Dear family and friends,
During the Hot Season (March-April) our children have been spending time in their homes while the staff has rested and prepared for the coming academic year. Charles visited his sister and her husband, Ursula and Francis, and family, who are missionaries in Mozambique. Yao and Witoon took three exams in their undergraduate degree programs in English and Agriculture, respectively. The staff also went on a most refreshing retreat to the coast; we are excited by the completion of Bethlehem House and the imminent arrival of all our children, new and old, by Wednesday, May 8, for the new school year beginning on May 14.
We will have a total of 66 children in our care, including 20 little kids in Bethlehem, five new girls in Bethel, and one new boy in Bethesda. We will have a total of eight female and two male college students this year.
As we look forward to the coming year with its unprecedented challenges and opportunities, I would like to offer our heart-felt thanks to the so many of you who have prayed for us and who have supported the ministry financially for many years now; without you we could not have given education scholarships to our 66 precious children.
Jessi-Ann Michaelson, who is interning with us at present, shared the following with our staff and children as we broke for the Hot Season. The comparisons between GM kids and the Jewish girl Esther from the book of the same name are striking:
Esther was an orphan raised by her cousin Mordecai. Most of the kids at Grace aren’t true orphans, but some are, and many have grown up without both parents in broken homes, or have been raised by other family members, whether a grandmother or aunt or another relative. Esther was a Jewish exile living in Persia. She was set apart by a different culture, a different language, a different God. I can’t help but think of the Cambodian-Thai, who are disregarded or looked down on by other Thai nationals, have their own culture and traditions, and speak Cambodian. I think of the kids from the Hill Tribes, migrant minorities scattered among the hills of Northern Thailand, who are denied jobs and struggle to even gain citizenship in Thailand; they enjoy the taste of dog and speak Akha or Lisu or another tribal language. I think of the Grace kids who are among the 1% Christian in a country that is 94% Buddhist and attend a school that prays to Buddhist spirits before classes every day. I think of the poverty, of not having the money for school or clothes or adequate food, let alone excess money for luxuries. Many of the kids here are set apart, a minority, just like Esther. And there’s no doubt that modern-day Thailand can parallel ancient Persia in its darkness and lack of God’s presence. Both are permeated with evil, destruction, and sin. And what of Mordecai? He took Esther in when she had no one else. He and his wife raised Esther like their own daughter. They fed her, clothed her, cared for her, and taught her about God and His love. Even when she was queen, Mordecai gave Esther advice and encouragement. Isn’t the love of the staff here at Grace similar to that of Mordecai? They feed, clothe, and care for the kids here, and they teach about God and His redeeming love. They are constantly available to give counsel and encouragement to every single one of the children.
Can one person really make a difference in today’s society? Is it possible that one of these kids at Grace will fundamentally change Thailand like Esther did in Persia? The name of God isn’t mentioned once in the book of Esther. But God is present throughout the story like a silhouette, working throughout the book through His invisible hand of providence, instead of His visible hand of miracles. I can’t deny that God’s redeeming plan and His powerful, merciful, and faithful hand is present all the way through the story, just like it’s present in the lives of the children living at Grace.
The Message Bible puts 1 Corinthians 1:27-31 like this: Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”
God deliberately chooses those whom “the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses.” He chooses the nobodies, those who have been written off, the insignificant people. He uses those imperfect people in order to accomplish His perfect plans. God’s grace is so prevailing and so complete that even the most worthless of people can be used if they just let Him. Esther was an orphan, a teenager, an exile living in a foreign land, a minority, and a sinner. But God exalted her to the position of queen and used her influence to save the Jewish nation. Esther trusted God and allowed Him to use her for His will even though her life was at risk.
Why couldn’t one of these kids at Grace become an Esther for Thailand? God has placed every single one of these kids here, at this exact place and this exact time, with their own unique special set of qualities and circumstances, so that they can fulfill His purpose for their lives and bring Him glory. God chose Esther, and she responded, and He has chosen these kids to be here at Grace. It makes me wonder how God might use them if they just respond to Him like Esther. My new prayer for these kids is that they become the Esthers of their generation, that they realize God has purposefully brought them to Grace Ministries, and that despite their age or tribe or lack of wealth, God can use them in order to make a change in Thailand.
I think Jessi-Ann has captured our vision for our children very well. Please pray for them that they will become leaders in their homes and churches and in every area of society here.
Yao, Witoon and Ewe, Noot, David, Yoke Fong and Charles