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
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.
It is amazing the difference a few weeks makes. Many of you may have read Sarah’s previous blog titled ‘Far Away From Home’ or on the BMS website titled ‘Trapped in Thailand’s Sex Trade’ about *Blessing a young lady stranded in Thailand that Sarah had been befriending. Not long after writing about her situation, NightLight International received enough funding to be able to send Blessing home. It was made even more amazing by the fact that we received enough funding not only to send Blessing home but with the help of IOM (International Office of Migration), we were able to send 4 other ladies back to Uganda at the same time.
Week commencing 22 July 2013 was filled with lots of final preparation for their journey home, packing, arranging for them to have some belongings sent via cargo, contacting their love ones and of cause final goodbyes from us. The goodbyes were filled with many emotions- sadness, but also a great overwhelming power of hope and joy. It was amazing at the airport to see these ladies who had experienced so much pain, trauma and some who had been away for so long; were finally going home. The smiles on their faces were priceless! In a huddle we prayed with them before waving goodbye, to strong and courageous young ladies, with amazing futures filled with hope for themselves, their children and their families. They were heading back home to Uganda with powerful voices, to help others who may fall prey to a similar fate.
Blessings final words to me “I will never forget you or what NIghtLight has done for me, I will call you when I get home”. True to her words Blessing called to let me know she had arrived safely. I spoke with her sister, aunty, daughter, uncle and of course Blessing! They were so overjoyed to have her back home, the telephone line was filled with the sound of laughter and so many expressions of thank you.
We are currently assisting other women from Uganda and a lady from Uzbekistan, hopefully next week (w/c 19 August 2013) there will be another 3 going back home. Amazing!
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does – Psalm 96:3 (NLT)
Join us in thanking God:
- For the 5 ladies that NightLight was able to send back home to Uganda in July. For their safe return home and being reunited with their families.
- That NightLight have 3 further ladies that we are hoping to send home w/c 19 August 2013
Join us in praying:
- For the women who have gained the courage to step forward to receive help from NightLight.
- For the women waiting for interviews with IOM (International Office of Migration).
- For wisdom for NightLight in the best way to support and care for each of the ladies we help; that have either been trafficked or exploited by the sex industry.
- That all the ladies that NightLight has sent (sending) home, receives the best appropriate aftercare with the various organisations we have made contact with in their home countries.
- For the relationships and transitions back with their families and communities to be smooth.
- That Blessing will gain the courage to tell her family that she has HIV. Pray that her family will support her.
*Blessing’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
I (Sarah) looked at *Blessing a beautiful and courageous young African women sat in front of me, as she told us her story, fighting back tears of how she came to be in Thailand. “She was my manager and ‘my friend’; I had been working in her shop for 4 years selling clothing. So when she offered me the opportunity to go with her to China to buy new stock, I said yes. I had no money, so she was paying for my airfare and all other expenses; this was my first business trip a chance in a lifetime. I had never been on airplane and never been outside of Africa. I saw nothing bad in her inviting me to come on this trip with her.”
After hearing the first part of her story, I sensed that Jennie, Annie & I were a bit confused as we reviewed what she had said. At this point it all seemed quite harmless. Blessing continued “My manager then informed me that she had to return back to Uganda, but I should stay in China and continue to buy stock to send back to Uganda. At no point did I think there would be any problems. She told me she would send me money for my return airfare”. Jennie, spoke up “She hadn’t brought you a ticket to return to Uganda?” or “Left you with money to buy a return ticket to Uganda?” Blessing answered with a low “No.”
“My manager had never treated me badly in 4 years, I ‘trusted her’, she was ‘my friend’”, Blessing paused. “She never sent the money! Each time she phoned I asked when it would be sent. When can I come home? Only to be given excuse after excuse. With my visa coming to an end, my manager told me my best option would be to go to Thailand to extend it. Then she would send me the money for my airfare back to Uganda”, Blessing paused again. “She only sent enough to get me to Thailand. However I continued to ‘trust her’ she was my manager and ‘my friend’.
From Uganda to China to Thailand, the calls from her manager occurred less and the money she sent her began to run out. Blessing began to realise that she was stranded in Thailand, with no money, no job, nowhere to stay, no phone number to call her manager (since she withheld her phone number each time she called). Through tears, Blessing said “Do you know what my manger, ‘my friend’, said when she called? She said told me that I am a grown woman and I should know what to do, to make some money. She was referring to me selling myself on the streets. Me – selling myself on the streets – I have degree in teaching you know!” Annie, Jennie & I looked at each other in amazement; Annie asked “Was it not possible to get a teaching job in Uganda?” Blessing replied, “There are no jobs in Uganda, you have to take what you can get and that’s why I was selling clothes in a shop.”
