Two orphaned Ugandan children came to play at my house today for Father’s Day. December 5th is the birthday of the revered King of Thailand and also celebrated as Father’s Day. The father of these Ugandan children left Bangkok two years ago and hasn’t seen his children since. Four weeks ago, their mother died suddenly here in Bangkok. She was a teacher and well loved by the trafficked women we assist. When she died, the community asked if NightLight would help care for the children.
The children are hungry for love and seeking a place to belong. They call most of us “Auntie” or “Uncle” but they are longing for “Mummy” or “Daddy.” My husband and I are praying seriously about adopting these children. Today since it is Father’s Day in Thailand, the children came to our home to play. Today for a short while they were able to have a father figure in their lives. We hope and pray it’s the beginning of a more permanent state for these precious children.
These orphaned Ugandan children are just two of many children, Thai and international, who without intervention, are at high risk of exploitation. Studies show that a father’s relationship with his children is significant in creating a healthy identity and building confidence for making healthy life choices. When fathers are absent or abusive, children are very vulnerable to low self-image, to insecurity, and to instability. They are often the most vulnerable to exploitation. Pimps have admitted that when they look for girls to seduce into prostitution, they look for the ones who have been abused or neglected by their fathers.
I worry about Thailand’s future. The political situation, presently in the news, is serious. The economy is of concern, especially for the poor, while corruption is rampant. Thai people have long been known for their beautiful smiles and “Jai Yen” or cool heart, but the rate of violence and domestic abuse is high. At the root of many of these problems is the broken family. Families are falling apart and children are falling between the cracks. The mothers cannot bear the financial burden alone and so children are sent away to live with grandparents or tossed back and forth between relatives. When their parents find new partners, the children often become unwanted financial burdens. Far too many children in Thailand are growing up with an orphan spirit. When you combine the poverty with a lack of self-worth and love, the children become very vulnerable to exploitation.
NightLight works mostly with women who have already been exploited through prostitution so although, we do address the root issues, the majority of our work is through healing and restoration. My husband, Jeff, is called “Papa Bear” at NightLight. His role as a father figure is significant in the lives of the women and children we reach out to and love. The children run in after school and climb on Jeff’s lap or hang around in his office. Many of them do not have fathers and Jeff provides a few moments after school for the children to experience the Father’s heart. At NightLight’s childcare center, Joshua, one of our volunteers, spends a few hours every week playing with the children. He too, is a healthy role model for these kids, giving them some time to play and interact safely with a man.
Jeff is also one of the pastors of Song Sawang church (NightLight’s church plant). The women have invited their boyfriends, husbands, sons, relatives and friends to join in fellowship at church. Jeff and Paul, (BMS missionary to NightLight), spend time with these men in fellowship and discipleship. Their faith is strengthened, but they are also affirmed in their roles as fathers and husbands. The staff of NightLight are often mediating and counseling the women through family crises often involving domestic abuse or neglect and abandonment.
NightLight’s outreach center and soon to be coffee shop, is also providing opportunities for Dave and other volunteer staff to reach out to the men who come as sex tourists in the area. Many of them are acting out of their own wounds from childhood abuse or neglect. They too, need to know the love of Father God and find opportunity for healing and restoration. It seems everywhere we look there are people who are desperate for love and belonging. NightLight offers men, women, and children, the opportunity to know the love of Father God and seeks to bring healing and restoration to families.
In celebration of Father’s Day here in Thailand, my family had the joy of loving two orphaned African children. I am grateful for my husband who is willing to share his heart not only with his three biological children and our adopted Burmese son, but now also with two orphaned Ugandan children. Jeff’s heart reflects the heart of Father God, and for that I am grateful. I am grateful for my own father who loved me well, and modeled for me compassion that influences my work today. I’m thankful for all the compassionate and godly men who demonstrate God’s love to the women, children, and men who have been exploited and badly hurt. And, I’m thankful for all the fathers out there who love well and give their children a good foundation for life. God’s love in us, never fails. Whatever our earthly fathers were like, there is hope, healing, and restoration for the orphaned, neglected, and abandoned. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.” 1 John 3:1