Each New Day

Children living in the Bangkok’s largest slum in the Klong Toey district experience the fresh blessings of God’s love each new day as they arrive at Home of Praise.

Discarded cardboard boxes, splintering plywood, rusting and battered sheets of corrugated iron and plastic wrapping mix with walls of mould covered bricks and mortar to provide a tangled mass of shelter and homes for an estimated 400,000 people living in the district of Klong Toey – Bangkok’s largest slum. The smells of rotting garbage which lies strewn close to the doorways of these shelters, mixes with the pungent odors of Thai food being cooked in woks on hot coal fires in alleyways and at the entrance of these ‘homes’.

Old men and women sitting silently in the dark recesses of their tiny rooms peer through the doorways as others pass by in the narrow lanes. And children – most times dirty and with unkempt appearance run along dusty tracks, and narrow concrete paths that line the putrid waterway, or play games and crisscross the rail tracks that cut through the lines of dusty washing and makeshift walls. The air is sticky with heat and humidity. Overhead the grey underside of one of Bangkok’s freeways provides another place to shelter and its concrete pillars – another wall for a home. Meager businesses – car repairs, food stalls, drug sellers and many others find a place to set up shop in this place of dirt and danger.

These humble shelters are home to an entangled mesh of poverty stricken families, single mothers, grandparents, people living with AIDS, alcohol and drug addicts and vulnerable children born into a life of struggle and poverty.

Under the shadow of the towering freeway above, in the middle of all this filth and fear is a place of light and hope and love – the love and light of Jesus Christ.  The green painted outside walls of Home of Praise are in stark contrast to the dirty world that hugs so closely around it – an oasis in the desert.

Home of Praise was established in 2003 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Thailand with strong support and funding from the Norwegian Missionary Society. The Day Nursery in Home of Praise is part of the ministry program of Immanuel Lutheran Church which also runs a similar but expanded ministry for children aged 3-6 years in their church building in walking distance from Home of Praise.

By Australian standards the Home of Praise is ‘very’ basic, but it’s clean and safe and, above all, it’s a place of love and care. Norwegian missionary and Director of Home of Praise, Anne Haug says, ‘In this place the children receive food, rest, a wash and love. Our aim is to show God’s love. We speak about God’s love for them and their families not so much with our words, but with our actions’.

Early in the morning each weekday up to 35 infants and toddlers ranging in age from 6 months to 3 years are brought to Home of Praise by siblings or other family members from the surrounding squatters’ shelters, from situations of abuse and hunger and filth. On arrival they are washed and put on clean clothes, sit down to have a hearty bowl of rice porridge and milk and then a time of quite rest in the darkened upper room. Throughout the day, faithful staff and overseas volunteers serve these vulnerable little ones with absolute love and care, feeding them fresh fruit and hearty meals, teaching them Christian songs and prayers and even English. Most of the parents and family members are Buddhists, but even so they are very keen for their children to have this experience and care. The staff and volunteers desire that the children in their care are regular attenders each weekday – something that is not always the case because of the uncertain family and living situations they find themselves in. There are no authorities for staff to report the abuse that they might often see in the children. But they can and do speak to parents and family members about these issues and where possible offer them support.

The practical love and care for these vulnerable little ones is one of two major functions carried out at Home of Praise. The other vital program is run in the afternoons for older children. During the week up to one hundred young children and teenagers engage in the afternoon programs at Home of Praise. These are run by the pastor of nearby Immanuel Lutheran Church, staff of the Diaconal department of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Thailand, together with overseas volunteers. The afternoon programs offer lessons in computing, English, violin and art. On any given afternoon between 20 and 40 children and young people are squeezed into the tiny rooms to take advantage of these basic, practical programs and to gain something of an extension to their very basic school education.

The local Thai pastor from Immanuel Lutheran Church has now commenced a Sunday School program on Saturdays where English is used to share aspects of the Christian faith.

It’s to this place, Home of Praise that God has called the Lutheran Women of Australia (LWA) to offer their gifts of love. It’s to these vulnerable children, living in poverty and seeming hopelessness that God calls you to pray for the staff and volunteers who serve there, for the tiny children who are brought there each day, for the pastor and people of Immanuel Lutheran Church, and for the children and young people who come there each afternoon to learn and play. Home of Praise is a place of hope and love and new beginnings, where the love of Jesus is poured into the lives of all who enter through the green picket gate and through the door to this place of God’s grace.

The on-going daily needs for milk, food, and fruit are great. Your gifts of love enables Home of Praise to offer greater support to the children who come to the afternoon programs – buying equipment and maintaining the premises, and for extending the ministry beyond their walls and into the surrounding community. Volunteers are also highly valued. However if you would like to be a volunteer at Home of Praise you will need to be willing to spend at least three months there at any one time.

We gives thanks to God for the on-going generosity of LWA in supporting mission programs in Australia and overseas that make an eternal difference in the lives of many people.

Read more stories about our partner churches in Thailand at http://www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/international-partners/thailand/

If you would like to consider the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in mission, serving in practical ways, teaching English, teaching in the seminaries and institutions of our partner churches, or in local churches, you are invited to phone Nevin on (08) 8267 7300 or email nevin.nitschke@lca.org.au. For more information, go to http://www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/volunteer/

Read more stories about volunteering at http://www.lcamission.org.au/category/join-gods-mission/volunteers/