“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son”. John 1:14 (NLT)
Christmas is a special time of year, not because of the sights, smells, and sounds, but because it is at this time that we recognise and celebrate the day that ‘God came near’.
What is it that you place the highest value on at Christmas?
There is no official celebration of Christmas in Thailand, with many places open for business as usual on the 25th December. However, the shopping malls of Thailand are all in full swing, selling gifts and adorned with spectacular Christmas decorations, and the twinkle of Christmas lights; with many of the malls trying to out do each other! Large illuminated hot air balls at one mall representing the journey of Christmas, another mall bringing the fantasy of a Winter Wonderland… in the middle of one of the hottest cities in the world – Bangkok! The bizarre, but funny shopping mall with Mr. Men Christmas! Lastly, one mall, we are still trying to work out what their decorations represent!!!
Looking around Paul & I have wondered through each mall – the smiles, laughter, happiness, hundreds of photos /selfies being taken, a medley of Christmas music and gift buying fills the air. It is so easy to get drawn in!…but a strong realisation kicks in, that all of this is nothing compared to the greatest and most amazing gift that came into the world!
“The noise and the bustle began earlier than usual in the village. As night gave way to dawn, people were already on the streets. Vendors were positioning themselves on the corners of the most heavily traveled avenues. Store owners were unlocking the doors to their shops. Children were awakened by the excited barking of the street dogs and the complaints of donkeys pulling carts…
…Meanwhile, the city hums. The merchants are unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he had just sent God into the cold. And the people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. They were all too busy to consider the possibility.
Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren’t looking.
Little has changed in the last two thousand years, has it? – Max Lucado (click here to read the full sample of God Came Near)
This gift is the largest and most expensive, it has no monetary value, it is a gift that brings much hope, love, peace, grace, mercy, atonement, forgiveness and ever lasting life (to name but a few). We are sure that if many people knew the great significance of this gift, they would reach out to receive it with all their hearts. Pass this wonderful gift on.
“After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child”. Luke 2:17 (NLT)
NightLight has been sharing God’s gift and presence in the red light district and local community. December has been a hive of activity reaching out to Thai women / men and international women.
NightLight successfully run a number of medical clinics throughout this year and ran the last one before Christmas at the beginning of December. The medical clinic, provides much needed medical assistance to Thais and international women from the sex industry or those that have been trafficked. It also provides continued opportunity to pamper the women with nail painting, a listen ear and prayer.
Thank God that 1,900 Christmas gift bags were hand out to women and mamasan’s (mamasan = A women who manages women in bars and brothels). With each woman being told they were remembered, loved and how precious they are.
Christmas caroling in the brothel of International women. Some listened with tears in their eyes. Many are Russian Orthodox and far from home in a foreign country at Christmas. For them to be seen and thought of at Christmas (or at any time) is no small thing for women in prostitution.
On the Anti-trafficking side of things – To date NightLight has sent home 45 International women this year! The anti-trafficking team has worked hard with many women that are now walking in freedom, and have been repatriated back home to be reunited with children and families.
As part of one of NightLight’s Christmas party morning activity, we were split into about 5 groups, to visit various hospitals around Bangkok. We visited the Veteran’s Hospital, to visit the patients, hand out gifts and pray with them.
The afternoon activities continued with games, Christmas carols in Thai, dance performances and of cause an array of amazing Thai food prepared by each group.
Freedom Bakery Update
Many of you have asked about the ladies from the Freedom Bakery. They did an amazing job during the month of October, confidently leading and teaching baking & decorating workshops at 2 external organisations. They taught and brought hope to vulnerable women making the decision to leave the sex industry and those that have been internationally trafficked to Thailand. They taught a total of 6 workshops.
It was incredible to see the bakery ladies that over 2 years ago had no bakery skills, were fearful of the oven, frightened of the mixers and insisted the microwave was going to blow up, move so enthusiastically and with purpose. They are all teachers in their own right!
November saw, the same women from the Freedom Bakery begin learning soft business skills. The ladies have expressed a desire to hopefully in the future open their own business. Therefore, Paul and I, felt it was very important to ensure they received the right business training to guide them. They have completed 2 modules in product development, marketing, packaging, how to start a business, finance and funding.
