Speaking at IPCA Conference, Stockholm
Overlapping worlds: Long-time Thai friends at IPCA in Stockholm, Ajaan Chuleepan and Ajaan Sririrat
In a few hours I’m getting on (yet another) plane from Amsterdam on my way to Thailand! You can imagine my excitement to be visiting a place which is so dear to my heart! It’s a pilgrimage of a kind… in a couple of weeks I turn 60 years old, and in many Asian cultures 60 is THE most significant birthday. I needed to get to Thailand anyway—to visit some people and projects—and so I decided that I’d turn the trip into a time of remembering my personal missionary “roots” and be with those who God has put in my life to point me to his purposes for me.
Journaling is hard for me….I don’t enjoy the process of writing. It’s one of the deficits of my professional life. And I apologize. I’d much rather spend my time with people face to face. But I feel compelled to include you in this journey—because so many of you have journeyed with me through all these 25 years of ministry. Oh—and it’s been such an adventure, hasn’t it?! I know that one way of honoring your part in this journey through these years is to invite you to celebrate with me as I reminisce—and share the Hope for the future that is so “bright with the Promises of God”!
So—off we go to Thailand—but before I head to the airport, I’ll attach some pictures that were taken the end of August in Stockholm, Sweden. I was a keynote speaker at the “International Prison Chaplains Association” (IPCA) conference, which is held every 5 years. There were amazing people from 70 countries at the conference—and it was wonderful to help them understand more deeply the situations of human trafficking and prostitution in their contexts. Though we work in somewhat different realms, nevertheless, we have many overlapping issues. I also learned so much about justice (and injustice!) systems in many places of the world.
On the last day, I had the opportunity to visit a Swedish women’s prison—and asked one of the staff members how many of the women in prison had been involved in prostitution. “Nearly all of them”, she said. I understand that it’s similar in many countries of the world. As we passed by a room where about 20 of them were sitting, I recognized the kind of sadness in their eyes that I regularly see on the streets and in the windows (where women are on display in red light districts). I prayed that those who have felt called to minister inside the prisons would have a special anointing of God’s Holy Spirit on them—that through their unconditional care in Jesus’ name, the prisoners would come to know that they are The Beloved of God.
With Gratitude for making my journey possible,