United Methodist Missionaries serving in Thailand

United Methodist Missionaries serving in Thailand

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We serve with the Thailand Methodist Mission

We serve with the Thailand Methodist Mission
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pattaya and HIV/AIDS

Later this year, we hope to send two missionary pastors to Pattaya to plant cell groups there. There is already one healthy, active cell there now, and when we have several cells, we will combine them to form a congregation.

Pattaya, is the second largest tourist destination in Thailand (Bangkok is first). Unfortunately, sex tourism is the greatest attraction in this city, which is notorious for its child prostitution. We found an article on BBC News Online that gives a vignette and so we copied and pasted it here.


Thailand's child trafficking industry By Thembi Mutch BBC News, Thailand

A report from the US state department has criticised Thailand for not doing enough to combat the illegal trafficking of women and children from Burma, Cambodia, Laos and China. Thembi Mutch meets women and children who have been caught up in Thailand's trafficking business.

"I came with my aunt from the countryside to work in the seaside resort of Pattaya," Keng says. She pauses. "I worked as a waiter in a bar near here. At first I didn't realise it was even possible for men to have sex with men, or boys, and at that time I still looked like a boy. I was only 16 and my family had various problems, so I was just working everything out." Keng is 22, very slim, and now an incredibly beautiful woman. The operation to change from a man to a woman took place last year. It cost her several thousand dollars, which she earned as a prostitute on the streets. There is nothing about her that suggests she was ever male - her voice is soft and she is dainty and feminine. I find myself really liking her quiet dignity and gentle manner.

"I do other work," she says. "I go to Bangkok, to the Grand Plaza or to the station, and collect boys between the ages of 11 and 13. I bring them back here to the bar. I usually try and get 10 boys or so, but if there have been police raids in Bangkok it can be harder to find boys. "When I approach them I have to be very careful. For
the first few days they obey me - some of them haven't eaten properly for weeks
- but we still lock them in the attic at the bar, partly so they won't escape, partly so that the police or rescue agencies can't find them."

Child trafficking

Keng is a trafficker - a trafficker of children, into prostitution, mostly for Western men. She tells me how she hires a van and goes to the countryside if she cannot find children in the city. Keng herself was trafficked, says my researcher, and she is just as much of a victim, he argues, as the children she traffics. She has no other job options open to her, and she is shunned publicly in shops, restaurants and bars outside the red light district where she works. Keng points to a child sitting on the road across from us: "That one," she says, "is from Cambodia. He was living on the
street in Bangkok." Later we interview this boy, Suni, who is jittery and incredibly nervous, and constantly smokes. He says he is 10. He describes having sex with various men in a detached and disturbing way. He is more animated talking about the money he earns to play computer games or buy speed to get him through the night. "You know," Keng says, "he has got a much better life with me than he ever had at home or on the street."

Groomed for sex

Prey Vang Province is one of the poorest regions in Cambodia. It is easy to cross from there into Thailand so each year thousands of children are trafficked across the border, often by parents. In Buddhist cultures the debt owed to parents by children is deeply imbued into families, especially in the countryside where the idea of destiny is wholeheartedly embraced. One mother there told me how, two years ago, she had travelled to Pnomh Penh with three of her children to beg on the streets. She is
illiterate, owns no land and this was a last, desperate bid to survive. On the second day in the city, her nine-year-old girl disappeared. She is convinced her daughter was kidnapped for sex work.

Three other mothers she knows in the village tell a similar story. In another village, a group of girls aged between seven and 13 tell me their experiences. They are articulate and open. Four of them had been kidnapped and groomed for sex work for a month. They had travelled to the city with their families to beg, but once there, had been coaxed by the offer of a meal into a house in a suburb. Then they were locked away and made to watch pornography. Two girls escaped, and the other two were rescued.

But poverty and a desire not to confront difficult issues - especially those around sexuality, rape and prostitution - means that many issues just get swept under the carpet. Sometimes it is just greed that makes parents turn a blind eye to what they are letting their own children in for. But mostly, say the experts, it is ignorance and a lack of opportunities. Those who have already been trafficked know the dangers. I asked the girls in the village what their advice to other children might be to avoid being preyed on by traffickers.


The youngest replies: "It's really difficult if your mum asks you to get money to feed the family, you want to help. But it's best to go to school, and not to beg."

Please pray as we seek to plant cells groups in Pattaya and have a United Methodist Church that is a beacon of hope in this city where hope is difficult to find.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

"The Missionary Life" can be an adventure!

One thing that we have learned here in Thailand is that the best made plans can fall apart and one has to learn to be easy going about it all.  Getting upset and uptight doesn't make the solution to the problem happen any faster here.  This ability to keep not get upset and anxious is called "Cool Heart" .  We have had many opportunities to practice our Jai Yen this week and the Lord replaced our plans with something better each time.

