I watched as the bakery ladies buzzed around the bakery, with *P Mon giving gentle directions “…*Noon have you checked that the following items are packed in the case, from the check list – weighing scales, mixing bowl, recipes, cupcake tin, cupcake cases, buttercream, palette knife, piping nozzles, piping bags… We don’t want to forget anything for the workshop!…”
I (Sarah) could hear the excitement in their voices, and sense the tension and nervousness in their body language as 3 ladies of the bakery team, prepared all the equipment needed to take with them to teach their first ever external bakery workshop!
I took a moment to remember how far they have all come from, not just learning in the Freedom Bakery, but the total transformation that has and is continuing to happen in their lives – they are definitely not being defined by their past. God is an amazing miracle worker!
I was further reminded about the gifts & talents that God has given to all of us. When God blesses us with gifts and talents they are never just for our own benefit. He doesn’t bless us with talents and skills so we can look brilliant or be selfish with it! God wants us to steward those gifts for Him! To bless others and build His kingdom.
When we unwrap what God has given us, use it well and remember that even though the gift has our name on it, it doesn’t mean it is all for us. God uses our obedience and stewardship in wonderful and spectacular ways to bless others, with hope and joy in a way that we just can not do in our own strength.
As I watched the beautiful bakery ladies that 2 years ago had no bakery skills (many Thai homes still do not have an oven), that were fearful of the oven, frightened of the mixers and insisted the microwave was going to blow up… move so confidently around the kitchen. I thanked God for providing me with the privilege of using me to be part of their lives; yes teaching them baking and cake decorating has been part of it, but most of all God has given me the opportunity to pray into their lives, for trust to be built so they are able to share some of their most deepest life experiences, to pray with them when they feel all hope is lost, to laugh and cry with them and tell they can, when their confidence takes a knock.
On many occasions I questioned God, what am I doing this for? I can’t do this, my brain is exploding from trying to teach in Thai, can I give up now Lord? How am I supposed to win souls with baking & cake decorating? When my own confidence took a blow, life and spiritual struggles caused me to be discouraged or forgetting that I don’t need to do this all in my own strength.
To hold onto God, and remain obedient with the gifts and talents He has given me has been well worth it! On Friday 6th October, I witness 3 ladies of the bakery team confidently lead and teach their first external workshop (outside of NightLight at another organisation), teaching ladies making the decision to leave the sex industry.
When we got to the workshop, I had a brief wobbly moment, that they couldn’t do it and would need my help, so I proceeded to put on my hat and apron ready to help! I immediately heard *Noon say to me in a firm voice… “What are you doing? Take it off! We can do this!” That’s when the tears of joy began to sting my eyes, when I gained further understanding of how God is using me and the gifts His has given me to fulfil His purpose in their lives.
I am soooooooo proud of the bakery ladies, on their first workshop I cried with joy and smiled so hard (my cheeks hurt!), I even jumped up and down praising God! I watched them teach with such professionalism, giving advice and answering all the questions. They taught all of it by themselves with very, very, very very… did I say ‘very’ minimal assistance! I just stood in the background and took pictures, feeling like a spare part… Which was fantastic!!! They are all teachers in their own right!
God receives the praise and the glory since none of this has been done in my own strength… Trust me, I would have given up ages ago if it was left down to me!
Jesus gives us two commandments: to love the Lord and to love others as we love ourselves. – Matthew 22:37–40. So when we steward our talents to honour Him and to bless others, we are doing just that.
Pass it on… God wants to use your unique role in the body of Christ. So, if like me it is baking, then bake, singing, then sing. If your talent is a little less conventional—maybe you’re good with numbers, computers or play the bass like Paul (who teaches bass lessons, advises on computers and computer skills) — then find a way to translate that into a job to glorify God. Use your God-given abilities to reach those who don’t know Him—and give God the praise for all He has given. Pass it on…
* Names have been changed to protect their identities
Thank God for:
The bakery ladies confidence and courage to lead independently a bakery workshop to reach out to others.
