On Monday 8 October we went to Phuket, in the south of Thailand for 5 days. We were there to have meetings and see if this is where God wants us to be. We will soon write more on what is happening behind the scenes as we following God’s leading on our next steps.
Even though we have been in Thailand for over 6 years, there is still so much we continue to learn along the way. We know that part of the month of October Thailand celebrates an event called the ‘Vegetarian Festival’… Sounds harmless doesn’t it! For all these years living in Bangkok, it seemed to have a harmless vibe to it.
The festival has it roots in Chinese Taoism and is a celebration to the nine emperor gods and happens during the ninth Chinese lunar month every year. There are many Chinese and Chinese Thai, in Thailand, so the festival has become a fixed event in the Thai calendar. It is now a mix of Taoism and Buddhism. In Bangkok’s China Town and many stalls around the city, they switch to only selling vegetable/vegan based dishes (ahaan jay – อาหารเจ); those that are participating in the Vegetarian Festival will abstain from eating meat, following a very strict vegan diet for 9 days as a way to cleanse their bodies. Many wear white from head to toe. The air is filled with the sound of loud fire crackers, beating drums, clashing symbols, the temples are dressed with lanterns, candles and filled with people making merit. The smell of incense fills the air, Chinese dancers and dancing dragon costumes parade past in a flurry of bright colours.
In Phuket we saw a different side to this festival. Phuket is the where the Vegetarian Festival is thought to have originated
from, since over 30 percent of the population have Chinese ancestry. The festival starts with the lantern pole raising ceremony, which happens across many temples around the island. The lantern pole is supposed to attract the 36,000 gods of the Chinese pantheon.
Then there are rituals held to invoke the gods along with fire walking, bladed ladder climbing and the nail bridge crossing. The ceremonies also take on a more gruesome twist with parades around Phuket. Spirit mediums walk with knives, saws, fish hooks or any other items capable of piercing the bodies and faces of those that are possessed. Those that are possessed believe they are acting as mediums of the gods and will puncture their faces and bodies believing that the Chinese gods will protect them for harm and little blood scarring from the self mutilation.
As we walked around Phuket one afternoon, we could hear the pounding of the drums, symbols, raised voices and loud fire crackers popping in the distance. It was heading towards us, we caught sight of row upon row and group upon group, of people dressed in white and spirit mediums dressed in brightly coloured and highly embroidered and patterned aprons, holding swords and knives. The police appeared from no-where to stop the traffic at the intersection to allow the parade to pass though, we stood on the corner, not wanting to cross the path of the parade. The cacophony of sounds became louder, more confusing, as each group stopped in the centre of the intersection and began yelling and beating themselves with the swords and knives they were holding. We could see where some of them had already used large sharp objects to pierce their faces, as deep marks and fresh scars marred their skin. Many of them looked possessed, their eyes bulged, entranced and bewitched, with each strike some of them drew blood from their bodies.
I could hear Paul quoting the verse “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind…” The verse that came to my mind was “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth…” I could feel the tears stinging my eyes not from fear, but as I looked on as each group did the same act, my heart broke. I began to think if this is breaking my heart, how much more much is it breaking God’s heart to see His Children so far from Him, yielding to gods and spirit that they believe are calling them to self mutilate and appease them in this way.
From a western prospective it would be easy to think that in the UK, an event like the ‘vegetarian festival’ would never happen. However, how different is this from halloween? As Christians in the west, we are quite sheltered, and because we do not see the rituals or ceremonies that happen alongside halloween, we see it as harmless… It is just about costumes and trick or treating right?. Wrong! Halloween is effectively no different from the vegetarian festival – It is a time of evil, darkness, witchcraft, fear, death, honours the devil and darkness and more than likely has many rituals that go alongside, but we just don’t see.
Wherever you are in the world or whatever your understanding is of spiritual warfare. As Christian, when confronted with evil or the enemy in any shape or form, we don’t need to hide away, or shake with fear. We do as Christians need to be aware of the battle that is happening and know that it is very real. Sometimes it hard for us to understand, because as humans we think if we can’t see it or feel it then it is not real or true. God clearly reminds us of the spiritual warfare happening – Ephesians 6:10-19 The powers of darkness does not have the final say ever. When we place our faith in Jesus, we are in a position of VICTORY always!
