International Ministries

Pilgrimage: "Home" to Chiang Mai!

September 25, 2010 Journal
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PILGRIMAGE:  “Home” to Chiang Mai

I was crazy to have planned to be in northern Thailand for only 5 days.  I don’t know why I forgot that I have numerous, deep relationships there that would have enjoyed significantly more time.  But plans couldn’t be changed, and so I sacrificed sleep and raced from one great reunion (and delicious Thai meal!) to another.  Some of the time had been planned in advance—the great (and hilarious!) early birthday party that the “Book Group” had for me, for instance—but much of the time was spontaneous.  A major highlight of the time was the gathering of New Life Center “alumni”—word got around town that I was there, and 20 former residents from the early years got together one afternoon!  They are beautiful, impressive, great moms, involved in church, loving Jesus.  I had each one tell me just a little about her life, and delighted in knowing about their families, their work, their international travel!  They shared before-and-after testimonies—and were clear about letting me know that living at the New Life Center was life-changing.   They reminisced about learning to read and write and about the life-long friends they made.  They agreed that it scared them to think about what their life might have been had the Center not been there for them.   Truly, God brought the Center into being—and God continues to work in the lives of all who have passed through!

Another highlight for me was spending time with Karen Smith, my successor as the Director of the Center.  God chose her very specially for this ministry, and she’s led the Center into new, needed directions with skills and gifts that I don’t possess.  One memorable evening, we went to a quiet restaurant and spent hours talking about the “new things” in the life of NLCF.  It was so important for me to know about changes in the education system in Thailand (good change: more schools in villages meaning that more girls receive an education from younger ages—reducing risks for exploitation).  It’s important for me to know that there are increasing numbers of young women coming to the Center needing higher levels of education (good change: more young women are able to attend higher levels of vocational schooling—and even college!  Difficulty:  increased cost of education per resident—meaning more responsibility for fund-raising.)  It was important for me to know about the need for an independent-living house for the older residents who have finished high school and are going on to higher education.  This was proposed during the years that I was with the Center—and the need has increased.  (The good news:  there is a possibility of a donor here in Europe who is willing to provide the funding—and we found a location that would meet the need!)   I am enjoying helping further the mission of the Center in this small way—and we will pray that God will lead in the next steps!

It was important for me to know that even though progress has been made in fighting human trafficking in Thailand, there is still much work to be done.  Every month, new girls and young women who have been victims of exploitation are being sent to the Center.  Their emotional and physical wounds are serious.  But ministry in Jesus’ name is bringing healing and hope!  

It was important for me to experience the ways that God is working in the lives of young women through the ministry of the New Life Center Foundation.  God brought it into existence those 23+ years ago—God continues to guide and lead and direct through Karen and the fantastic staff.  My heart is filled with gratitude for those of you who have prayed fervently and generously supported the ministry—including Karen and myself.  And THANK YOU for supporting us through the World Mission Offering!