A year has passed and I have grown in confidence as an English Teacher, mentor, counselor and friend to the Thai people.
I started with one student, Pray*. She was Buddhist, was very curious about Christ and had a simple foundation of English. Today, she is still one of my students, and it’s been an honor to see her grow in her English speaking abilities, but also in Christ. I was able to make some Bible ESL activities that she really responded to. She would ask many great questions and just was hungry for more and more. Pray and I have grown very close, she’s more than a student, but a friend and sister in Christ. We have walked through many hard times together. She trusts me and I trust her.
In June, I met Joy*. Joy had been working in the bars for 4 years. She was eager to learn English and even asked to learn everyday of the week. She shared that she hated working in the bars and going away with mean customers, but that she needed to provide money to send back to her children. Joy loved coming to English Class because it was her ‘family’ and ‘home’. She said “I am safe here”. Oftentimes during the classes, she would share of how her customers would abuse her. Every time she shared, my heart would break for her. I asked if she wanted to work at another job. She was curious and interviewed at SHE, but ultimately did not work at SHE because she thought she would not earn enough money to provide for her family. Just a few months later, one of her regular customers bought her for 3 months to Australia. She is still in Australia, and she still stays in contact with me. She does not enjoy it, but is sacrificing herself for her family. I pray that she will return safely and remember that she can always return ‘home’.
From word of mouth and with the help of the visiting teams, the English Program has grown. It has grown so much that we are now looking for a permanent place to have class (as we are currently meeting on top of a fish market).
From English Classes to…
Drop in center in Patong: We have been praying for a place in the heart of the red light district of Phuket to better serve the women there. We are thrilled to report that we are looking at buildings and beginning the fundraising process for this center. It will serve as a place where women can drop in at anytime for advice, a coffee and to learn some English and Computer skills. This will serve as another way to be a light where the women are and help them transition out of their current occupation and into one that is safer.
Free Hotel Training: In addition to English Classes, we are eager to begin our Free Hotel Training Program as many of the women in prostitution here are from the north of Thailand. They come looking for a Hotel job, but are denied because they are unqualified. These women end up going to work in the bars and sell themselves, in order to make some money to provide for their families. This program will serve as a prevention and rescue program. We have started relationships with a few hotels in the area, and have asked them to send us their ‘unqualified applicants’ to us, to prevent more women from entering prostitution; yet it also provides another alternative to the women who are currently working in the bars.
Self Help & Empowerment (SHE) is growing and expanding in many new and exciting ways! We have had 4 new staff members join this year (including me) and there are 2 people that are considering coming back and serving with us! This has been a great blessing! As we continue to grow in ministry, it has been essential to grow in staff to support the growth.
We are renting some new land on the Eastern side of the island where we are building our new SHE Center. With the help of a church team, we have the first staff house built, we are in the process of building the coffee shop from earth bags and soon we will begin construction on the main SHE Center.
Mission Training School
January 2012 we started our first Mission Training School (MTS)! The goal of the MTS is to advance God’s Kingdom by educating and developing committed servants of Christ to serve Him more effectively on the mission field. The school consists of a 3 month lecture phase followed by 2 months of practical training along-side SHE ministries. It has been exciting to see many women and men of God grow more in knowledge and in love with their Savior and then reaching out to their community with that love to better serve His people. We plan to have 2 schools a year.
We have been blessed with many teams that have come to volunteer with us! We have had teams from YWAM, Adventures in Missions, church teams and a few individuals. Without them, we would not have been able to accomplish all that we have done here. They help around the center in the day time and go out and build relationships with the women in the bars at night. These teams are the ones that refer the girls to attend our English Classes and from there, they are given a choice to come out.
The Thai language initially looks overwhelming, but it is not as bad as it looks. The hardest aspect for me was learning the 5 tones. Outside of the tones, Thai is a very easy language (even to read & write!). They do not conjugate any of their verbs and they place two to three smaller words together to make up a bigger word (ex. car + room + study = school bus). I have enjoyed learning Thai, especially since I have been able to use it to have deeper conversations with the Thai women I interact with. I am still learning some of the Christian words in Thai, I pray they will come soon!
See a printable version of ‘A year in review’ here.