I like the way that Priscilla Shirer explains it from her Bible study series The Armour of God: “The enemy’s approach is not just aimed at individuals. He has a collective cultural and global methods designed to derail entire nations and people groups from God’s intended plan. He carefully crafts and proliferates philosophies, doctrines and moral perspectives across entire demographics in order to steer whole societies away from God.”
For God to open our spiritual eyes to the spiritual warfare we can not see in the natural.
For us not fear or be afraid of the enemy, because God has already overcome the devil, darkness and death. We are victorious ALWAYS!
To be able to discern what is from the enemy and not just think it is just ‘harmless’.
Pray against the enemies deception, lies and the ways he tries to deceive us.
To be in a position to share God’s truth, light and love, with those who have not yet encountered Christ.
It has been a long time since we wrote an entry to our blog. We do have good reasons and we will be sharing them with you over the coming months. Since there has been a time lapse, we feel we need to go back before coming forward.
“And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.” Acts 20: 37 – 38
When God says it time to move… You’ve got to move! We shared with the churches we visited during our Home Assignment in the UK between June – July, that we have now left NightLight. It was a decision that was very hard for us to make, we prayed, we shared with our Life Group (Small Group), we listened for God and His perfect timing. When God’s clear answer came, it was a bitter pill for us to swallow…
The ladies at NightLight have become our family, and God was telling us it was time to leave them. Over the 5-6 years we were there, we witnessed God’s transformation in many of the women lives, seeing them step into freedom, accepting Jesus, getting baptised, moving forward with confidence, self worth and stepping into leadership roles.
Just like a family we had many joyous occasions, where we would laugh together to the point of happy tears, barely able to catch our breath. When the times of sorrow came, we cried together baring each others pain.
Whilst we were there, God taught us so much about ourselves. We had the great honour of pouring into the women, however without realising it, many of the ladies also poured into us. God has an amazing way of surrounding you with people, when you need it most. We counselled and prayed for each other, sharing deep and personal areas of our lives that could only be shared when an amazing family bond had been formed.
A few days before our last day at NightLight, they prepared a leaving gathering for us. It was the day we had been dreading, the day when the reality that we were actually leaving kicked in. Nothing could have prepared us for wave of emotions that we felt. Many of the ladies shared how we had impacted their lives, what we meant to them and how much they were going to miss us.
There was not a dry eye to be seen; another but final moment when we would all weep together. I (Sarah) was a blubbering mess with tears and snot everywhere (sorry, it was not a pretty sight!). I don’t think I have ever cried so much when leaving a place of work…even Paul shed a tear! The women have left a huge stamp on our hearts, which we will never forget. We will miss them dearly.
Since leaving we have been able to keep in contact with some of the ladies and those we know really well, have invited us to their homes.
So, God says it time for us to move on… So in obedience to Him, move on we will do. We do not know all the plans for our next stage, but God is revealing the puzzle to us a little at a time. We sense that God is calling us to start up a Business as Mission company, of which we are completely looking to God for guidance. We will still be with BMS, and they are supporting us through this next stage. We are not sure if we will remain in Bangkok or if it will be another location in Thailand. As we step into this unknown and a new journey, we do know that it is all in God’s hands and by His grace, he will reveal all to us in His perfect timing.
We will be sharing with you how God’s plans have been unfolding over the coming weeks and months.
In the meantime can you please pray for us, as we seek His will with all the preparation, business planning, the location in Thailand, finances, our visas, our Thai business partner and finding a retail space.
Thank you for all of the cards and emails we receive from so many of you. They always arrive, when we need a boost of encouragement.
In many of our blogs over the last year, we have mentioned about the many baptisms we have seen and the many lives we have seen transformed. God has been at work in the lives of those that were at the brink of despair, those that felt helpless, bound, not able to walk in freedom, where the enemies lies had blurred the truth, those that felt all hope was gone, those that didn’t feel they had any ability or worth.
NightLight is known as NightLight ‘International’. This years retreat, definitely lived up to the ‘International’ status . A total of about 90 – 100 staff, volunteers, employees, survivours of trafficking from all corners of the world – USA, Australia, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Brazil, Thailand and the United Kingdom came together, to fellowship, worship, rejoice together at the baptisms and unite.
We have now lost count of the number of baptisms we have seen, whilst in Thailand. They have been a true testimony to God’s power and all that He is doing. Every baptism we have seen has been as beautiful and as precious as the first.
