As I sat in the taxi with tears in my eyes I reflected on what this move meant to the family and how much they meant to me.
Over the past few months, one of our advocates has been working with a family of Christians from Pakistan. Lead by the father, Pastor Bill, this family was able to escape intense persecution in Pakistan.
However, since they escaped, they have faced a barrage of trials in Bangkok. They don’t speak Thai or English very well. They have had to survive on a minimal amount of food, and they live in doubt of if they’ll have enough money to pay the rent.
Recently however, that all seems inconsequential. While they were sleeping in their apartment, immigration police raided their room, and took their son and nephew to the Detention Center, where they will remain indefinitely.
We are in the process of supporting the family, as well as fighting for the release of their son and nephew.
To follow the journey of Pastor Bill and his family, check out a blog some of our advocates are running: http://refugeepathtofreedom.blogspot.com/
God is just straight-up at work in Thailand. I remember over a year ago, my primary hope was for God to raise up people in Thailand with compassion for refugees. That’s been answered. People across Bangkok are rising up, and doing everything they can to stand with urban refugees. Read more
More on the meeting with the Christian refugees from Pakistan: Believe it or not, life isn’t great for Christians in Pakistan……I’ll leave the stories to your imagination……the wonderful news is that they’ve managed to escape……and now they find themselves within the story of so many.
I spoke today with a father, terrified that his family will be thrown out onto the street…..with a son desperate to keep his safe, and a mother devastated by sheer scope of the challenges that urban refugees in Thailand face.
Above all though, I was blown away by hospitality, friendliness, and joy they showed. Their incredible hope in God drives their survival—and put away their tragedy to show hospitality to this stranger.
But with all these different feelings swirling about, I was most overwhelmed by the sheer cuteness of their little toddler—just looooved to laugh.
I showed up in Bangkok, Thailand, quite clueless. I had found a job teaching English and hoped that I would find a way to help some people out as well. I dabbled in various volunteer opportunities, but didn’t feel like anything I did impacted anyone in any substantial way.
One day, however, I met Dilan*, a refugee who had fled his country. Because of his religious beliefs and advocacy for a marginalized ethnic minority, the government in his home country had started to harass, follow, and threaten him. When his family started receiving more and more death threats, he fled to Thailand with his wife, infant daughter, and mother-in-law.
In March of 2010, I had to return to the states, but Michael assured me that he would keep Dilan and his family safe, and in May of 2011, a European country agreed to allow Dilan and his family to resettle there.
It still blows my mind how much our little relationship transformed Dilan and his family’s lives. We were poor ourselves, but it didn’t take much to meet our friend’s basic needs.
When I see the impact I was able to have on one family’s life, I dream of the impact that more and more people can have. Thousands of refugees live under the radar in Bangkok’s shadows, struggling to survive. Thousands of foreigners, without any particular skills, come to Bangkok with vague intentions helping disadvantaged people. Millions more people live outside Bangkok, trying to find people worth investing in.
So that’s why we founded Life Raft. We want to give people the opportunity to be a part of giving hope to these families of refugees. It was an incredible blessing for us to be able to walk with Shantha on his journey, and we want to share this opportunity with as many people as possible.
*Not his real name
In December 2010, some friends and I got to know a refugee named Dilan* through our church in Bangkok. He was part of the ethnic majority in and used this status to protect ethnic minorities.