Faithfulness, Butterflies, and a Few Good Men

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.

Continue reading “Faithfulness, Butterflies, and a Few Good Men”

Enriching Children (June 2018 Update)

March, April and May are the hottest season in Thailand. School takes a long “summer break” and our moms need reliable childcare, so we provide a holistic enrichment program for the children of The Well including science, art, and a lot of fun.

We thought you might like to get to know some of the volunteers, students, and teenagers who created a great summer program. Read on to get to know their names and faces – and thank you for supporting them with your gifts and prayers!

Debby Wong, a volunteer who took on the bulk of the work for this program, wrote:

“All the amazing teachers and volunteers, along with P’Dao’s children, have been making a good team to work with. They work hard and have been willing to stay with it. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve and love the kids. 😊 l see God working in their lives, even though I am beyond tired! All for His glory.”

Debby lives nearby and has a dear heart for God’s work. She handled the administration and communicated with staff and parents. She also worked with children who have special needs and needed some extra interventions, including two preschoolers who had significant trouble getting along with other children and another four-year-old boy who is new to Bangkok and needed support. His dad is working with our men on the Faithful Men construction crew, and we provided assistance for the family and a safe, structured program for the boy while he adjusted to life with his dad in a big city.

Becky Brittain, another volunteer at The Well, taught children and coached leaders. I asked what she enjoyed about the program and she responded:

“I loved watching all of the kids interact with the helpers during English class: children reading sight words to Keyla, others reading stories to Grandma Gwen, and others learning how to sound out words with Yean. I could tell that both the children and the helpers enjoyed it, and that made me enjoy it too.”

Yean was our main man. He is Dao’s oldest son; he’s been part of The Well family for 14 years and is finishing high school. He worked full-time during his school break. Grandma Gwen is a missionary in her second year at The Well. Keyla is an intern from Brazil and was also a faithful servant.

Kelli Johnson has volunteered her services to our summer break program for several years. She has also taught classes to women at The Well, and now partners with our weekly outreach to freelance sex workers. She writes:

“Hot season has lots of disadvantages, but there are good things about it, too. The mango is ah-may-zing! And I get to help teach science and Bible to the kids at The Well! One of the highlights of each week for me is hearing cries of “P’Kelli!!!!” and being bear-hugged in turn by each pair of little arms in the room. It’s really nice to be loved. 😊 Today we got to have fun with Skittles and learn about prayer. And I love how attentive they were to the Bible story. These guys are the best!”

This year I taught art with some tips I learned from Dani’s art class. It was amazing to watch kids see differently. My co-teacher Cream has been at The Well for four years, since she was 17. I asked her to write what we learned together, and she wrote:

  • Learn about patterns
  • God creates the world with patterns
  • We can see patterns everywhere
  • Color awareness
  • Important to play when you are doing art
  • We can fix mistakes
  • To listen
  • Think first

I can imagine how Cream’s list could become a promotional brochure for an art class in this community. We’ll see if God has something planned in this direction.

Our summer program focused on adding quality to children’s lives; to give them love and memories. Providing quality not only enriches their minds, but also brings safety and healing to children who desperately need rich hearts, too. I would love to see that happen throughout our neighborhood.

Ways to Support Children at The Well

Pray for them

  • Pray for the new school year, especially for the teachers. Many of the schools in our area have large class sizes and students with poor home lives.
  • Pray for healing for children and their families. Trauma and stress make it difficult to parent well and keep a family together and stable.

Donate to The Well 

We provide a stipend to women in our program to help them keep their family together and ease the financial stress. $52 a month will help a mother keep her school-age child with her in Bangkok instead of sending them to live with relatives.

You can make a one-time gift or set up a regular donation right here.

Training Leaders (May 2018 Update)

Back in December, we wrote about the new stage we’re beginning at The Well — one with a greater outward focus, closer to our hope of sending transformational leaders into our community here in Bangkok and beyond. Here’s an update on a few things we’ve been focusing on so far in 2018.

Our Day Program

Every week, a small group of volunteer and staff visit an area of Bangkok where women are working on the streets and reach out to them. It’s a desperate area, and the women have had very rough lives. There are several women waiting to join our day program at this time, women who need a safe, stable environment to rebuild.