When I (Mike) went to pick up our son Jim, who is a teacher at Sammuk Christian Academy, I hit a speed bump on campus too fast (didn't see it in the dark) and blew out the rear tire.  The school is very isolated, so we had to walk a long way to where public transportation could take us home.  At first I was a bit frustrated (although Jim was full of Jai Yen!) .  However, God turned the time into a great time to walk with Jim and talk for a long time (90 minutes) without interruption.  I realized afterwards that God allowed the tire to blowout so I could have a great blessing.  Thank you Lord.

The next day, I went to bring the motorcycle to a repair shop and I had to walk it quite a distance to the nearest shop.  I was really, really hot when I arrived there with the motorcycle and was thinking about how I could have used this time more productively.  But as I watched the mechanic replace the tire, I saw great human kindness in action.  A very thin man dressed in rags walked his bicycle up to the shop and asked if he could fill his tires with air.  The mechanic gave a big smile to him and invited him to fill his tires with air.  The man with the bike moved in very slow motion and was having difficulty using the air hose, but he refused any help that I offered.  I could not figure out why he thought the tires needed air because they were already OK.  But soon, instead of filling the tires with air, he managed to let all the air out of his tires.  He then asked the mechanic for help and the mechanic gave a knowing grin and helped the man out.  Then he asked the man to wait a moment while he helped another customer.  When he finished helping the other customer, he gave the money he received from that job plus all the change he had in his pocket to the man on the bike.  After the man on the bike rode away, I figured out that this is a daily routine.  The same man on the bike comes every day to get air in his tires and each time lets all the air out and has to ask for help.  And each time the mechanic, with great patience and Jai Yen, fills his tires and gives him money to buy some food.  I thanked the Lord for the opportunity to witness the kindness of this mechanic who gives each day to a man in deep poverty.  I needed to see that act of kindness more than I needed to type a sermon that afternoon.

God is good.  And our Heavenly Father wants to use everything in our life to shape us to be better servants.  What seems like inconveniences and annoyances to me are many times God trying to slow me down to give a greater blessing and to mold my character to be more like Christ.  Thank you Lord, for blown out tires, long walks with my son Jim, and the opportunity to see mercy in action.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Starting our 9th month now

I’m posting the blog from an internet cafĂ© today because our internet is down once again. We are blessed to have many alternatives to use when that happens.

Life is back to a regular schedule now and Anthony has started his homeschooling in full swing now. He was immersed in language studies his first six months here, but now he has a regular schedule of classes: Geometry, Biology, Literature, Grammar, History, Bible, and Computer Classes (Microsoft Excel). Anthony is very devoted to his studies and we are proud of his progress and his good attitude.

Our middle son Jim is now serving as a missionary with Sammuk Christian Academy here in Chonburi. Jim serves 2 days per week at Sammuk and then he teaches 4 days per week at Anuban Chonburi School, the largest school in the province. Jim serves as a bridge from the Christian community to this public school at the request of the director of Anuban Chonburi, who desires to have teachers of the same caliber and commitment as the missionary teachers who serve at Sammuk. It is also a wonderful blessing that Jim is able to serve as a missionary at a location that is only a 4 miles away from us.

We are entering our 9th month here in Thailand and I think we have found our groove with language studies. Our Thai studies are progressing very well thanks to Nuc, our good friend and wise teacher. She knows when to push us and when to ease up. Nuc is constantly encouraging us and telling us not to be too serious (we do tend to get too serious because we want to be fluent right now, hehehe). We praise God for our sister Nuc.

Santa Clara KUMC helped us tremendously by creating a video for promoting the Thailand Mission. The video is brief enough that it can be used in Sunday morning worship services. We will be posting the video soon on another website and provide a link to it from this blog. We also hope to make a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation that will have excerpts of this video along with much information about the Thailand Mission that can be used in gatherings where more time is available. Thank you very much, Santa Clara KUMC, for helping us in this way.

Pastor Gary and Mrs. Diane Wedgewood of the Riverside UMC in Tennessee took two days of their vacation in Thailand to visit us and see what United Methodists are doing in Thailand. We enjoyed the pleasure of their company and hope to see them again. Gary and Diane told us how wonderful Riverside UMC is and how blessed they are to serve there. Someday we would love to visit there.

Our lives should have some semblance of an orderly schedule starting next week. Because we have had to travel quite a bit in the last six weeks, we have not been able to meet with Pastor Sarah of Pradumri Church often enough. We look forward to resuming our Tuesday afternoon meetings with her. Pastor Sarah is at the heart of the Thailand Mission and our partner in ministry. We lean upon her in much of what we do. There is the saying which is very true: “If you want to get something done right, ask someone who is very busy.” This is especially true of Pastor Sarah, who is busy from early in the morning until the late hours of night. Yet whenever we call upon Sarah to help us (which is very often), she always helps us with a big smile that matches her big heart. Thank you very much, Pastor Sarah, and we will see you on Tuesday!