The training has been well received by them. In the new year they will decide, whether they wish to continue with further training to be mentored in exploring setting up their own business in the future. It has been excellent see the ladies’ progress and development reach new levels.
We would like to say a big thank you for all your continued support, prayers, emails, cards and letters and gifts we have received for special occasions. We really appreciate them all.
We will be taking a break for the Christmas period, to recharge our batteries, before heading into the New Year 2018.
We hope you all have a blessed & joyful Christmas and a peaceful New Year 2018.
Please note: We will be in the UK on home assignment from May 2018. If you would like us to come and speak, please contact BMS, who will be organising the dates on our behalf.
*Faces have been blurred to protect the identity of the ladies from the International Programme Centre
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
We have had various events that have happened over the last month. In mid- January, we had the wonderful privilege of welcoming 2 new BMS mission workers to Bangkok from the UK. They are living in the same apartment building as us and will be staying in Bangkok until about mid-May to study Thai. They will then move onto to Mae Sot to work with an organisation called Compasio. It has been great having them around and has enabled us to see Bangkok again through fresh eyes.
On Sunday 2nd February Peter Dunn BMS Director for Missions visited and stayed with us for a few days; we greeted him at the airport and with no time to spare whisked him straight off to a wedding! The wedding was for one of our NightLight ladies who got married at NightLight’s church plant ‘Song Sawng’. It was a lovely wedding and we were very happy to have been invited to be part of her special day. As a gift Sarah made and decorated the wedding cake, the day before, it was a full weekend! Sarah is very hopeful that by the next NightLight wedding coming up on 3 May 2014, the wedding cake will be completed by the baking team. Teaching the ladies cake baking/decorating is going well, please continue to watch this space.
On that same Sunday the long awaited General Election in Thailand took place. The run up to the Thai election has been surround by lots of activity; on the 13 January, Bangkok was shutdown! 7 major intersections in Bangkok were closed off and are still to date closed. At this stage both sides seem to be at stalemate and unfortunately since the election took place there is still no resolution. We are near one of the closed down intersections, however we are safe, we do have to do detours on a daily basis to get around. This is an area where your prayers are still greatly appreciated.
At NightLight we have had much to thank God for. We welcome you to join us in praising God and ask for your continued prayers for the work, women and staff at NightLight:
- Praise God that we have been able to hire back 2 women to work at NightLight.
- Praise God that one of our Thai staff got married at Song Sawang Church on 2 February. Both of them are believers, please pray the Lord keeps them committed to Him and one another in their future together.
- Praise God that the coffee shop is nearing completion. There have been many challenges in getting this project operational, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
- Praise God for on going partnerships with other organisations here in Bangkok. We are grateful that MST (Men and the Sex Trade) has begun their outreaches again to the men, based out of our outreach centre in the red light area.
- Praise God for skill-specific volunteers who have come to regularly offer and be part of the cake baking/decorating classes, sessions to equip NightLight women to be good mothers, prayer ministry, and English classes.
- Praise God for a great team of volunteers ready to serve at NightLight’s transition house for trafficked women.
- Praise God that we are currently assisting 2 trafficked women from Eastern Europe and 2 from Africa back to their home countries.
- Praise God for how He has been taking care of a total of 87 employees, staff & volunteers lives at NightLight.
- One of our full-time volunteers at NightLight has recently had major surgery. Please pray for a speedy recovery and healing to her body.
- Please continue to pray for the political situation in Thailand. Since November, there has been lots of political division, which has led to city-wide protests in Bangkok and some violence. Pray for resolution to this tense situation, the protection of lives, and for God’s Kingdom purposes to be fulfilled in Thailand.
- Many of the single mothers at NightLight have been tired and discouraged lately. In Thailand, it is not uncommon for mothers to leave their children with relatives in the village while they work in the city, but this trend has led to family breakdown over generations in Thailand. Pray that these women at NightLight will be encouraged as they care for their children. Pray that they understand the importance of their role in their children’s lives, and that God will give them perseverance to mother their children.
- Pray for the ministry of CityLight Coffee – construction is just about complete, and we are praying to be able to have our grand opening at the beginning of March. Please pray for the construction to be fully finalised soon and for responsible Thai staff to come alongside this shop and ministry.