I couldn’t stop my mind from wondering, reeling, hearing my own thoughts: This is not how a friend acts or treats you! Blessing, please, please stop calling her your friend! How could this women do this to her? Deceiving her in this way? Taking her from the known to the unknown? Leaving her stranded in a strange country? Her life pulled apart in a matter of weeks due to deception?
Blessing exclaimed, “I didn’t want to sell myself. I have a degree in teaching; I have skills and so much ability. So I headed to North East Thailand and managed to get a teaching job with an agency. I tried to earn my keep. I enjoyed my job and most of all I enjoyed working with the children.”
I wish I could say this was then end of Blessing’s ordeal, however unfortunately due to the expiry of her visa, the agency took advantage of this and deceived Blessing paying her for only 1 month after having worked 3 months. Again she was at a loss, unable to fight her case because of her expired visa.
“I tried,” Blessing said, “I tried to do what was right, but it all seemed to go against me. With my money running low I headed back to Bangkok. I didn’t have enough money to rent somewhere on my own, so I was introduce to some ladies who rented a room together. They were streetwalkers who went out every night. Some of them knew I didn’t have much money and were encouraging me to work the streets. I just couldn’t do it at first, but my manager started calling again and demanded I pay her back for the ticket to China and to Thailand! My family also did not know of my circumstances, so they were expecting me to send money as well. Especially for my daughter; yes I have a 4 year old daughter, who I love dearly! I saw the ladies come back on many occasions counting all the money they had made for the night, as I watched my money disappearing away. I was encouraged by them to work the streets again. By this stage I felt I had no choice – with no money for rent, food or to send to my daughter and no-one to turn to for help. I was completely torn and broken. One of the girls told me the area I should go to, what to say and do.” As she wiped away the tears rolling down her face, Blessing sobbed, “I will never forget that first time going with men. I didn’t want to do it. I expected none of this to happen to me. My desperation had brought me to this moment. I need help; I want to go home, I want to be with my daughter!”
Blessing’s situation is not uncommon, but it still is so hard to hear and comprehend. Over the 2 months I have gotten to know Blessing very well. Our friendship has bloomed; I have seen her face light up when she speaks excitedly about her daughter and what she hopes for her. I heard about the things she hopes and dreams of for her own future. In the midst of all of this is a deep pain of how being on the end of deception and mistrust has worn her down, lowered her self-esteem and trust of people. For example when we paid her rent for the first time, she was convinced that we were not coming and that we were not going to be true to our words. She thought we were fake! She needs continual reassurance, and I keep encouraging her that her past experiences do not have to dictate her future.
I share in her pain, I cry when she cries; I share in her joy, I laugh when she laughs; I hug her when she needs to be held. I know my prayers for her have not gone unheard; she can put all her hope and trust in God. He is faithful to his words.
Psalm 25:3 – No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.
Blessing recently sent me a sweet text message recently that read. ”I am so blessed and proud to know you, thank you for all your help”. I feel so blessed to know her to, that’s why I called her “Blessing” in this story.
*Name has been changed to protect identity
BMS World Mission partnered with NightLight Internationl. BMS appreciates your prayers; to keep up with the weekly prayer needs in the countries that BMS are working in. Please see the BMS Prayer Guide
It is hard to know what to do in a seemly helpless or hopeless situation. We have been reminded of this recently due to a tragic situation that NightLight faced. An African trafficked women called *Harriet died 2 weeks on the streets of Bangkok, the reasons why are unknown. Other women who have been trafficked and forced to work the streets; are frightened by the news and unnerved. The unknown is as frightening as the known because it can leave the door open for it to happen again. It has created desperation; however when they find out there are options it gives them hope. NightLight is currently helping 13 women all from Africa and this number is increasing weekly.
It has been a challenge as I learn more of the facts and meet the women who are victimised by the plight of human trafficking. They are no longer numbers or statistics, but women whom we meet on outreach and they become our friends. I have cried out to God “Where are you Lord? Can you see all the pain they endure? In the midst of all this suffering and injustice, is there any hope?”
As we get to know these women and find out what they enjoy doing, what their dreams are, about their families and their children. They are brave, beautiful, strong and courageous women. As the friendships form, we begin to see the hope. It’s there. Not in the way we would like it to be; it’s hard, chaotic and complex, but there is hope!
It not about denying the horrible truths of suffering in the abyss of human trafficking; the injustice is painful and death hard to comprehend. But there is hope in sight and it is not the end. Restoration, healing and transformation is happening. I guess the hope comes in the guise of those we can still help.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” -Proverbs 31:8-9
“If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.”― William Wilberforce
*Harriet’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
We thank you for your continued support, prayers and encouragement.
- Please pray as we both become more involved with the outreach.
- Pray for the men and women we reach out to. For restoration, healing, transformation and a sense of hope.
- Paul has been part of the men’s ministry organising the men’s retreat. He will be on a men’s retreat from 17 May – 19 May. Pray that it will be a time of infilling, sharing, bonding, learning and rest.
BMS World Mission partnered with NightLight International