The most recent baptism at the retreat were made even more special, with 11 women from different countries in Africa attending from NightLight’s International Anti-trafficking programme.
Over the months the Thai women of NightLight have welcomed and embraced these African women with such great unconditional love, compassion, acceptance and understanding. We have watched as the Thai women took care of the babies of the African women, allowing them to enjoy and have time for themselves during the retreat. There was definitely no shortage of babysitters! As the babies were passed around and lovingly cared for.
Number of women baptised 6 African women & 1 Thai woman. We rejoiced with the angels as each life was set free in Christ.
All the nations you made will come and bow before you, Lord; they will praise your holy name. Psalm 86:9 (NLT)
It is an amazing moment when you watch those you have been teaching and working with over the years, rise like phoenix’s from the ashes. When God uses people and situations that were broken and brings them to restoration, fullness, hope that brings Glory to His name.
We have shared in several of our last blogs, about some of the bakery women who had become confident enough to enter into business training. It was a breakthrough, because they requested they were ready for this type of training. I (Sarah), didn’t feel I had the Thai business language skills to train the bakery women to the standard they deserved. So after months of praying (over 1 year to be exact!), and searching for a professional Thai company that could run the business skills course, I almost gave up since we didn’t have a large budget to pay for the training either. Thank God, He never gives up on us, just when I thought all was lost, Paul & I were introduced to a Thai Christian Business Coach, that completely ticked all our boxes.
The Thai business teacher was fantastic and was able to teach the women with such grace, patience and understanding. The women had nothing but praise for the teacher and the information they were learning.
2 of the women after completing the first 2 modules of the business training, decided to take it to the next level and wanted to be enrolled on the individual business mentoring programme.
I was over joyed, especially since 1 of the women in 2016 was adamant, she never wanted to do any form of business skills training EVER! I am not sure what changed her mind, but I watched her flourish with each session as she come up with the most original ideas… I could see that she was even shocked at some of the ideas she was coming out with. They learnt all aspects that will enable them, to start up their own business in the future, should they wish to do so – business planning, financial planning, designing their own logo/brand, marketing and presenting their businesses on video.
The bakery has been a foundation for these women to step out, grow and realise their own potential, to let them know that God has a plan and purpose for their lives and that they have great ability to put their minds to anything not just baking/sugar crafting but anything.
Paul & I was proud to witness these women, who once didn’t think they could achieve much. Successfully complete the Individual Business Mentoring Programme .
In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:10 (NLT)
We truly thank God for these many precious moments.
Here is an account from the Founder & CEO of NightLight – Annie Dieselberg
“Recently, my laptop was stolen at the airport.
I had left it accidentally at the security gate, and someone decided to help themselves to it. Thankfully, airport security personnel immediately checked the cameras and were able to locate the man who stole it. Within a half hour—and with only two minutes to spare—I got my laptop back and caught my plane.
I recently shared this story on Facebook and was struck by how many people “liked” the post. I realized that the fear of having something stolen or lost is a feeling most people can easily relate to. Hearing that my laptop was returned so efficiently gave people just a little bit of hope.
Maybe that’s why Jesus told the parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the prodigal son. The theme of losing something valuable and searching to find it resonates with people around the world, in every era. When what was lost is not just a coin but something of our very own, the intensity and emotional connection with this experience grows. It’s a fear every parent understands.
It’s not as easy to relate to victims of human trafficking and exploitation. Yet every night in Bangkok (and around the world), lost daughters walk the streets in hopes of being found. Their parents do not know where they are and sometimes have not yet even realized that they are lost. These daughters cannot find their way home from this foreign land. They stumble around in the dark; their vulnerability being exploited night after night. The immediate terror and panic of being truly lost eventually gets pushed down beneath layers of coping strategies, but it doesn’t take much to trigger the fear, the trauma, and the alienation. Their dignity, their freedom, their lives have been stolen from them.
**Anna was hired to work as a maid for a family in the Middle East. Once there, however, she was enslaved and forced to work for no pay under a cruel boss. Her employer brought her to Bangkok, where she was beaten and thrown out on the streets with no documents and no means of taking care of herself. Suddenly on the streets, alone in a foreign land, Anna realized she was hungry, desperate, and very lost. Anna had to turn to prostitution for survival. Soon after, she was picked up by the police and thrown in the immigration detention center, where she stayed for 4 months and had no way to access help or family. She did not know if she would ever find her way home.
