Mission Work Among The Karen People 

Of North-West Thailand


PCC’s mission work among the Karen tribal people centres around the village of Go Baw Ta and Mae La Noi Town in the province of Mae Hong Son, Northern Thailand. It is approximately 5 hours drive from Chiang Mai Town. PCC aims to provide accommodation, basic needs (food, medical and education) and had employed house-parents (married local Christian Karen couple) to look after about 30 Karen tribal children and youths between age 7 to 17. 

A Christian hostel for the primary school students at the mountain village of Go Baw Ta was set up together with another hostel for secondary school students in the town of Mae La Noi. 

This work is only made possible through the kind financial support from PCC members. The missionary work is led by our church pastors, with advice and support from the Mission Committee and Missionary Assistant. 







Background of mission work

The mission work was started in 2012 when Pastor Chris Coleborn of Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) Australia started to evangelize among the Karen villages via his personal visits to Northern Thailand. 

As he saw a real need among the community to provide a Christ-centred education for the children, coupled with the inconvenience of children in faraway remote villages to attend the state school in Go Baw Ta, a proposal was made to PCC to start a hostel work there.


Mission Objective

Right at the beginning of our work among the Karen community, we have sought to engage in the work of evangelism and to help the community through the provision of education. 

Although a majority of the Karen families are Christians, most of them have a simple understanding of the Word of God. As such, the community is regularly plagued by issues of drugs, alcohol and cigarette addiction. Some families are also very poor and cannot afford to send their children to school, especially if they stay in faraway villages. 

We hope that by taking care of the students’ physical and spiritual needs, the future generations of the Karen tribe will have a brighter future due to better access to education together with proper instruction in the book of life (the Bible). We seek to build up the children in good Christian character as they learn to love one another and be useful members of the society. 

Our ultimate goal, is to bring the knowledge of the true and living God to Animist and Buddhist Karen as well as to establish faithful reformed churches, families and individuals. 

A. Christian Hostel at Go Baw Ta – For Primary School Children



The village of Go Baw Ta is a remote village at the centre of a cluster of Karen villages set in the lush hills and forested mountains in the north west of Thailand near to the border of Myanmar. The village consists of about 80 households. 




When the work was started in 2012, the building for the hostel was rented from the villagers. Subsequently, funds were raised by members of PCC and EPC Australia to build our own hostel building which was completed in 2015. A lot of hard work and dedication was put in by the villagers, the house-parents and the late uncle Jacob to build the hostel. The building serves not only as a hostel for the children but also as a centre of Christian teaching, witness and evangelistic outreach to surrounding villages. 

All the school children in this Hostel are fed, clothed and fully accommodated for about 10 months of the year. Loving house-parents took care of their daily needs and provide regular teaching in the Christian faith.


A day in the Hostel


5:20am – Family Worship led by House-parents

6:00am – Perform chores in the Hostel and breakfast

7:10am – Assembly and prayer

7:30am to 4:00pm – In school

4:30pm – Perform chores in the Hostel and dinner

7:00pm – Family worship and English lesson

8:30pm – Bedtime


B. Christian Hostel at Mae La Noi – For Secondary School Youths
 



As there is only a primary school at Go Baw Ta village, children 13 years and above have to travel to Mae La Noi town for secondary school education. Therefore, a Christian hostel in the town of Mae La Noi was started in 2014 to provide these older children with accommodation without having to travel back to their hometown daily. The commute not only takes up time (about 45 minutes each way) but there is no regular shuttle service available. Currently there are eight youths in the hostel and the number is expected to increase as the students in Go Baw Ta village graduated from primary school next few years. 

The youths in Mae La Noi hostel are well looked after by dedicated house-parents who not only take care of their physical wellbeing but also their emotional and spiritual wellness. The respective house-parents also teach simple English and Bible to the children and youths as well as seek to train the students in godly living.



From left: (1) House-parent of Go Baw Ta Hostel, bro Sertca, teaching the children Bible lessons, (2) House-parent of Mae La Noi Hostel, bro Tongkam, teaching the youths to sing the Psalms from the Bible.

Works of Mercy and Role of Sponsors

In the hostels, there are children who come from very needy background e.g. children whose lives have been blighted with neglect, abandonment, fear, loneliness, sickness and hurt either due to poverty or other family issues. The hostels offer them new hope and a new life, and seeks to extend to them Christian love and fellowship. It is wonderful to see them finding security, friendship, and acceptance and see their lives transformed. 

The fruits of this work over the past few years clearly show that this is a worthy cause to support either by sponsoring a child, or making a one-time donation. This can be of tremendous blessing for the Karen community, both for time and eternity.

Sponsors are critical to the work not only financially but also to guide the character development of these children through regular communications. Our work with the children had clearly improved their life and opened up many opportunities to bring the gospel to them and their families.


Involvement of Church Members and Sponsors 

Over the years, sponsors of the children and members of PCC have visited the hostels regularly. Some of the trips are highlighted below: 

In December 2012, a team of about 30 children and adults from PCC visited the Hostels at Go Baw Ta and ‘home-stayed’ with the Karen people in their homes, and were involved in the village life of the people. This visit allowed both the sponsors and the sponsored family to know each other better. It is clear that both families benefited much from the trip especially children from Singapore were able to understand how privileged they are with regards to the living conditions and education opportunities they enjoyed verses children from Karen villages. 

In December 2016, Pastor JJ, adults and youths from PCC visited the two hostels. The church youths organized the first Vacation Bible School for young children staying in Go Baw Ta village on 17 December 2016. More than 50 children and their parents attended the event which comprises of Bible stories, singing, games and art & craft. Students from the two hostels supported the event by helping with translation and leading the children. It was a fruitful and memorable event both for the village children and PCC church youths. 




