As soon as I set foot on the orphanage campus, the children came running into my arms. I could hardly contain my joy at embracing these precious little ones whom a friend of mine had helped care for several years ago, and they in turn were delighted to show to me the affection they feel for her. The language barrier wasn’t a major obstacle to our communication, as the orphans supplemented their small English vocabulary with unmistakable body language, such as tugging on my hands until I arrived at a chair where they would pull me down and promptly climb into my lap. Being lovingly mobbed by adorable youngsters is an exhilarating experience!
Conversing later with the dear couple who runs this ministry, I was awed to learn more of their story. With a background in church work and a deep concern for abandoned children in the area, they sensed a call from God to open this Home of Hope five years ago. They were inspired by the testimony of George Mueller, who cared for ten thousand children in English in the nineteenth century, and trusted the Lord to providentially meet the needs of orphans through them, as He had done for George Mueller. In faith, they purchased land, constructed a building, and began to take in children who had nowhere else to go.
The family backgrounds of these residents differ. In some cases, one or both parents are alive, but unable to care for their children for reasons including incarceration for the drug trade, which sadly is quite prevalent in the area. Extreme poverty often prevents other relatives from taking in the children. Many were rescued from situations where they were at high risk for exploitation. Pastor Pratuan explained that traffickers target teenager girls in remote villages, offering destitute parents a substantial sum of money in exchange for their daughter’s working “in a restaurant”; she ends up in a brothel in Bangkok, with no way of escape.
Some of the 42 children at the home are related to each other. One group of nine siblings has both parents in jail with decades-long sentences. Their uncle sold the truck that belonged to the imprisoned father in order to buy food for those nine children, but when that money ran out, he brought them to the orphanage, unable to continue feeding them himself. A group of four siblings came from a situation of polygamy, abandonment, malnutrition, insufficient clothing, and high danger of exploitation. They are now thriving under the love and safety of their new home. And as I cuddled the youngest resident at the home, a two-year-old boy, I learned that his life began in a back alley of Bangkok, where his teenager mother worked the night shift in a factory for lack of any other means of supporting herself. The two of them now live together at the orphanage, and are pictured below.
My two days at the Home of Hope provided ample time for a variety of activities with the children. Each evening, we walked through a nearby village, handing out flyers for the Christian school on campus. We also relaxed at a nearby waterfall, and took a short hike on a picturesque path through the forest. At evening devotions and Sunday worship, I played my violin and shared my testimony, with translation. I dined with them and even lent a hand in the kitchen, chopping cabbage. I was treated to a colorful floral hairdo by two creative youngsters, who upon finishing their work of art wasted no time in marching me directly to the mirror in my room so I could admire my new look! I didn’t object when they subsequently rummaged through my luggage in search of treats, and upon finding peanuts at the bottom of my backpack, helped themselves to a well-deserved snack.
I was deeply inspired by the testimony of the orphanage directors, Pastor Pratuan and his wife. They obviously love each child deeply, and pour themselves out to nurture them diligently. Seeing the orphans as future ministry leaders for this region, they strive to give them a solid Christian upbringing. Only four other adults are currently on staff to assist this couple in meeting the needs of all 42 children, in addition to the administrative and maintenance responsibilities on the campus. I can only imagine the pressures they must face in running such a ministry, but rather than worry, I sensed only peace and joy emanating from them as we talked.
Time and time again, God has shown Himself faithful to provide for the orphans at the Home of Hope. About a year ago, after an influx of residents, the cook informed Pastor Pratuan’s wife that a bag of rice, which had previously lasted for two weeks, was now consumed in only three days. The staff didn’t know how they would afford to continue feeding the children, but they trusted God to meet their needs. Shortly thereafter, a local vendor from which they purchased a couch took a photo of the orphans and posted it on Facebook, with a blurb about the orphanage. This generated a positive buzz about it on social media, among locals who hadn’t previously known of its existence. Though they don’t share the ministry’s Christian beliefs, they began to visit in droves, out of compassion for the orphans, bringing donations of food and garments. These gifts have been so abundant that Pastor Pratuan and his wife haven’t had to purchase any rice for the past year; and they have been able to pass along excess clothing to other ministries.
The Home of Hope is currently preparing for a huge expansion. In May, an additional 60 orphans will arrive to join the current 42 residents, bringing their total to over 100. At the same time — the beginning of the academic year here — their Christian school, which just opened a year ago, expects an enrollment in excess of 200. As Pastor Pratuan shared his calm assurance that God would continue to provide for their needs, which far exceed his own resources, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps He might do so through some who read this blog. Anyone who wishes to give financially to this ministry, volunteer on-site, or host a teenager for high school in the US can make contact online at http://compassionatehope.org/ .
As I rode the bus home from the orphanage, I meditated on James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (ESV). Pastor Pratuan and his wife are certainly putting this verse into action. Am I? Do I individually, and does the Church collectively, sufficiently demonstrate God’s love to the estimated 153,000,000 orphans in the world? Is there more we could do? It’s a question I’m still pondering.