In a location sandwiched between bars in the middle of Bangkok’s red light district, 10 Thai women have left prostitution and are learning to bake.
The sweet scents of fresh focaccia and soft white bread wafted through the air recently as Sarah Brown, a BMS World Mission worker working with BMS World Mission partner NightLight International, began baking lessons with women formerly working in the sex trade in Thailand’s capital.
Owner of a cake business, Brown thought she would have to leave her baking behind when she came to BMS World Mission.
“I had no idea at all that using my creative gifting in mission would be possible,” she said. “I just thought God’s calling me overseas, it must be to teach English!”
But God can use all our skills, and Brown’s baking background has equipped her with just what is needed for NightLight’s latest endeavor: teaching women to make foreign bread and cakes as part of a bigger vision to reach out in the red light district.
It is through NightLight’s weekly outreach work that women have found their way to the baking project. Every Tuesday, Brown and others from NightLight go into the bars to build relationships with the women working there.
It’s all about empowering them to make their own decisions. “We ask them, what are your dreams?” Brown said. “If you had the opportunity to do something else, what would you do? And as we build up relationships we let them know that, actually, there is another option.”
Often the women who choose to join NightLight come with no self-esteem. Working with Brown and the team – whether it’s making jewelry, T-shirts or coming on board now with the baking project – can completely transform them.
“When I’d just started working here, one lady was pointed out to me and I was told that when she first decided to come out of the bars and work for NightLight, she had such a lack of confidence that she wouldn’t look at you,” Brown said. “She felt ashamed of herself and where she had come from.
“Since working with NightLight, this young lady has flourished and now she’s a prayer warrior. She prophesies, she’s strong, she’s on fire for God and she encourages others.”
It’s amazing to see these women turn their lives around as people invest time in them and help them to find another way to live and to provide for themselves and their families.
And those involved in the baking project have excelled at their new work, with orders for their foreign breads already coming in from the international school and the expat community.
“They are so proud of the bread they are producing,” Brown said, “and they have a right to be. The breads look fantastic, taste delicious and are excellent enough to be sold.”
The baking project is part of the vision NightLight has had for about three years to start a coffee shop to reach out to some of the men frequenting the red light district. Brown’s husband, Paul, will be involved in this, mentoring some of the men.
Finally, it’s taking off. The baking has started, the building work is moving forward, and we’re hoping the coffee shop will open soon.
Sarah Stone is a writer for BMS World Mission. A version of this article first appeared on the BMS website and is used with permission. You can follow Sarah on Twitter @Sarah__Stone and BMS @BMSWorldMission. You can learn more about Sarah and Paul Brown here.