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.
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.
We are looking forward to seeing many of you, when we are in the UK during May – July 2018.
Time has flown past so quickly, that we can’t even believe it! It has crept up on us, without us even realising! On the 29th June we noted that we have been living and serving in Bangkok, Thailand for 5 years!
We have been looking back and recapping the last 5 years. It has been a time that has been filled with crazy moments, challenges, confusion, spirit filled, hot, humid, rainy, flooding, stormy, emotionally driven – fun, happy, sad, tearful and fearful journey that God has led us on!….but we wouldn’t change it for the world! We have had the honour of working with many amazing people of God, who are serving, loving, learning and teaching others outside of their comfort zone.
In 5 years we have walked alongside and worked with woman coming out of sexual exploitation and human trafficking, it has been super hard, but in this time we have been so blessed and privileged to have met, some of the most strongest and courageous women in the world! Women that have stood tall and taken brave steps into freedom and transformation.
In the areas of the sex industry and trafficking that are dark and spiritually heavy. In 5 years, we have had the joy of seeing God’s light and hope break through the darkness and seen God’s hand at work – as women have gained their self-worth, value, dignity, a new life, and their God given purposes unfold, breakthrough’s of women delivered from evil spirits, brothel owners asking for prayer, listened to men confess that were about to use the sex industry for the night – but felt compelled to come into the coffee shop and share their heart, watched some of these same men give their lives to Christ, witnessed some of the most amazing baptism’s ever, watched God’s power of love and grace help trafficked & exploited women overcome extreme trauma and God’s justice break down walls of corruption!…. Phew!!!… this is the short list! There is so much more we could add!
In 5 years, we have embraced Thailand – the people, rich culture, food, heritage, language and seen God’s face in every single Thai person or other nationalities we have met. We have built strong relationships with many Thais that speak little to no English, a true testimony to how God has enabled us to embrace and learn the Thai language. We have been welcomed by Thai families that shows a bond of trust including Buddhist families allowing us to pray for them.
Most importantly, even before arriving to Thailand, during our time in Thailand and now, God has been with us ALWAYS, providing us with the strength, encouragement, giving us nudges to take steps into the unknown, providing us with the words to support others, providing us with the wisdom to make the right decisions. God’s hand has been unchanging, we have relied on His guidance throughout this whole journey and this will not stop. We are reassured that He will be with us always.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. – Deuteronomy 31:8
We want to say a ‘big thank you’ for all your support, prayers and encouragement you have given us over the last 5 years. A ‘huge thank you’ for all your letters, cards and presents that have surprised us for New Year’s, Easter’s, Birthday’s & Christmas’. Thank you to our Church Partners for the great relationships and friendships that we have formed with you, your warm welcomes, kind hospitality, food and cakes whenever we come to visit your Churches. Some of you have been with us, before we left the UK 5 years ago and that support from you has been greatly appreciated.
We don’t always get the time to answer every single email or letter, but please know that each one has been up lifting. Many have come right on time, when we have needed a boost of encouragement.
Thank God for:
The number of transformed lives that have happened during this time – those that have made the decision to leave the sex industry, trafficked woman that have been reunited with families in their home countries and men that have had their hearts transformed and touched by God.
For our 5 years in Thailand, the people we have encountered, the lives that God has allowed us to make an impact on.
The growth in our journey and walk with God.
Please continue to pray for the all those, that recently got baptised. As new believers, the enemy uses many situations to pull them back. Pray that they will stay strong and remain close to God.
Us, as we continue to live and serve in Thailand – God’s guidance, direction and wisdom for serving others and our personal lives.
*Noon & *Ma – 2 Ladies that were working at NightLight but left recently. Ma has sadly gone back to work in the sex industry and Noon has got caught up in a bad situation and has been contemplating suicide. Please pray that God’s truth will break through the lies they are been fed. That with God’s help they will have enough courage to come back to NightLight. That they will understand that they are beautiful, precious daughter’s and princess’.
To help you understand how much God loves and cares for us, here is a poem that some of you may know or have read already. Please click on the poem title to take you to the poem link –
*Names have been changed to protect their identity
Lots of love
Paul & Sarah
BMS World Mission partnered with NightLight International
The time of our visit to the UK came and went so quickly! We arrived safely back home in Thailand on Wednesday 29 July and now settling back into a routine. We are taking some time off before going back to work at NightLight.
It was good to visit Churches we knew already and see some familiar faces, however it was also wonderful to link with some new churches and build new friendships; and spend time in worship with you all.
We hope that what we shared was encouraging, it is always a blessing for us to share how God is working in people lives, the transformation taking place, the hope and Good News being spread.
We are grateful for your role in bringing freedom to these women as well as the prayers and support which enable them to stay and thrive in freedom.
