiced with her!
As her children looked on – In the small back room next to a small kitchen and cooking area; in that largish black bucket for carting rumble, holding ice for drinks or in our case washing lots of dishes at a time, an amazing ‘New Life’ was born. Her humble baptism, symbolised her ‘Re-birth’.
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. – Luke 2:7
The way this baptism took place, is a great reminder of how Jesus came into this world. There was no big fanfare, no luxury, no mansion and to parents with very little. We can only but image what the stable was like, there was probably the smell and noise of the animals, the uncomfortableness of the hay and the trough for feeding animals used as His bed. With witnesses that were one of the lowest classes in society – the shepherds. In all the simplicity and humbleness came our wonderful Saviour, Joy & Hope to us and the world. His birth, was the humble beginnings of our new life and re-birth.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. – John 1:12
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ – John 3:5-7
*Humble and her children’s faces have been blurred and her name has been changed to protect their identity.
For *Humble as we continue to help her get back home. Challenges with corruption, injustice, lack of understanding and sympathy within the system, has made the process very difficult and caused many obstacles that have delayed the process of getting her back home. Please pray for officials hearts to be softened and for understanding. Please pray urgently for a breakthrough.
Hopefully if all goes well *Humble and her children are due to go home shortly after Christmas.
Thank God & Thank you:
Christmas is not celebrated in the same way in Thailand and this year is even more different since the passing of the King, with a very sombre mood. The Christmas decorations went up very late this year. People will still give each other presents, however with no real understanding of what they are celebrating.
- Thank God – This a great time for us to share with the Thais. We have had the opportunity to witness to some of the local Thais we know well near our house and have been able to give them a book about the Nativity of Jesus in Thai.
- Thank God – For a trafficked woman from Uganda that NightLight assisted, was able to return home last week after many years absence and many health challenges. It was such a victory and joy to send her off at the airport and know that she was reunited with her child finally.
- Thank you – For all your support and encouragement throughout the year. We have received Christmas cards, gifts and messages from many of you.
We hope you all have a blessed Christmas and a peaceful New year! May you know Christ’s Joy, Hope, love always.
BMS World Mission partnered with NightLight International
Happy New Year!
We hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas. Thank you to everyone that sent us cards and Christmas messages. It is always very encouraging hearing from you, we really do appreciate it.
December & Christmas has come and gone so quickly. With our day-to-day roles, a 2 day staff retreat and the addition of Christmas activities, we were very busy indeed; however it was a good busy providing us with a continued reminder of what the season is all about, what it means to imitate Christ. Reaching out to others and the amazing gift we have every day, not just at Christmas time ~#Jesus – life, light, love, freedom, peace, joy, hope & grace.
With NightLight Thai church plant ‘Song Sawang’ (Thai word for send the light). We had the privilege to spend some time with CFBT (The Christian Foundation for the blind in Thailand) a school for orphaned blind children with multiple disabilities. It is always incredible to see the women of NightLight whom God has transformed & blessed, now reaching out to all these precious children, as they gave gifts to them, held them, sung to them and prayed over them. A beautiful reminder of our God’s abundant amount of grace, our God of forgiveness and God who waits patiently for us and gives the gift of second chances. This school reaches out to each child with love and care, knowing that even with their disabilities each child is teachable, each child still has hope. As we looked around the room at so many children abandoned and remembered that God knows each one of these children by name, they are not forgotten.
On the night of Tuesday 17 December, NightLight International did a Christmas outreach. To women who are sexually exploited & have been trafficked in the Nana area – we sang Christmas carols in a brothel! We watched the faces of women lit up with joy and sing along with us. To women in the bars, and street walkers – 725 earrings + Christian tracks were given out. About 59 gift bags were given to women in the brothel & African women on the streets. To see God’s light & love pierce through and change a dark atmosphere is incredible. To witness women who generally have blank faces, when working in the in the bars and on the streets; receive a simple free gift and a smile break through and conversation with them that develops – it is not just a smile that bursts through but something has also touched their hearts.
Friday 20 December, all staff at NightLight reached out into the local Bangkok community visiting 2 hospitals, the homeless & the slum areas of Bangkok. Split into 6 teams, we again joined with women who were once victims and are now transformed; give back love, joy, hope & pray for the elderly at Bangkok Police Hospital; holding frail hands, smiling, speaking words of encouragement to the patients, carers & staff. We watched them see weak eyes fill with tears from being touched by receiving their gift – with tears filling up in their own eyes. The team that we were in gave 62 gift bags, which touched 62 hearts. The reason for the season – #Jesus.
On the same Friday 20 December in the afternoon, we had our first time of celebrating Christmas Issan style (Issan is in the North East of Thailand and is where most of the women who work at NightLight come from).
The Thai staff at NightLight organised everything. We were all instructed to wear traditional Thai or Issan costume. With ‘Luk thung’ (traditional Thai music) & a ‘Mor Lam’ (traditional Thai singer) singing vibrant & lively Issan Christian songs, the women of NightLight taught us how to ‘Ram thai’ (Traditional Thai dancing) we were ready to party. It was a truly amazing experience and definitely lots of fun.
After this busy period we were very grateful to be able take a much needed
break to Hua Hin (about 3 hours south of Bangkok); to relax by the sea and reflect on our year with NightLight and another year in Thailand.
To top off the end of our year, Sarah’s brother, sis-in-law & nephew came to Thailand. It was lovely seeing them and spending some quality time with them; it was made even better by the fact that we will get to see them all again in 5 months’ time!
Yeah! In 5 months’ time, we hope to be back in England from the 8 May 2014, on our first Home Assignment. We will spend the first few days settling in and time with our home church, we will then be available on request as BMS Speakers from Sunday 18 May to Sunday 6 July 2014, including weekdays (we will be unavailable during the weekend of 14-15 June 2014). Churches wishing to request us as BMS Speakers should use the Speaker Request form online at http://www.bmsworldmission.org/speakers Please note your request will need to be submitted by Monday 17 February 2014.
We thank God for all of our experiences in 2013 and really thankful for those of you who have prayed, emailed, written, brought us mince pies & Christmas pudding or supported us in any other way. We look ahead excitedly to all that God has in store for us for 2014. We hope that 2014 is a year of fruitfulness, peace and blessings for you all.
Please continue to pray for peace in Thailand in the midst of all the political protests; elections are due to take place on 2 February 2014.
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