Our ministry to women has always included men. Once during our first year in Bangkok, Jim and I met three young ladies at a park, to get to know them outside of their work in bars, and they brought two men with them – a boyfriend and a brother. The guys were as curious as the girls about what we were doing. Ever since, we’ve had many men at the edge of The Well. Some hope to work, to learn guitar, and to make friends. Some have hung around trying to sell drugs or stay in unhealthy relationships. But all of them, probably unbeknownst to them, bring a deep desire to find grace and love.
We sometimes hear from Thai women we meet in the bars that they are looking for a foreign husband because “Thai men are no good” – they made bad husbands and bad fathers. In America, we use the word “players”; in Thai, they’re called “butterflies.” They flit from woman to woman – and never stay long.
As we learned more about the problems in this society that created a perfect storm for the sex industry – broken families, limited economic opportunities, and substance abuse, just to name a few – we began to see how this cultural system hurts boys and men, too. There is little incentive for them to be faithful, brave men with integrity. We wanted to see this change, but lacked a devoted group with a vision to take on the social problems of working-class men in Thailand.
We met Bpop in 2008 when his girlfriend Dao brought him to The Well. He stayed on the edge of our community for a while, but then had an opportunity to serve at a men’s addiction program on the other side of Bangkok. After much discipleship, counseling, and a long engagement, he and Dao married in 2014, and Bpop came back to join The Well team with a desire to help other men practice integrity.
This past year, we’ve needed workers to build our first floor into a cafe and community center. With construction skills and a huge heart for sharing Jesus, Bpop begin to gather a group of men. Many have trouble finding and keeping employment, and this small construction project provided paid, dignified work for a few men, but more importantly, it created time for them to be together. Working and living alongside each other is an excellent way to build relationships between men whose friendships used to be centered around drinking buddies and drugs, and whose work schedules leave no space for learning to connect in healthier ways.
We call this work our Faithful Men project. Bpop has invited a few men at a time into his life. He’s shared his home, meals, and family time with these fathers, boyfriends, and brothers. They have similar stories of trauma; each struggles with an addiction, low self-esteem, and the stressors of poverty. But each has a desire to do better. They meet together to pray and encourage each other. Last Sunday we ran into two of them at church, and I’m sure that the older man brought the younger one along.
It will take time to build a core group of leaders who can begin to dismantle the habits, traditions, and systems that create “butterflies” and enable Thai men to choose a new life of integrity and love. To do this, we can practice faithfulness ourselves. We can commit to these individuals, sharing meals and conversations while the Holy Spirit does the slow work of transformation. We can remember we have a faithful God.
Would you be faithful with us?
Please pray with us. Pray that our faithful God will move, and that the call to faithfulness will produce that same fruit in the people who choose to follow. Pray for our staff and volunteers, especially for:
- Bpop and also for Tracey, Jim and Sorn as they work alongside these men
- Khru Anne (social services) and Sri (counselor) who work with women at The Well but have also provided support services to these men
- Dao, who has opened her home and heart and walks alongside Bpop in community-style ministry
Have a conversation with us. Does this project interest you, or connect with something in your life? We would love to hear about it.
If you’re lead, make a donation. Donations to the Connect Community Center fund will help us finish building and opening the new space, creating more opportunities for dignified work and ministry for these men.
And if you’ve given to our building projects, be encouraged that you didn’t just help pay for cement and nails. We’re so thankful for you. ❤