This is an update of some of the work that was continuing whilst we were in the UK. It is amazing how much happens in your absence.
NightLight’s work with trafficked women continues to bring us face to face with amazing women with horrific stories who are overcoming and walking into freedom. Since April we have assisted 2 Ugandan, 1 Liberian, 1 Uzbek, and 2 Columbians in returning home. These women and their families have been greatly impacted by your prayers and support. We are presently assisting three others from Uganda and Colombia as well.
A young trafficked woman from Morocco is presently in our care. Please pray for her as she suffers from post traumatic stress and tries to walk through a difficult process to return to her country.
A Central Asian woman, in our care who was seriously ill. We were able to get her home safely where she could reunite with her family and receive medical treatment.
One of our women who has struggled to get off the streets and free of addictions for over 10 years agreed to enter a rehab centre in July. NightLight will be visiting with her family in the northeast and then taking her to the centre up north. Please pray for her to have courage for this difficult journey.
The bakery completed their 12 week training course and in June had a graduation ceremony and celebration. They often doubted themselves and their abilities, but persevered and made some incredibly beautiful cakes. In the Autumn they will open for sales locally.
The outreach centre has been very busy with beauty salons twice a week, English class once a week, outreach parties, and a medical clinic. Women from the red light area come for care, conversations, and hope. As the women share their stories with our staff, they ask about Jesus. Four women have come to Christ through these visits.
On the June, 25 women and their children were treated to an outing at Safari World by the Evangelical Church of Bangkok. For their missions service weekend they also partnered with us by playing live music in our coffee shop at night, and joining us on outreach. It was wonderful to have their support and presence.
There is a lot of discouraging news around the world and we face challenges, which often seem impossible. We are so grateful for your prayers and support and we celebrate the goodness of God in bringing freedom and hope to so many.
The Spirt of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.
Isaiah 61:1 (NLT)
BMS World Mission partnered with NightLight International
For those of you that receive the BMS prayer guide this week 3 – 9 March is taking the time to pray for those, who remain vulnerable to abuse, sexual violence and exploitation.
If you don’t receive the prayer guide please click on the below link to take you to the BMS website:
Please know that your prayers do make a difference. Please read this account witnessed from one of the women currently working at NightLight:
How do we cope with the sad stories we hear so often? This is question that is repeatedly asked. We do encounter tragic stories, but we are also receiving the privilege of hearing and seeing lives transformed by God’s persistent love. This is what compels us to reach out into the darkness over and over.
On Valentines Day we had a party in the NightLight outreach centre in the heart of the red light area (similar to the party held at Christmas time). Eleven Nightlight women joined to help with the party. Some painted nails, some taught women how to make jewellery, some did artwork with children, others played the guitar and sang, one gave facials, and others served food and greeted people as they entered.
We was sitting near to where *Minni (a NightLight worker) was doing the nails of a young streetwalker. We noticed the woman wiping tears so leaned closer to hear what Minnie was telling her. “Most people don’t care about women like us. How many do you know who love streetwalkers?” *Minni began to share – “But God loves us. God doesn’t care about what we have done. My life has totally been changed by God’s love.” *Minnie was sharing her story of transformation from the streets into God’s family. She paused her nail painting to give the woman a hug and told her, “I didn’t used to care about other people. I was selfish, but now I find I really care about other people and when I see them hurting, I just want to hug them.”
*Minnie told the woman that if she needed prayer for anything we would be happy to pray for her. The woman said she had never felt this kind of love and when *Minnie spoke about Jesus she felt something warm that spoke to her heart. We prayed for her and she cried. She said she felt lighter and more at peace.
*Minnie’s testimony comes from her life experience. She was orphaned at a young age. She ended up on the streets when she had no way to provide for her child and grandmother. As a streetwalker, *Minnie sought pleasure and significance through the men and the pleasures that their money can buy. As she became addicted to a lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, and sex, *Minnie began to feel desperate. Someone told her about Jesus. She prayed to Jesus asking him to get her out of this lifestyle and soon after she was directed to ‘NightLight’. Now *Minnie is passionate about Jesus and longs to share Him with the women who are still on the street. Watching *Minnie’s face light up as she shared about Jesus brought joy to our hearts. Hearing her passion and vulnerability in sharing her life transformation spoke deeply to our hearts.
It’s women like *Minnie that make it all worth it. *Minnie was once one of these young girls at risk on the street but now she is a powerful witness for Christ. Eleven women whose lives have been transformed came to the outreach party to serve and be a light to the very darkness that once exploited them. The love they now know compels them. The same love compels us and not only helps us cope but fills us with joy in the journey.
*Minnie – Her name has been changed to protect her identity.
Please remember that your prayers into these situations makes a difference.