One day, however, our help line number was given to Anna. Calling us from the pay phone inside the detention center, she begged us for help. Recently, Anna was finally delivered from the jail with a ticket to go home. The immigration truck brought her to the airport the night of her departure, and we were waiting there to celebrate with her. Anna could not stop thanking us, though she said she had no words to adequately express what she was feeling. She had been lost and was found. She was now on her way home.
“We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way,” wrote St. Francis of Assisi. When a child, mother, sister, or daughter is found and returned, even the angels celebrate. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. We celebrate this love which compels us to join in the search, to set the captives free, and to help those who have lost their way to find their way back home. For these women, this is a demonstration of love they will never forget”.
**Anna’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
Praise God for:
The number of women that NightLight has assisted and repatriated back to their home countries, through the anti-trafficking programme.
The amazing restoration, transformation, confidence building and counselling, to help women walk in freedom, that come into the NightLight International Programme Centre.
The many women that are still lost hoping to be found. Pray that NightLight’s help line number makes it’s way safely to the women who need us to help them.
Pray for NightLight to be in the right places at the right time, to reach out and help those that have been trafficked.
We are looking forward to seeing many of you, when we are in the UK during May – July 2018.
“Lord why have you opened my eyes and heart up to such pain & suffering? Thanks for the gift of cake decorating, but how am I supposed to help & win souls with cake decorating?”
I had been earnestly seeking for about 2 years, for God’s guidance on how He wanted to use me and the creative skills He had blessed me with. Little did I know how the Lord would un-package an amazing new skill; plus the journey & adventure He would take me on. As they say, when you ask God for something, be prepared for how He will answer it!
I am not formally or professionally trained as a cake decorator, my education & career background was firmly in fashion design, business & production.
In 2006, whilst working as a Fashion Production Manger, I was randomly asked to make & decorate a baby shower cake. I knew how to bake, but decorating was completely alien to me. At the baby shower, some people thought the cake I had done came from a specialist cake shop in London! What! I couldn’t see what they could see.
It was not long after that orders began streaming in! About 6 months later, I sensed God’s timing to step out to start my own cake decorating business! Was I crazy? Possibly! Leaving the security of a well-paid job to start a business in something I knew little about or never received training in.
Reading the bible one morning I stumbled upon Exodus 31:1-5 – “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts”.
It confirmed that God cared about the creative gift He had given me. I discerned that God wanted me to do more than just build up a business empire; it was about something much bigger.
I began to do wedding cakes, sculptured cakes and model full size shoes and handbags out of cakes all with no training. I began to use it as act of worship and prayer time as I found myself reflecting on God and The Word as I created these cakes. Each time I finished a cake, I would stand back in amazement and wonder how I had produced it!
I then spent about 1 year, turning down opportunities to teach individuals and small groups (about 5-10 people at a time) the art of baking, cake decorating & sugar artistry. “Me teach?” Was my instant answer “How can I teach something I haven’t been taught?” I was petrified at the thought of teaching others.
I believe that God got tired of me saying no, and set up a divine appointment, that left me stunned. I some how managed to agree without realising, to teach cake decorating to 120 people over a 2 day period! Aaaggghh! The first day I was shaking like a leaf, as I tightly gripped the piping bag, microphone strapped over my ears. I began to pray “ Lord, This is not what I do? I’m in the fashion business. How did I get to this point? How Can I teach these people, when I haven’t been taught? God wasted no time in replying, I heard a small voice respond “Who say’s you haven’t been taught? I’m your teacher”. A sense of peace swept over me and I relaxed into teaching cake decorating skills.
God opened the doors of teaching opportunities; within a month I took on board a 16 year old student with learning difficulties as a 6 month work placement. The women’s group at Crisis SkyLight homeless organisation heard about the work and asked me to run classes, a women’s hostel housing over 100 women heard about the work I was doing with Crisis invited me to teach. Each time the 6-8 week courses finished, the women requested for me to come back. I began working & walking alongside women that were broken – some were prostitutes, suffered physical abuse, were battered, had mental health problems and drug addictions.
“Lord why have you opened my eyes and heart up to such pain & suffering? Thanks for the gift of cake decorating, but how am I supposed to help & win souls with cake decorating?” This became my hearts prayer. I now understand that this was my training ground, God setting the foundation, for the work to come.
