The following is a true story. A Thai Christian couple was given the task of building and running a children’s home for orphans and at-risk children. The last couple could not handle the task due to mismanagement. Now all this new couple had was a large plot of land that was deemed “cursed” by the locals in the middle of nowhere in the outskirts of Chiang Mai (Northern Thailand). All they had to go on was faith. They said to the Lord, “you have given us this vision and your love to care for these children. Now Lord, please make a miracle”. 30 years later, there is now four full dormitories housing over 120+ children, 6 other families including staff to run the compound, buses and vehicles to transport all the children to school, career graduates (hill tribe and Thai decent) all of whom have found jobs, a church building on the campus, and most importantly a strong Christian community where Christ is worshipped. Once an orphan or child is accepted into the campus, they become part of this community for life. This has and is completely run by Thai’s with very little foreign support. Most of the time, faith is all one really needs.
This amazing couple is actually Pastor Aoum’s inlaws (wife’s side) who I briefly met in Toronto over lunch one day. The mother nicknamed: “Mother Chick” couldn’t speak English so at the time I just smiled and used my bad Thai to say a few words. Later, I would see them at church again but it was more or less just nods and smiles. Aoum also warned me – ‘in the North we have our own dialect too which you will not understand even with central/Bangkok Thai’. Now visiting their children’s home and to see them face to face again way better Thai I can finally hear their story and say the things I wanted to say in person. I cannot believe it has already been barely 2 years later and these total strangers who spoke an alien language to me now I can understand them clearly and speak on their level. And yes I could even pull off a bit of northern Thai which indeed is even more alien and spoken out in the countryside here.
I asked “Mother Chick” when did she see God’s hand provide in a powerful way. She replied:
“Early on was very difficult because it was expensive to build the children’s home and we had to rely on God to provide for funding. Most of what you see here hadn’t been built yet – just 1 dormitory, a kitchen, and a half built staff house. We didn’t have all the funds to build what was necessary, but we never asked and the Lord would bring generous people from the Church to give. But this one incident was unusual. One time the food had completely run out and it was lunch time. The cook told us we had nothing left in the pantry. No rice, nothing. And we had literally no money in the bank left to feed the children. The children came to us in panic and asked us what we should do. Me and my husband told them to start praying for a miracle. So All 100 or so of us then knelt there in the meeting hall and prayed to the Lord to provide our daily bread.
About ten minutes later a tuk-tuk (rickshaw) pulled up to the front of our gate. A French man walked out accompanied by a Thai lady. He asked, ‘is this the Christian Church?’ We said yes. He handed us a check of about 7000 baht (worth about $500 back in those days) and explained: ‘I’m Catholic and God told me that I need to make amends by giving this amount back to him. So I asked in the city if there was a church in the area. This tuk-tuk driver said that this was the only one he knew of. Please take this.’ Then they left. We were totally stunned and rejoiced. The next day we were able to have rice and food on our table. In fact, we had enough to last us another 2 weeks. Thank you Lord! Let me tell you this similar incident happened several times over the decades.”
Pastor Ratchen (Mother Chick’s husband) shares a different perspective to me. I will end off with his comments. “These children have all become so attached to one another and we have become a tight nit family. All because of what Christ has done for us. Many times a father or mother would bring their baby to our doorstep and tell us ‘we cannot take care of them anymore’ and then disappear. Some parents are heavily involved in drugs, alcohol, debt, or family problems. But still, we will accept abandoned children as our own. We become their father and mother. Even if they don’t have a personal identification card (very important to have access to services in Thailand and be recognized as ‘Thai’). Some come from families of far regions in Isaan (North Eastern Thailand) or even Southern Thailand. They cannot leave the campus unsupervised and these grounds become their home until they become a full adult. It is a long program, over 30 years and counting. And still we are happy to serve God in this way.
We are very grateful for the Lord’s providence. The work here is not too hard. The staff here are all graduates from the program. They serve the Lord diligently and are well integrated into the society. We are right now constructing a coffee shop for passerby’s to give the youth more life skills in addition to building a small pit stop to do car washing. My biggest prayer request is that the Lord would really develop strong faith in the hearts of these young ones. Thai culture can be too relaxed and we easily let our guard down. We (Thai Christians) have never experienced persecution or hardship like many other suffering Christians in the world. I think you can understand the value of what I am saying.”