- Pray for orders for the various business projects at NightLight (jewellery, screen printing t-shirts, and paper flowers). Since the New Year, 7 women have requested to return to work at NightLight, but we could only afford to take 2 back. Pray for orders to come in so we can provide work for these women.
- Sarah along with another volunteer has begun the process of writing grants and doing general fund raising for the baking project. Pray that God will provide them with the wisdom to know which grants to apply for and what to write.
- Pray for Paul as he takes on a new financial project at NightLight. Pray that God will provide him with knowledge and guidance.
- From 19 February – 21 February all NightLight’s employees & volunteers will go on a spiritual retreat. Pray for God to do a lasting work in each of our hearts.
We thank you greatly for your continued support, encouragement and prayers. We appreciate all your emails and love hearing from you.
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.
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
Since our last blog Christmas has come and gone so quickly. We hope you all had a very peaceful time and we hope this New Year holds many blessings for you all.
This month is ‘Human Trafficking Awareness/Prevention Month’. In this blog we wanted to remind you of the horrible reality that this modern day form of slavery brings. It is not just a problem that is encountered in certain countries; it is a ‘worldwide issue’ affecting millions of women, children & men everyday. It has become the second largest profitable crime in the world. In the last 10 years, the UK has seen a marked increase in internal/international sex & labour trafficking within the UK. Take a moment to learn what human trafficking looks like and be prepared with information for people at risk. The UK report line is – ‘Crimestoppers: Read The Signs – 0800 555 111’
Please take some time to read about some of the recent cases in the UK and watch the You Tube video on the Metro article and watch the news report on the BBC article. Please click on each heading to take you to the articles:
This is what awareness & prevention can do: This is an account of a conversation on a recent outreach night in Bangkok:
On a recent outreach night we visited a bar in the red light district. The music was loud, blaring as always. The women on the stage were swaying just enough to vie for men’s attention but not enough to wear themselves out. We have many friends in this bar, and it was not long after we arrive several girls come over to us for hugs and a drink. “P” was one of the women who came to sit with us. She was very affectionate and so happy to be with friends who actually care about her life.
“P” chatted away about this and that. We strained to listen but could just about catch it all, against the music blaring loudly in the background, we almost missed her words, “My friend told me I can get a job working in a massage parlour in Korea and make 80,000 baht a month (£1,700).” We were about to do the rhythmic nod of the head (you know the one, where you don’t really know what someone is saying but are trying to look like you do!), when her words set off an alarm. A job offer? In Korea? 80,000 baht? Our passive nods turned into an alarmed reaction. We quickly warned her that these offers are usually just traps leading to slavery or forced prostitution. She was shocked, and of course disappointed. It sounded like such a great opportunity. “P’s” husband left her with over 300,000 baht in debt (£7,000) and because she has been unable to pay, the amount has now grown to 400,000 baht debt. “P” works at an office in the day before coming to work in the bar at night. She sleeps 4 hours a night. At 42, “P” knows she is too old to get many customers and yet the hope of money from a few clients and even from drink tips is enough to reel her in to the scene of sexual exploitation. One job at a massage parlour in Korea, making 4-5 times what she makes through two jobs here sounds like an answer to desperation.
Women in vulnerable situations like “P” are perfect prey. She has enough ambition to work two jobs and to make real attempts at improving her life. She is not sitting around waiting for something to drop from the sky. She has initiative, she is intelligent, and she is desperate – the perfect combination for a trafficking victim. She believes there is an answer out there for her situation and if it is presented just right she will take the bait.
One conversation in a bar may have prevented “P” from being sold into slavery. If the offer is legit, it will prove itself, but one conversation opened “P’s” eyes to the risk and realities. Sometimes, that is all it takes.
Trafficking Prevention Month is almost over, but hopefully trafficking awareness/prevention is not just the “flavour or a gimmick for 1 month” but the beginning of something greater. By making a choice to become aware, you to have the opportunity to prevent trafficking. Someday, you may have a conversation on a bus, at the store, or at the beauty salon. Because you have become aware, an alarm will go off in your head and you will react as we did, informed, and ready to prevent him or her from being trafficked. YOU can prevent trafficking! Choose to know. Listen to the vulnerable. Speak up. You just might save a life!
If you want to support the work of BMS, please click on this link BMS World Mission:
We continue to thank you for all your support, encouragement and prayers.