A letter from Carol Fujii in Thailand
At the Big Tent Conference in 2011 Leith and I had the privilege to share about evangelism in the World Mission part of the conference. Although presently I am not directly involved in ministry to women at risk, three of our Bangkok Institute of Theology alumni have sensed God’s call in this way. They are investing their lives by ministering to and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus to those unlovely and looked-down-on by Thai society. Pattaya and Bangkok, Thailand, are cities infamous for prostitution—there are an estimated 3 million employed in the sex entertainment industry. The business of prostitution, though illegal, fuels the country’s economy. Especially young women, but men as well, come to Bangkok to work in the bars. They are driven largely by poverty, a result of broken and codependent relationships, children to support, and cycles of addiction to alcohol, drugs, gambling or greed within the family.
I would like to introduce you to one of our BIT alumni, Benjamas or “Jub.” Jub works for The Well ministry, a nonprofit Christian organization reaching both women at risk and those involved in the sex entertainment industry. After graduating from BIT, Jub served for four years on the pastoral staff of a local church.
She began going on her day off to the bars to reach out to these women. God began to put the plight of these women and their families on her heart. She shares these words: "They're so broken. After praying for some time, I felt God was leading me to this type of ministry. I am thankful for the experience I had both as a student at BIT and as a pastor at a Thai church. These experiences helped mature and grow me as a Christ's disciple and servant and prepared me for this ministry. I joined The Well in 2010, and what a change for me. The Well’s approach to ministry is quite different than how the traditional church does evangelism and ministry. Most church members would not dare go into the red-light districts where these women work. But Jesus is present even there. He chose to cross territorial, racial, societal, gender boundaries when He changed the life of the woman He met at the well in Samaria.
“Many doubted my ability to relate because I have never been married, I have no children, and have never frequented a bar, much less worked in one. But, I am confident that God very clearly led me here. God has given me grace to love these women. I have enjoyed meeting and developing relationships with bar girls, listening to their stories, and sharing my life with them. I invite them to our center, a safe haven where women can leave a life of shame, learn new marketable skills for living.
"Because these women are so needy for love, I have experienced many disappointments and heartbreaks working with them. Sometimes I have felt like giving up as I see little progress, but I am reminded that we all need God’s grace and can only change by God’s grace. It is Jesus who can free us from our past wounds, pain, and addictions and bring about change in our lives as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit.”
Jub has also been working with the youth at The Well, teaching them about God, the Bible, and what it practically means to walk in obedience as a disciple of Jesus Christ. She has a burden to open a home for teens who have been neglected or abused. She meets more and more youth like this every day. Jub says, “I have joy working at The Well as I see that God is working in people’s lives and in mine also, changing us to become more like Him. It is exciting.”
UPDATE 2012: It’s amazing that since I shared Jub’s story last year, God has answered prayer about Jub’s dream of ministering to at-risk female youth. God has opened a door for co-worker Cori Wittman and Jub to return to her hometown in Khon Kaen Province in Isaan, northeast Thaland. They reside in Jub’s hometown and currently have six teenage girls living with them. They are providing these girls with a fresh start, a safe, secure home with love and boundaries. Their goal long-term is community development and ministering to the entire community. They want to be an outreach and training "hub" for Isaan, the region that supplies the majority who enter the sex industry. They are beginning to work in cooperation with local district and even provincial government officials. In just three months God has been blessing their vision and passion to reach this community for Christ.
Please pray for Jub, Cori, Ari and June as they pioneer this strategic work. Please pray for after-school homework programs, Friday youth gatherings, relationships with the local church, and the spiritual and emotional growth of the young women they disciple. Please pray that as they pour out their lives, they would also know when they need to replenish spiritually, emotionally and physically, so that they can continue to minister by God’s power and in His grace. See a short video about their work, which began in June of this year: http://servantworks.com/cycle-breakers-intro
Praying for Isaan,
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 183