Nationally acclaimed PBS television program, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, recently featured the ministry of the New Life Center Foundation in Northern Thailand. This is not the first time the media has highlighted the more than 20 years of work by New Life, which works to rescue women and girls from the bondage of forced labor, slavery and prostitution.
American Baptist International Ministries missionaries Karen Smith and Kit Ripley work for the New Life Center Foundation. They both expressed hope that the television coverage in August would continue to raise awareness about the critical work New Life does among tribal girls and women in Thailand.
"My faith calls me, motivates me, and inspires me to work to create social and economic justice for all people," said Karen, who serves as program director at New Life. She has worked with the ministry since 1999. "The work of [New Life] is just a part of that call, that response to God’s love. The story is a tribute to the incredible things that God is doing, and has done, over the past 20 years at the New Life Center."
New Life has received news coverage from print and television media in Thailand, Europe and the United States, since it was founded in 1987 by former American Baptist missionaries Paul and Elaine Lewis. Elaine recently passed away in May of this year, at age 86.
Lauran Bethell, a global consultant for abolishing human slavery based now in The Netherlands, also worked for several years at the New Life Center and was there at its beginnings. It was through Bethell that Religion & Ethics Newsweekly found out about New Life.
Karen said "The show’s producer Nikki See had met Lauran about 10 years ago. She followed up on this lead, which brought her to me and New Life." Nikki and her crew filmed the story back in June. The segment aired on the PBS program on Aug. 22, 2008.
Kit, who has served at New Life since 2002, said it was a major step for the tribal women to speak up and speak out.
"It took great courage for the young woman interviewed for this piece to tell her story publicly," Kit said. "But she was glad to have a chance to give back to the New Life Center by sharing her story, and she hopes that by doing so, she will help prevent other girls from being exploited in the ways she was."
Kit, Karen and New Life also hope others will join in the struggle to make these stories of not just tribulation, but also of triumph.
"I hope that this story will increase viewers' understanding of the plight of tribal people in Northern Thailand," said Kit, "and will inspire them to actively participate in the struggle to oppose the exploitation of women and children globally."
View the program at the following link: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week1151/feature.html
American Baptist International Ministries, organized in 1814, is the oldest Baptist mission agency formed in North America. We serve more than 2,500 short-term and long-term missionaries annually, bringing U.S. and Puerto Rico churches together with partners in 76 countries in cutting-edge ministries that tell the good news of Jesus Christ while meeting human needs.