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
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.
It has been a while since we published a blog, however our busy work load and schedules mean that writing for a blog has taken a back seat.
The last few months have been difficult, since we have been working through issues in our personal and working lives. Things that have made us totally depend on God and require us to wait on Him. Waiting is an inescapable fact of life. It is not about if we will have to wait for something, it’s about when we will have to wait, and crucially how we wait.
The thing about waiting is that, no matter how tough it can be, it helps us to understand that God is sovereign. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
When the trials come, we often want to step or jump right over them, shut our eyes or pretend they are not there. However through these trials God has been preparing our hearts and giving us the ability to grow in faith. God’s picture for our lives is way bigger than what we can imagine. Obviously when we are in the period of waiting we often forget this, when we are rocked to the core, we know that God can and will come through, but you are left with the wondering of when.
There are two ways you can wait. You can wait actively or passively – active waiting is best. It does not really matter what you’re waiting for; Joyce Meyer says it well, “Enjoy where you are, on the way to where you’re going”. In other words – wait well.
Whenever we are going on a particularly long trip somewhere, we always have something to read or some music to make the journey more enjoyable. It may sound simplistic, but that’s exactly what we need to do while we are waiting on God. Having a parallel project doesn’t make the waiting always enjoyable all the time, but does make it easier. We are trying to have thankful hearts, drawing closer to God while waiting, resisting being passive. It has been wonderful to find ways to add value to someone else’s life, by serving and helping them to reach their goals.
We understand that waiting is a godly act. The enemy would rather we forfeit the wait in favour of a counterfeit lesser option; he doesn’t want us to access the power and strength that are developed within us when we wait. We both love the scripture, ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint’’ – Isaiah 40:31
In the waiting, it puts us right into God’s hands and at the centre of His will for our lives.
“God grace is sufficient for us, for His power is made perfect in our weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
We would appreciate if you would keep us in your prayers. We have received emails from some of you, and they are greatly appreciated. We don’t always get the opportunity to reply to them all, but please know they are valued.
Thank you for your continued support & prayers.
We would appreciate prayers for:
- Sarah’s Mum health
- Both of us to continue to grow in faith for God’s provision
- God guidance on work & life matters
- Sarah’s health
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.
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
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