For many years, The Well has functioned as a day program for women and their families. We provide services for them in a sort of “contained community,” including counseling for trauma and addictions, vocational opportunities, training in life skills and continuing education. Every woman at The Well has a personal schedule and plan for healing and growth, addressing her unique needs and goals. Over the time a lot has changed, but it’s clear that a consistent program which addresses the whole person is important. Our staff teams have been busy and productive as we continue to find ways to bring wholeness and opportunity to our students.

We’ve realized that we can find more opportunities for them by strengthening our connections outside of our little community, so this year we’ve begun to broaden our focus and look outward. We hope to connect women with organizations, businesses, and people outside The Well to help them grow and lead. We also feel called to reach into our immediate community, the On Nut (Ohn Noot) neighborhood in Bangkok, at the same time.

Leadership & Staff Development Update

Some of our direction for becoming more outward focused happened at the end of 2017. In preparation for a new year, our staff spent a day focused on goal setting both as individuals and as a team. Some of the individual goals included networking, connecting better to our community, finding resources in Thailand, and providing services to women and families who are transitioning out of our day program. We shared our individual goals, then worked on turning them into a unified plan that included an outward focus.

In January, our Program Director, Gik, left her role at The Well to take a position at the Thai Bible Society.  Many of you have heard us speak of Gik; she was a good fit and we were sad for her to go, but we are excited to see how God will use her in this new direction. We have not yet found someone to take that position and will continue to keep our number of students low to fit our present staff size. We intend to focus on developing staff and make good plans for moving forward during this season.

We invited another Thai organization to come in and teach us about Thai child protection laws.

We have a weekly staff training time built into our schedule this year. One high priority for staff development is training that will ensure The Well is a safe space for people who have experienced trauma. Last year we studied trauma recovery and re-committed ourselves to doing everything we can to create a safe space for healing. Our Thai staff have participated in a six-week weekly group training on non-violent communication. We also invited another Thai organization to come in and train our staff about the Thai Child Protection Laws. We are putting a Child Protection Plan in place. Other training this year has focused on leadership, teamwork and management. Staff are learning how to organize their work and be efficient, and how to be godly leaders. It’s been encouraging to watch people develop management skills, own their work and understand their call. We are also committed to prayer and hope to develop a stronger prayer walk together.

Other News

We are also working on a building a new board of directors for our Thai-based foundation. We have found some new Thai board members committed to pray and develop vision for The Well, so please pray with us as we transition new members in and develop the foundation, which is a Thai non-profit. We have begun some new relationships and are excited about having new people on board with us.

This Month, Help Support Staff at The Well

  • Pray for our staff – all of us need wisdom and grace. Names and photos of our team are available here. If you’d like to know some specific things to pray for, email Judy Larson.
  • Donate to The Well to help with the daily needs of our program, including staff training and development. Click here to donate online.
  • We would love to raise additional funds for a staff retreat in 2018. If you’d like to help us make that a reality, please email Judy Larson.

Becoming the Moms We’re Called to Be

We believe in whole families here at The Well. Over the last six months, we’ve been doing some serious work on parenting education and support. We have classes for groups of mothers and one-on-one coaching. I’ve heard wonderful stories, but even with this focused approach, I still hear discouraging reports. A staff member pulled me aside to tell me of a mom hitting her 4-year-old. Another woman told me she hits her child with a hanger because he will only obey if he is afraid.

Improper parenting does not seem natural to me. None of us are born perfect parents, of course, but I believe people learn neglect and abuse from the generations before them. In parent education, we contend with automatic responses that come from memories of abuse and neglect. We invite women to end generational patterns, which isn’t something they can do quickly or easily. Our goal is to help them do very difficult work.

At the end of our recent module, I asked my class how they’ve practiced what they’ve learned. They shared how they’ve praised their children and hugged them. They’ve redirected and predicted behaviors. They’ve set up new rules and family structures. They’ve taught their children to talk about their feelings, even their trauma stories.

Next, I asked them where they still struggle. Many shared about poor self-control. They try so hard to do the right stuff and end up sorry for what they do—or don’t do. They talked about how hard it is to stay “on” at the end of the day, when they’re tired and slip into old habits.

I have compassion for that feeling. Just this week I said some things I shouldn’t have to my family. It’s hard for me sometimes, even with all my resources and experience, and I know they are in much more desperate situations. But I had to push them, because we are all called to the same high standard of being the parents our children need. Any child, regardless of where they come from, needs to be safe, connected and cared for in order to be a healthy person.

