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