As time went on the women began to ask about why I came to teach them, and mentioned that they there was something different about me. This was my ‘Oh’ moment, as I saw God open the doors for me to share my faith story, God’s love, grace & Jesus. Doing this in a creative workshop setting made it less threatening, as they shared their life stories, poured out pain, they were seeking freedom.
Teaching a skill that I have had no formal training in still seems strange. Recently I reflected and had to laugh, I was so scared of teaching in English, but fast forward about 7 years and now I am teaching baking & cake decorating in Thai!
Working & walking alongside Thai women that have endured horrific treatment, bound by the sex industry. I am now watching them walk in freedom as they are given an alternative job opportunity out of the sex industry.
This is what the newest venture at NightLight will do – ‘Thailand Freedom Bakery’ – the aim is that NightLight, will be able to offer more jobs to women leaving the sex industry, providing them with employment with dignity & a skill. I began teaching some of NightLight’s women in September 2013, over 1 year later, the women are thriving, their confidence is continually growing and their cake baking & sugar artistry skills are improving.
In mid-September renovations to the kitchen at NightLight began, to provide the bakery team with a professional space. From February 2015, 5 more women will join and I will begin teaching a full-time training program, covering – hygiene, essential business skills, along with baking, decorating & sugar artistry. This will enable them to produce beautiful, celebration cakes, wedding cakes, delicious baked goods and run a bakery with dignity. The name for the bakery will be unveiled soon.
God may not be asking you to leave your job, sell all your possessions or go overseas, but at some point He may ask you to follow Him into the unknown. What He will ask of you may stretch you beyond your resources. When He asks, say yes. Your “yes” will prepare you for a later time when you will need greater faith to say yes. Then, you will find fulfillment in doing His will, laying down your life, and knowing that you are pleasing your Father.
If you would like to support NightLight’s Baking Project, you can do so through BMS’ ‘Thailand Freedom Bakery Appeal’. Please call BMS directly on 01235 517700 or click on the image below to take you to the BMS’ website for more details about the appeal, the work of NightLight and how you can donate.
This is taken from a series of stories titled “A Few Good Men” on the NightLight BlogAt NightLight we believe that men are part of the solution in regard to the issue of sexual exploitation. We are committed to reaching out to the men who come to Bangkok to participate in the sex industry. These following stories will highlight “a few good men” that we work with or encounter in the Nana red-light district in Bangkok. This week we are featuring a journal from Paul Brown. He and his wife, Sarah are from England and recently joined the volunteer staff at NightLight.
It was not too long after we arrived in Bangkok that I went on my first outreach night in the red light area of Nana. Nana’s appearance during the day is a far cry from its much darker and seedier face during the night. I joined the ladies for prayer prior to them going on outreach. On this occasion, I was able to accompany them around the area but not into the bars.
There seemed to be no doubt they were looking for love or companionship, but under these circumstances, it would not be of the lasting kind. I began to think about what these guys had left at home? Loved ones who were completely unaware as to what their husband,friend, father, brother or sons were getting caught up in the city of Bangkok? What were they jeopardising at home for something so fleeting?
What really struck me about the atmosphere around the bars and clubs is how comfortable the men seemed to be with everything that was going on around them. It was if this was just another form of amusement, like being at a fair ground, choosing which rides would provide them with the most pleasure. It was quite frightening how this was taken to be the norm.
Just before Christmas, NightLight hosted an outreach party in the outreach building in the red light area; hoping to reach out to the many men who frequent the bars, the women including those that work in the bars and the children. It was good to see the women but great to see some men come in for the free food, a chat, a listening ear and listen to us belt out some carols! Many of the men that came stayed right until the end, enjoying the company, and I am sure it provided them with an alternative to spending their time in the bars. We don’t know what effect we had, but I believe that we have shown love as Jesus did, not expecting anything in return. Some asked us, and no doubt themselves, why were we doing this? I believe a seed has been planted, which God will faithfully water.
It is encouraging that in some ways the outreach centre is already functioning as an alternative safe place, especially for the men. My hope is that the coffee shop which is planned to be opened later this year will have a real impact in that area, particularly on the men. That they will see it as a welcoming place, a safe place to come and chat, and we will let God do the rest.
Pray for the success of the coffee shop and the work of NightLight and perhaps similar work in your area to help NighLight with this fight.
Volunteer Staff – NightLight Bangkok