Trip Dated: 1-11 December 2015
I first visited Ban Chang, Thailand with my church team back in June 2015. Our main focus during that trip was to teach English at the neighbourhood schools. During that trip, we also got to meet the wonderful kids of Bethlehem House. Though they look all happy and delighted whenever they meet us, I felt that underneath the smiles, there was some kind of a “need which I could not put my finger to”. As I was flying home from that trip, I told myself that I would probably not give much thought about these kids a month or two down the road.
Six months later, I found myself on the flight back to Ban Chang.
Back in August, two months after returning from the June trip, the “need that I could not put my finger to” was peculiarly still in my head so I decided to meet up with Maggie to find out more about Bethlehem House. Over a two hour dinner, I got to find out more about the House and after much discussions and meet ups over the next two months, we both felt that I should stay in with the kids to go through life with them and see how their daily routine is like, hopefully getting a better understanding of their needs and in turn see how we can help them.
The 10 days at Bethlehem was a fruitful experience for me as I really got to see how life is like for the kids at the House. On school days we wake up at 5.30 in the morning, do devotions and have breakfast together, see them off to school, watch them come back from their studies, have fun playing sports and games with them in the evening, see them (especially the girls) stay up late to complete their homework, watch cartoons together (the boys love Dragonball) and tuck them to sleep at night. And then repeat for the next school day.
The interesting part during the trip was the public holidays we had. As it was the king’s birthday on Saturday (5 Dec), we had the honour to be invited as a church (Christ Church Ban Chang) to pray for the king during the celebrations in the town. It was a memorable experience being able to join the team from Christ Church Ban Chang on stage to sing “How Great Thou Art” and to have Pastor Anong pray for the king. The celebrations ended with us standing together in the wet muddy field as we watch the crackling fireworks set the night sky ablaze with beautiful colours. The other public holiday was Constitution Day (10 Dec) so some of the people from church decided to bring the Bethlehem kids for a day out to the beach. It was a day of playing in the water, burying people in the sand, lunch under the shaded trees and taking Polaroid shots of the kids. It was great seeing the kids letting their hair down and enjoying themselves at the beach, especially those who came from Chiang Mai as they do not get many opportunities to visit the seaside in their hometown. At the end of the day, though they were tired, you could see the look of joy and satisfaction in their faces.
Though it was just 10 days and there is probably much more I have yet to see and understand about them, staying in with the kids allowed me to have an insightful glimpse of their way of life. To be honest after just 5 days, I was struggling to wake up at 5.30am to help the caretaker prepare breakfast, so it is really impressive how the kids can wake up on time (most of them) every morning to not just prepare for school but also to do their dormitory area cleaning. During the stay, I am also thankful for the time spent with the kids, which allowed me to see the other side of them, the kids just being themselves. Some of these moments include listening to them grumble about the amount of work they have, seeing them make that intimate and emotional call back home to their families, seeing them listless after a bad day at school or simply adoring the kids’ Kodak-moment surprised faces when we threw in a birthday cake surprise after dinner for the December babies.
Looking back, I was hesitant about going back to Ban Chang as I questioned how much I could contribute to the House with my lack of the Thai language. But God always has His ways of working things out for His plans and I thank God for giving me the strength and courage to help and contribute in little ways, one way or another.
As I left Bethlehem on my last day, I gradually got a clearer picture of the “need(s) I could not put my finger to” compared to when I first arrived. But then something else cropped up. Now I could not put my finger to how exactly to resolve the needs. As I lay awake in bed late one night, feeling a little discouraged about the needs of the House as the boys were sound asleep around me, it dawned upon me that what is so special about this place I am staying in is that they have God. I am assured that the kids and I serve a loving and powerful God who does not forsake His children and will make sure that they are well taken care of and are brought up in the right way. Presently I may not see how things will eventually turn out, but I’m certain God already has His plans.
As the Bible says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Let’s continue to keep Bethlehem House; the kids, the staff and the volunteers, in our prayers and may God continue to do His mighty works in this place. Who knows, you may just find yourself being part of God’s plan to respond to the needs there. Eventually when things start to work out, which may be months or years down the road, remember to share and testify of how God worked out His amazing plan for the kids, which just a little while ago someone else could not put his finger to.
Image and writing contributed by Simon Chow – St Matthew’s Church