“By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice and received what God has promised them” – Hebrews 11:33 (NLT)
BMS partnered with NightLight International / NightLight Design
We hope that the cold weather in England does not last to much longer and warmer spring weather is just around the corner. Here in Bangkok it is still supposed to be winter, but with the average daily temperature between 32 – 36 degrees (last week it topped 37 degrees!) it is far from feeling like winter. The temperature during the night drops to 24 – 27 degrees and sometimes we do actually feel cold! Pulling on an extra blanket while we sleep!
Thank God we have now finally received our work permit and also have a 1 year visa stamped in our passports. It has been a complex process, but NightLight has been great with helping us getting this all arranged. This now means we no longer have to leave Thailand to a neighbouring country every 90 days to extend our visa. We just need to present our passports at the Thai Embassy in Bangkok every 90 days.
We have come a long way with the language study, but each stage gets harder and harder.
We have just completed our 6th written language test on Thursday 28 February.
At the moment we have 2 tests per month, including written dictation every day in the lesson and homework every day, we are studying like crazy. It is definitely testing our patience. We would love to say that writing Thai is getting easier… but with 44 letters, 12 short vowels, 12 long vowels, 8 special letters and no spaces between the words when you read or write and a whole range of rules on how to read it! It is really stretching and challenging us. We are thanking God, in each test I (Paul) am getting on average 60% – 70% and Sarah is doing slightly better with 80% – 90%, which we guess is not bad! The plus side is that learning to read and write the language is improving our speaking skills.
We still have at least another 3 months of language learning to go and once we start work full-time may have 1 lesson for a couple of hours per week including learning Christian Thai terminologies. We have been encouraged that putting the time put into learning the language/culture, sets the foundation for us as we prepare to go into full-time work, live in Thailand long term and operate on a daily basis.
Although we have not started at NightLight full-time, we are continuing to get involved with the outreach and gradually getting involved in projects; such as leading bible study as a couple in Life Group. Sarah has been working on 2 jewellery projects for NightLight, together we are working on understanding the spiritual aspects of Thailand and creating an inventory for NightLight on this and I (Paul) am currently on the men’s ministry team organising a men’s retreat for May.
We are thank God for bringing us this far and look forward for all that is to come. Please keep us in your prayers as we continue with language study, begin to take on work and create a work/life balance.
With all that we had done the week before it was time for us to head off to another retreat. We took a ‘rot tua’ (bus), from Bangkok to
Chiang Mai, which was about a 9 hour drive, but actually quite a comfortable experience (compared to the 14-16 hour sleeper train we took to Laos a few weeks before). It was wonderful to have 2 days to spend with Pete & Lizz Maycock and their lovely children – BMS workers, in Chiang Mai, working with the Kar’ren Christian hill tribe before heading another 3 hours further up north by mini bus to Mai Sai, Chiang Rai.
TBMF – Thailand Baptist Missionary Fellowship.It was really wonderful to meet with all the mission workers in Thailand linked to TBMF. An opportunity to listen to the work they have been doing in Thailand and also gain words of encouragement from those who have served in Thailand for many years. There was a very international mix: England, Sweden, America, Australia, Philippines, India and Thai, which made up about a total number of about 70 people including the youth and children.
We received a reminding message that, “That as we work with others, we must remember the unity in the body of Christ, building each other and growing in spiritual maturity. We all have different roles to play but we are one in Christ”.In the beautiful surroundings of Mae Sai, Chiang Rai the retreat had a slightly slower pace which we were grateful for. Providing us with time to spend in devotion and worship in the mornings. We were also given the opportunity to share a bit about ourselves in one of the morning sessions.
With some free time in the afternoon, there were fantastic trips organised to explore Mae Sai that was pulled together by Pete Maycock. On one day, we visited the ‘Golden Triangle’, giving us the opportunity to look out onto Burma and Laos at the same time, while standing in Thailand. We then took a 20 minute boat ride to Donesao Island, north Laos. It was interesting being in Laos again, albeit a different area and for different reasons and only a short time of 1 hour to brows the array of markets stalls. On another day we visited the monkey caves, where the cheeky monkeys roam free, added with the further adventure of trekking around in 2 caves! The evenings were filled with time to learn more about each other, pray together, a games night and also a talent night – with the BMS crew singing a medley of Beatles songs… we think we preformed the best!!! However no favouritism or 1st prizes at this conference, everyone gave it their best shot.
When we arrived back in Bangkok, we reflected on how great it was to know, that we are supported by and are part of a wider family in Thailand. We felt refreshed, relaxed and ready to ease back into the continued process of learning our roles with NightLight & language lessons, which we re-started on Monday 29 October. We are now on module 3 and continuing to push through the many barriers of learning a new language.
Please visit our photo page to view more photo’s of our time in Thailand so far. You can click here to take you to the photo page.