The Rose Ceremony

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It was our fourth and final week in Thailand! After moving around from teaching English in the Phitsanulok Province to bar ministry in Chiang Mai, we now found ourselves in a more rural section of the country; Chiang Kham. We were there to work at the Home of Blessing; a safe home for girls who are at-risk of being sold into sex trafficking.

Our first night at Home of Blessing we walked into a large room that I would later recognize as the church building; all 102 girls from the Home of Blessing were sitting in 9 neat rows on the floor. One of our hosts, Nikki, stood up and introduced our RIM team and asked all 12 of us to stand at the front of the room.

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Nikki said “We want your team to feel very welcomed here, so we have a gift for you.” Then 102 girls stood up and started walking towards us; each was carrying a single red rose. Each girl would walk up to one member of our team and say “Welcome” and gave us a rose and hug. By the time all the girls had sat back down the 12 of us were each holding about a dozen roses, and already felt so blessed and touched by being welcomed with such open arms.

 

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As the week progressed, our little team of 12 would become extremely attached to these little girls. Their openness and love touched each and every one of us in a special way, and I know a piece of our hearts will remain in rural Chiang Kham forever.

 

Girls Home (Chiang Kham)

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The final week or so of the trip, our Thailand team is living at a girls home in Chiang Kham, a rural area about 5 hours to the east of Chiangmai. About 100 Thai girls live there and are parented by a pastor and his wife.

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Most of these girls all come from families where they’re at high risk for trafficking, being sold to forced labor, abandonment or neglect. Living at the girls home keeps them safe and allows them to finish their education through 12th grade so that they can escape from the poverty cycle.

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Wednesday we spent the afternoon at Faikwang High School with 100 students. We did English activities and shared about God’s love. Thursday we spent time with all the students at the primary school.

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That afternoon, we started a sidewalk cleaning project. The sidewalks were really mossy and slick, so that afternoon we bought a bunch of cleaning supplies and went to work.

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Wednesday and Thursday night were great group times, with lots of games, activities, praying and singing.

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On Friday, we continued on with the deslick the sidewalk project, along with starting work with the rice fields.

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Friday night we had a dance night with the girls at HOB, including line dances, us performing our dance, and the high schoool girls performing a dance for us.

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Saturday was a big rice field day for everyone, and we finished!!

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Saturday evening was a ministry night with the HOB girls. We performed a drama, explained it, and Katey gave her testimony. Then we got in our groups and prayed for each person individually, followed by ice cream for everyone!

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Temple Tour / Monk Chat (Chiangmai)

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While in Chiangmai this week, our Thailand team went up the nearby mountain to Doi Suthep, a huge Buddhist temple to prayer walk. As they arrived, they saw 4,000 Thai students waiting in line to receive blessings from the monks. This really impacted the team because we saw how spiritually hungry the Thai people are but also how lost they are. They’re seeking blessings from monks when they could be beginning relationships with Christ. This reality truly motivated our hearts to pray.

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Afterwards, we did a “monk chat” – basically the Thai culture reveres monks as so incredibly wise that the monks set aside time to share their wisdom with the people. Missionaries use these times to engage the monks in conversation and share Christ. This is something our teams do every year. Sometimes we are able to share the Gospel and see seeds planted. Other times we walk away with a deeper understanding of the spiritual lost-ness of this culture.

This time, our monk chat was awesome! A monk we were talking with displayed the most openness and interest in Jesus that I (Dan) have ever seen from a monk. As a Project Director for RIM, I’ve been coming to Thailand for 8 years and I’ve done many monk chats. We’re all really encouraged that the Lord divinely opened up this opportunity for us, and we ask for your prayers that this man will come into personal relationship with Christ.

Overall, Chiangmai has been a wonderful experience with a lot of fruit!! We’re so encouraged by the depth of sharing about Christ that we’ve been able to do with the monks and in the bars, and we were so privileged to work with the ministry that helps trafficked children (even though we’ll have to tell you most of those stories once we get home). God has really moved in a powerful way here in Chiangmai!

Today, we’re off to visit the elephants (literally!) and then we’ll have one more night of bar ministry before we head to Chiang Kham, our final stop on this trip. There, we’ll work with Home of Blessing, a house for poor, orphaned or abandoned girls, many of whom are being protected from trafficking by living there. These girls are given opportunities to know Christ, be discipled, and receive an education so they can move on to better circumstances than their families of origin. We look forward to encouraging them, working alongside them, visiting their schools to teach English, and helping them plant rice (which will provide food for the home for about six months!). Please keep us in your prayers as we finish the last 10 days of our time in Thailand!!

Red Light Relationships (Chiangmai)

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We’ve had some exciting ministry in Chiangmai over the past few days. Our primary activity here is working in the Red Light District, where all the bars are. One of the main things we’ve learned through orientation by our ministry partner, Emmi, is that the girls who work here end up in this industry for a wide variety of reasons… Poverty, abuse, neglect, trafficking. Our compassion grew as we began to understand the back stories.

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While we’re here, we partner with Emmi’s ministry and go into the bars at night. We seek to build relationships with the girls while they’re not with other customers. This can look like buying cokes and sitting around a card table playing Jenga or Connect Four (there are lots of games available) with them and chatting about life. Sometimes we just stand there and chat.

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Ultimately, we try to build enough of a bridge that they’ll meet with us outside of work hours. Emmi has a cafe that serves coffee, dessert, salad, soup and other light meals. It’s part of a program/ministry she runs to develop job skills for people who leave their work in the bars. However, it also makes an ideal spot for us to meet with girls during the daytime.

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Over the last few days, we’ve built solid connections with several girls. Saturday afternoon three girls who work in the bars met two of our girls at Zion, and Emmi met them.

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Then Sunday at Starbucks, four of our girls met a different set of three girls who work in the bars, along with one girl’s baby. Both scenes seemed powerful with what appeared to be lots of genuine interest and openness to Christ.

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On Friday, we also visited a ministry that provides serious help in the child trafficking scene. We can’t take pictures there as it is at a secret location, but we were so privileged to learn more about what is being done and to serve alongside of them for a few hours!

Date Night in Chiangdao

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For the last few days, we’ve continued to serve at Fountain of Hope Orphanage in Chiangdao, Thailand. We’ve totally rocked a couple days working the farm (which feeds the kids), and we’ve really enjoyed building relationships with all of the children.

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We are most impressed by Sri and Aaron, the married couple who run the orphanage, and their devotion to the children. In the 4 1/2 years they’ve served, one of them always has to be home for the kids… which means they never have any date nights. As a way to honor them and bless them for the investment they’ve made in these kids, we really wanted to give them an opportunity to have time alone together, away from the orphanage.

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At first, they hesitated. Could our team handle all the kids on their own? But we convinced them, and they headed out. They had a beautiful evening to go to dinner and hangout without the kids.

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Meanwhile, I’m please to report that our team successfully entertained the children… no fires or injuries, just a fun time for all. Praise God!

 

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