Link Letter No 7

Greetings to all our supporters!

Priceless

Since we last wrote, things have been busy here. We enjoyed a second Christmas here in Bangkok, as food and water started to become more readily available in the shops again after the floods. Holding a Christmas party for the children at the place of grace was a real highlight for us, as we were able to tell the children the story of how God chose to send His son to be born into poverty, because He loves all people.

Christmas TimeWe were able to give the children a shoebox pack each with useful things in, thanks to the generosity of a local Korean Christian school. To see the look on their faces as they received a gift was just priceless. Each one of them just hugged the gift, speechless!

See the photo overleaf.

Prison ministry

As our work permit was due for renewal in January, it caused us to do some revaluation of our ministry, as the needs are so huge Catherine Lee CMS Mission Partner Taiwan Link Letter No.7 March 2012 and the response has been so big. Thailand prison ministry asked if we would attend the church there every week, as we can now speak more Thai (the whole service is in Thai), and they are keen for us to be able to help as a whole family. Most of the church consists of Thai people who have been in prison or a juvenile detention centre, and Pastor Soonthorn said that 95 per cent of Thai churches won’t support such people and don’t agree with prison ministry work.

A big decision to make

With this in mind, it that meant that we had to decide whether to leave Christ Church, and increase John’s weekly prison commitments from two to three days. On top of that, the place of grace ministry is growing... and so we duly prayed! Surely it is easier to focus on one specific ministry?

We put some music on and the next song to play was from a verse that God used to call us to Thailand, in Isaiah 61. The song focussed on three things:

  • He has sent us to the poor
  • To bind up the broken hearted
  • To proclaim freedom for the captives.

 

That was such a reinforcing of the three ministry areas we are engaged in! We believe that God was saying that “it might be busy, it might be more complicated, but that is what I have called you to”.

So here is an update on our three areas of ministry...

He has sent us to the poor…

Children’s Club

The Place of GraceThe children and youth work at the Place of Grace has been going really well. We run a children’s club once a week for over 20 children, who play with toys that have been donated for the first hour. Our main aim is to love these children who all live in the slum opposite. Most of the time, they have to hang around the area as their carers usually work full-time.

They respond so well to personal attention, to us just taking an interest in them and showing that we care for them. When the children are ill, we pray for them and hurt for them as they have nowhere to lie down in order to get better – they simply have to keep going with raging temperatures, etc. So we try and spend quality time with each child, doing jigsaws (which they haven’t done before) and playing simple games, and they just blossom under the attention. Some people who have donated toys worry they are too old or not complete, but these children play with anything because they don’t have toys. In the second hour we then do a very simple drama telling them about how much God loves them, or basic biblical messages, which they love.

One little girl wrote us a little note in Thai that she had decorated beautifully. We thought that it would say she loved playing, but instead it said thank you for the teaching. These children know nothing about God at all, and they drink in every bit of information we give them. We told the children one week that God thinks they are so special, and that He has their name written on His hand. One little boy, who is looked after by his granddad and has an untreated hearing problem, absolutely insisted we had to write his full (and very long) Thai name on this small clay hand we had made. It was so important to him that God had his name correct, that it was really him.

We then do a simple craft which reinforces our drama, and then a food craft such as ice a biscuit. Thank you to those who sent us craft materials to use for Christmas – they were all so helpful, as craft stuff is much harder to come by here. The Thai government schools are not usually able to do such things as craft and so the children love to do them, especially anything to do with food as they are always so hungry! We also provide fruit for them every week because their diets are not usually adequate.

The team consists of all five of us as a family for most of the time. Joel loves the children, and they are very good with him. He picks up Thai from them as well as learning how to fight! Leah and Natalie are great with the children and they really look up to them. Natalie does the little girls’ hair which they love, and Leah has endless patience with the little ones.

The Youth group

The youth group continues in the evening, and follows the same format, with the young people enjoying a safe place to chill. Some of the teenage girls live on their own in tiny shacks in the slum, and they really enjoy coming along. We show Disney DVDs and also have a PlayStation 2 that they play motor racing on, which they love. We also teach them and do craft and food craft. John has a vision for a non-alcoholic bar so the young people can enjoy hot chocolate and soft drinks in the evening.

This has all been going really well, and we have just started a new youth group on a second evening each week for young people in another nearby slum community who have been begging to come. John runs this with the able help of a young American woman, who is due to return home soon but who has been great with the young girls.

Preschool group

We are due next week to start a preschool group once a week. There are many young children and babies looked after by elderly grandparents in the community, and we wanted to be able to help in a small way by taking care of them once a week. This would allow the grandparents to rest, and reassure them that the children are in a safe environment. We would appreciate your prayers for this. God has blessed us with a Thai helper called Whai over the last six weeks or so, which has been a huge help. Whai knew some people we knew in England and God really spoke to him about working with us, so he now works with us full time. He is great with the children, and with all the ministry work that we are doing, although it has been a challenge for him to live by faith as we are unable to pay him at the moment. However, CMS is considering taking him on as a co-mission partner which would give him half of his wage.

To bind up the broken hearted…

Prayer ministry

The prayer ministry that God has called us to do is also going well. We have a monthly meeting where we talk about the things that God has put on our hearts, things that are significant for Thailand. These include healing from rejection, (we have heard endless stories of people who were given away and even sold as children by their parents) and freedom from fear (many Thai people are brought up to appease evil spirits and remain afraid of spirits and ghosts). We then offer prayer ministry. The needs are just enormous, and we book confidential times to pray with those who are struggling during the week.

We have been asked to do a similar monthly afternoon session in another part of the city, and have been offered a place to hold the meetings, which we are praying about. John and Whai are also now spending day a month praying with people in a project for those recovering from drug and alcohol addictions outside of Bangkok. We are seeing God do amazing work in the lives of those who have terrible stories, and we would really value your prayers for this work.

To proclaim freedom for the captives

Prison work

John also works every week at Klong Prem prison, which is famously known as the Bangkok Hilton. He teaches and leads bible studies, mainly for African prisoners who are mixed in with Thai prisoners. Despite there being not even enough room to lay down except on their sides, these prisoners are often hungry for the word of God, and when they sing Amazing Grace with all their hearts, John says it brings a lump to his throat.

Pastor Soonthorn has asked John to also do monthly visits to three Thai juvenile centres in Bangkok, and this month John is starting those visits. Pastor Soonthorn has personally purchased 3,000 copies of Nobodys Child in Thai to give to these young people who come from poor situations and have made mistakes, as he feels so strongly about trying to help them. The prison ministry is currently building a new unit for young people and children, who are left alone because their parents are in prison.

For all of these, hope in Jesus is life changing, and John’s story of hope is particularly inspirational to them. So we made the decision as a family to transfer churches and do our best with the Thai language.

We would appreciate your prayers for all of our work!

With love and thanks to you all for your valuable support,

John, Gillian, Leah, Natalie and Joel xx

PS: We are due home for our first home leave this summer. Please come and hear us speak at one of our link churches.