Today I'm taking you on a journey to Thailand and recapping our time on a short-term mission trip to Pattaya with Light for Asia!
This past July/August, Ryan and I had the awesome opportunity of going on a mission trip to Pattaya, Thailand. We joined my dad, mom, sister, and several members of the church that my dad pastors in Virginia. I had been to Thailand with my dad when I was in college, but Ryan had never been on a mission trip before and we thought it would a great thing to experience as a couple. Not only are mission trips a great way to serve others, they can be a great way to strengthen your faith, learn about another culture, experience personal growth, and have an opportunity to gain new perspective in life. We both went into the experience with open minds and open hearts, ready to see how God would work!
Light for Asia
The ministry we partnered with was called Light for Asia. It is a ministry based in Pattaya, Thailand, and one that my dad has been involved with for 12+ years. The founders are the ministry are Joseph and Sai York - a wonderful couple with a amazing story of faith that began when Joseph met Sai on a mission trip to Thailand in 2003. God has used them to reach so many people in Thailand and beyond, and it was such a priviledge to work with them for the 10 days we were there.
Below is a picture of me, my mom, sister, and Sai at the Lighthouse Cafe. It is a small cafe run by the York family and used as an outlet for outreach - from church services, to English classes, and bible studies. It's also a place where Sai puts her love for cooking and feeding others on full display - her home-cooking style is delicious!
One of the ministires of Light for Asia is the Agape House for underpriviledged Thai children that provides them with free care while their parents work. Teams that work with Light for Asia help to provide meals, activities, crafts, Bible lessons and more. Light for Asia also offers opportunities to sponsor kids from the Agape House. While our team was there, we brought supplies for kids to make hand puppets that we used for a sing-a-long after the craft. They LOVED the puppets - and the opporunity to be loved on during the day! The kids are so sweet and ask to take and endless number of selfies - they are not camera shy in the least!
The Tamar Center is in the middle of Pattaya's Red Light district and is a an outreach center to women working in prostitution. At the center, the women can get housing, take English classes, learn vocational skills (hairdressing, card making, baking, cooking, sewing), and get lots of love and support from women serving in the ministry. The women on our team had the chance of visiting twice. During our time there, we taught English classes, helped with projects around the center, and led prayer times for the women who came to class. It was so eye-opening to hear stories of the struggles they face while trying to come out of prostitution. While working there definitely put me out of my comfort zone, I was so encouraged to see the ways that God is using the Tamar ministry to spread so much light, love, and hope to women in Pattaya.
Light for Asia's slum outreach is is by-far one of the most eye-opening experiences of the trip. They partner with local volunteers to bring meals to the slums, ice cream, supploes, and try to establish set times of the week when everyone can gather for a worship time of prayer, singing, and bible study. The slum outreach is all about building relationships with the people who are living there. Many of them will say that they have never heard of Jesus or the Bible before, which is so hard for my mind to grasp sometimes. It was exciting for our team to know that the bible study we were leading might be one of the first times someone had the opportunity to hear the hope of the Gospel story.
Chinese Language Class
On the Sunday of our visit, we traveled to Bangkok to take part in a Chinese language class at a local church there. The Chinese who attended the class were mostly young professionals who moved to Bangkok for various career opportunities. Some of them were believers and part of the church, and some where just there to practice English. During our time with them, we shared testimonies of what God was doing in our lives, and they had opportunities to share as well. It was amazing to hear how God had brought some of them to faith in Jesus, and our whole team was really encouraged by their passion and enthusiasm for sharing their faith with friends and family back in China. We had such a fun time getting to know them!
The majority of our time in Pattaya was spent doing bible distribution during the evenings on the Pier. This is part of the Chinese Bible Project - which is the primary focus of Light for Asia's ministry. The evening distribution on the pier takes place during a peak tourist time - hundreds of Chinese people on vacation come out at night to take boat cruises out to dinner shows. The team passes out free bibles, mainly in Chinese but also in other languages, to anyone who will take one.
It sounds intimidating, but the response of the Chinese to Americans traveling to a foreign country to give them a bible is remarkable. Most are so excited to get one, and will begin reading immediately while they wait for their boat to arrive. We had so many Chinese asking why we were not doing this in China (it is currently not legal to distribute bibles in China), and they seemed so grateful to have access to a bible. Many of them thanked us for being there, and some would make statements like "our country needs God" or "Christianity is good."
During our 6 nights of distribution, our team passed out over 5500 bibles. Again, I cannot stress enough how surprised I was at the response of the Chinese to our passing out the bibles. There clearly is a hunger in the hearts of the Chinese people to study the bible and hear the message of the Gospel. It was amazing to see their excitement and receptiveness to our being there!
During some of our free time in Pattaya, we had the chance to visit some temples, try interesting Thai food, and go to the Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens. While I would not recommend Pattaya as a desirable vacation destination, it is a great place to immerse yourself in Thai culture and learn about the needs people in the country face. Our team had personal ups and downs while we were there - many of us struggled with stomach issues and dehydration (myself included!). But God protected us all and blessed our time there with many opportunites to share His love that we will not soon forget!
If you would be interested in going on a short-term mission trip to Asai (or Thailand!), I cannot say enough good things about Light for Asia! They have such a dynamic, thriving minsitry that is truly making a difference to the people they reach. There are opportunities to give, serve, and most importantly, PRAY for the York family and everyone invovled with their ministry.