Twenty years ago, American Baptist International Ministries (IM) missionary in Thailand Kim Brown founded the House of Love as a refuge for former brothel workers who had contracted AIDS. Over time, the House of Love transformed into a home for the HIV-positive orphans of the original residents and for other at-risk ethnic minority children. It was joined by the Christian Center for the Development of Persons with Disabilities and by the House of Blessing, a preschool program for children from the urban slums, under the auspices of the Integrated Ministries for Ethnic Minorities Foundation (IMEMF).
Now Kim is planning to retire and pass on the reigns of these important ministries, and new leadership is urgently needed.
The decision to move on from this work in Thailand has been difficult for Kim, who has come to consider many of the children in the IMEMF programs as part of her family.
“The most rewarding thing for me is watching the kids grow and develop—with their education, with their ability to be independent and most of all with their spiritual development,” Kim says.
It is also clear that the ministries that Kim founded have come to fill important roles in their communities. Although there are many care centers for children in Thailand, the House of Love is the only home that accepts deaf and HIV-positive children. Additionally, the IMEMF is uniquely positioned to serve urban communities.
Kim explains, “Because of our work with the House of Blessing daycare center, people trust us in the city slums and come to us with problems and we’re able to take children out of situations where they’re at high risk. … For example, two girls came in whose parents are in jail and their relatives didn’t know what to do with them. The girls were 13 and 14. Their relatives took them to different men, asking the men to sleep with them to see if they wanted them for a wife. And they kept getting rejected. So they’re at high risk if they stay at home.”
The next program director for the IMEMF will be entering into a crucial ministry that is still growing and evolving to better meet the needs of its community. The children who have grown up in the House of Love will need support as they move out and begin careers and families of their own. The staff members will need continued discipleship and training as the foundation moves toward the goal of full leadership by Thai nationals.
There are also ongoing challenges, such as teaching grace in a shame-based culture, which has been a particular concern for Kim. “It’s hard because in Thai culture the way you can control people is to shame them rather than to share grace with them,” she says. The children expect this sort of discipline, and the staff members easily fall into the habit of it. But when the children are disciplined in a way that shows Christ-like love, “if people recognize that it’s grace and not weakness, then it tends to break through to them.”
Kim has been blessed to see many breakthroughs in her 20 years with the IMEMF, and the House of Love is clearly very close to her heart. In fact, even as she prepares to leave Thailand, she is still planning to continue supporting this ministry. She says, “For a long time I thought of retiring in Thailand, and the children really want me to, but I think I will come home. Hopefully I can help with some fundraising for the projects there.”
And to the person whom God is preparing to pick up where Kim leaves off, she offers these words of advice: “Be centered in prayer. Be aware of where the Holy Spirit is leading you. And know that God provides.”
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