Breaks from parenting are few and far between, especially for a single mom in a one-room apartment. God knows, though. He knows where we come from and He knows what we need. I told them the story of Susanna Wesley, who had 19 children and put her apron over her head to pray. We talked about ways to find space and call out to God for strength to keep on working on these parenting skills—to be the moms we are called to be.

The module just ended, but we are far from finished. This week, another ministry is coming to teach our staff Thai laws and procedure for child safety. We will keep our standards high and keep children safe. We will continue with our holistic approach so moms can be healthy enough to do this difficult work and be the parents God calls them to be. We’re confident that breaking cycles of abuse will help their families be safe, connected, and cared-for—which is good for children, and good for their parents, too.

A Day in the Life of a Mom at The Well

The typical “human trafficking” tale is simple: a villain lures a girl with promises of a good job, but she ends up trapped and sold. We’ve all heard some version of that story – but we’ve never heard it from a woman at The Well.

The real-life stories are never simple. Instead of being tricked by a trafficker, girls meet tricksters like peer pressure, teenage romance, or illicit drugs. They’re often trapped by abuse, economic hardship, or a mental illness.

Most women at The Well are young single moms who ended up working “at night” to support their kids. These women are a key reason we focus on holistic family recovery, from keeping nursing babies next to mom to offering parenting classes and support.

We want you to understand what we do and why, so we’re dedicating our next few articles to our single moms. This first essay is a fictionalized day in the life of a young mother who is new to The Well.

Kay wakes with her daughter Noy asleep next to her, tangled hair all over her face.

“Baby, wake up!” She nudges Noy half-heartedly, then considers rolling over for more sleep. Then she remembers her attendance contract.

“I can’t be late.” she thinks. She’s tired of failing. This time, she’s going to make it – she will get up early and she will not party on weeknights.

“You can do this,” she whispers.

“Wake up.” Now her voice is stern, with an edge that Noy knows well. The little girl drags her feet to the shower. Her school uniform, ironed and ready, waits on a chair.

They arrive at school and Noy realizes she was supposed to wear her scouting uniform today. She begins to cry, and they run the half-block home for the right uniform. Noy makes it back on time, but Kay is late to work.

She signs in with a tight feeling in her shoulders and goes to Bible study. Someone reads the verses as little breezes move the curtains. A sparrow walks across the tile, and her spirit begins to settle. She looks up shyly at the other women.

Her second hour is a mom’s class. Ann, a volunteer at The Well, talks about teaching manners to your children. Kay already teaches Noy to be polite, just as her grandma taught her, so it’s easy to let her mind wander. She worries over money problems.

At lunch time, her grandma calls. She takes care of Kay’s 9-year-old son back home, and Kay is due to send money. Grandma knows she won’t get paid until Friday, but she still yells about the delay. She tells Kay she is no good, and that she needs to get a job like her cousin has. Her family is building a new house with all the money she sends.

“Grandma, I will send you money on Friday, I promise,” Kay says. Her grandma ends the call without a goodbye.

“I’m trying so hard and she doesn’t believe me. Maybe I can’t do this. Maybe I should just go get drunk with the money,” Kay thinks. She pushes the rice across her plate.

The afternoon is slow. Women upstairs are making peanut butter to sell, and the smell makes her hungry. She wishes she’d eaten her lunch. Downstairs, The Well is rebuilding a cafe. She sees the construction workers in their long-sleeved T-shirts and it reminds her of husband. His eyes used to light up when he saw her.

She wishes she could go back to life before he left her. She sighs and remembers how it was – just show up at job sites for work and party any night; no need to keep a schedule or plan the right school uniform. She could run away and do that again.

But she sighs again. She doesn’t want to run. She wants to take care of her daughter and send money home for her son. She wants things to be better for herself and for them. That’s why she is here.

“Kay, focus!” Pi Bee’s voice brings her back. The earrings she is making are complicated and she doesn’t quite have it right.

“You can do this,” she whispers. She writes her name carefully on the tag as she finishes the set: “Kay, 25 years old.”

At the end of the day, she picks Noy up at the Center’s aftercare program, and they stop for noodle soup on the way home. Noy’s eyes droop as she does her homework, and Kay double-checks that the right school uniform for tomorrow is ironed.

“You can do this,” she says to herself as flicks off the light and lies down next to Noy. “You can.”

Would you like to hear more?

Over the next few weeks we’ll explore the social and economic realities women like Kay deal with every day, and how we believe we can bring about real transformation for these women and their families. Subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when we post the next one.

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