The bakery team taking ownership of the Freedom Bakery.
There are 5 extra external workshops lined up for the month of October, that the team will be running.
For conditioned confidence, growth and development of the bakery ladies.
For the extra 5 external workshops being held in October at 2 different organisations.
Pray for the women that will attend these workshops, that they will be impacted by them and good conversations and relationships can be made.
BMS World Mission partnered with NightLight International
God called Moses to rescue His people from slavery in Egypt. But Moses felt his lack of speaking skills disqualified him from pursuing God’s plan.
God saw it another way.
Called to Rescue
There have been many times, during our time serving in Thailand when we have questioned God, about if we are qualified to do what He is calling us to do? We often see many of the NightLight ladies who often feel that they are incapable of completing or doing tasks for the same reason.
God has been faithful in His reminders, that He has shown us. He generally choses people who have nothing to bring to the table. He doesn’t need perfect vessels to carry out His will, He uses broken ones!
God does not hire based on qualifications, He doesn’t care what credentials you hold, how many times you have failed, how little you have to offer or how much you make. What He cares about is your willingness to do what He asks. He chooses people based on their inabilities. If we could do everything He asked on our own, where would faith come in? If we were confident enough to say what He tells us to say, we would think we were doing it in our own strength. If we had the credentials and expertise, pride would swell up in us. Instead, He finds broken and chipped vessels to put together to do His will so He can get the glory.
Let us tell you about one of the beautiful ladies at NightLight, who was once broken; but she allowed God to work in and through her life –
*Yim – Is still very young in age (24), however she has been through a battlefield, suffering what many may not experience in a lifetime. Armed with little education, a child to support at 16 years old, a mother to look after and no money. Yim’s prospects seemed bleak. Leaving her son with her Mother, she arrived in Bangkok, with the hope of earning enough money to support her family, she took a job in a massage parlour in Bangkok. It was a massage parlour with a difference and unfortunately she found herself working in the sex industry. Very quickly it stripped away at her dignity, self worth and confidence. Leaving her with shame, anguish and pain, she began to self-harm to cope with her situation. Feeling there was no way out, she accepted what she though was her portion. One day she met a lady, that told her about God. She had heard about Him, but coming from a Buddhist background, what could God do for her?
On a particularly low day Yim decided to call out to God and asked Him to take her out of that massage parlour. She wasn’t even sure if God had heard her desperate cries for help. A few day later invited by the same lady, she found herself in Church, a new experience that made her feel loved and over whelming joy. It was made even better by the fact that, someone asked her if she wanted a way out of the massage parlour; an opportunity to do an alternative job that she could do with dignity. Yim accepted the job at NightLight and has never looked back!
Almost 4 years on and even though she was diagnosed with HIV, Yim is walking in hope, confidence, growing in Christ, has her son living with her, leading Praise & Worship, has learned to play the guitar, is currently learning to play the bass guitar, has a heart for serving in Africa! She now regularly goes on outreach nights to the bars; building friendships, offering hope, a hug and a smile of love to women who are still on the path she once trod.
What the enemy meant for bad, God has turned around for good. Yim once believed that she had nothing to offer was unqualified, poor, weak, lacked courage, and was afraid. With God’s help Yim is now pouring love, forgiveness, grace and mercy into other’s just as Christ has shown her. Joining Him in rescuing those, who are unable to speak up for themselves.
Just as God equip Moses; even today God provides us with exactly what we need to accomplish great things.
If you don’t feel qualified, remember: When God calls, you can because it’s not about you. It’s about what He can do through you. All you need to do is make yourself available.
God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.
* Yim’s name has been changed to protect her identity. The word ‘Yim’ is Thai for ‘smile’.
Please click on the ‘dignity’ image below to find out more information from the BMS website about the new Dignity initiative.
BMS World Mission partnered with NightLight International
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