Visits by PCC Missionary Assistant 

Regular visits by our Missionary Assistant, sis Nancie Koo, is a tremendous blessing. She has visited the Hostels 7 times in 2016 & 2017. She taught the children simple English, Psalms singing and seeks to encourage them in the faith. A small library was started in Go Baw Ta Hostel with English books and Bible stories donated by various people. The children are enthusiastic to learn. Their English and Bible knowledge have improved. Now they have more confident to speak and write in English. 

On some of her trips, sis Nancie together with the house-parents, visited our Hostel children’s families to get to know them, find out their children’s progress and whether they have any needs or prayer requests. Sis Nancie also had several opportunities to teach simple English in the local state primary school, where our Hotel’s children are attending their primary school education. The school does not have a regular English teacher. So the Principal and Teachers are very appreciative. We thank God for such opportunities to do good to the villagers and their children, besides the children in our Hostels. Sis Nancie also visits the local Church and extend greetings from our pastors and church members in Singapore to the local people.Through her regular visits, sis Nancie has been instrumental in promoting good-will between PCC and the Karen people.


From top left: 1) Sister Nancie taught simple English at Go Baw Ta Hostel, 2) The children learning to read from notes given to them, 3 and 4) Sis Nancie visited some of our children’s families in the Go Baw Ta village, 5 and 6) Sis Nancie taught at the local state primary school and the teacher was very appreciative


There is a small church in GoBawTa village, just 3 mins walk from GoBawTa Hostel. PCC leaders, members and sis Nancie visit them whenever they are at GoBawTa. The Pastor and local church members are cordial and appreciated our Hostels’ works. Our Hostel children and youths are called upon to recite Bible verses and sing when in church.



Involvement of the Local Community

a. Training of Karen men for the Ministry 

One of our most important work among the Karen people, is the training of Karen men for the ministry, by equipping them with English language and Theological training. Thank God that our Mae La Noi house-parent, bro Tongkam, and his brother-in-law, bro Jator, have come forward to offer their life to serve among their Karen people.

Brother Tongkam studied Theology for four years in a Bible College in Chiang Mai. PCC pastors are now guiding him in further studying of the Bible and the Reformed faith. He has been invited to preach occasionally in the Karen churches. 

Brother Jator is PCC’s ministerial student. PCC Church and members are sponsoring him to study English in Singapore. PCC pastors are also teaching and guiding him in studying the Bible and equipping him to serve among his Karen people.





b. House-parents 

Our employed house-parents take care of the children’s physical needs, help them with homework, teach them Bible and English, and train them in godly living and character. They also visit the children’s families in their home regularly to keep in touch with the families on their children’s progress.

c. Translation work 

As good Christian literature in Karen and Thai are limited, bro Tongkam is translating some Christian literatures into Thai. Bro Jator is translating some English Psalms into Karen for the children to learn to sing the Psalms in their language. 



d. Children’s parents and villagers
The children’s parents contribute a portion of their children’s expenses in the Hostel in cash or by giving rice that they plant. Villagers also helped out when the Go Baw Ta Hostel was under construction. During our Vacation Bible School in Dec 2016, some villagers helped in cooking for the children.

What changes have we made to the Karen people? 

From our work over the years, we have managed to help the Karen people through the following ways: 

a. Children from faraway villages or from poor family background have the opportunity to study in the local Primary School. 

b. Children were being taught the Bible, build up in good Christian characters, and learn to love one another. 

c. Children are much healthier physically, perform better academically, and are much better behaved and helpful at home. 

d. Villages have opportunities to hear the Gospel and study God’s words whenever our pastors visit them.


How much fund is needed a month? 

A yearly budget is planned for the running of the hostels. Monetary funding is provided through the direct sponsorship of children, love gifts and donations to the church. The parents of the children contribute materially by providing rice and harvests from the farm. Each month the budget money is withdrawn from their bank account and the House-parents keep a careful record of how the money is spent and where possible, receipts are kept. PCC regularly audits the accounts whenever we visit them. So far, all expenses are accounted for and the church is satisfied that due diligence had been exercised. 

Below is a general estimate on breakdown of expenses per month for children & the house-parents:


Salary/transport

40%

S$984

Food

30%

S$738

Utilities

12%

S$295

Daily living items (e.g. medicine, soap, clothes etc.)

18%

S$443

 



As the children are growing up and requires more food, education and living expenses, the yearly budget had been increasing over the years. The church is thus open to accept donations and sponsorships from friends and relatives of church members only. The majority of the funding (at least 60%) will still come from the church and its members. We will also only raise whatever is needed for the coming year for the sake of financial responsibility and discipline. As mentioned in the Bible, we are guardians of our material wealth on earth and have no intention to damage the reputation of God. 

Sponsorship 

Your kind sponsorship helps to provide feeding, clothing, housing and education of the children in the hostels. Knowing there is a pledged income, allows for better future planning for Karen children. 

Sponsorship can be in the following format: 

a) A sum of $100 / month for a year which will help to support a Karen child or youth for their studies and stay in the hostel. Please indicate if you wish to have regular updates and communications with the sponsored student. 

b) A one-time off cash / cheque / TT donation. 

If you are interested to contribute in any other ways, do approach the church Mission Committee, email: mission@pilgrim-covenant.com

For bank transfer, Bank Account: DBS 011-015244-9. Please do indicate in the remarks Karen Fund if you are doing a bank transfer.