Bringing a blessing

Wednesday, November 29, 2006
The Thailand team, from Celebrate Life Ministries of Shelbyville and International Prayer Ministries of Conyers, Ga., included (not in order pictured) Ted and Ann Lewis, their daughter Emily Stinson, Murel Tucker, Anita Murray, Judy Bowles, Ruth Wilkinson, Brittany Wilkinson and Tamarah Rohey. (Submitted photo)

A team from Shelbyville-based Celebrate Life Ministries, headed by Ted Lewis, returned to Thailand this month to attend the dedication of a new dormitory at Home of Blessing, a shelter for young girls who have been rescued from prostitution and sexual slavery in the southeast Asian country.

The team left Nov. 2 and returned Nov. 18.

Lewis and his wife Ann have supported Home of Blessing for several years. The new dormitory, which will be in full use by Christmas, will house 160 girls. The former dormitory, once it is vacant, will be completely remodeled and will be able to take 50 more by March.

Lewis said Celebrate Life Ministries worked with International Prayer Ministries of Conyers, Ga., on the project. He said the dedication ceremony was attended by highly-ranked government officials from all over Thailand.

In addition to the dedication ceremonies, the team went into tribal villages to visit the homes in which the girls were raised. Often, a whole family will live in a shack no bigger than Lewis' office at a Shelbyville horse barn. On an earlier trip, two girls from the home were taken to their home village, Lao Takow, so that they could reconcile with the parents who had allowed them to be taken into prostitution five or so years earlier.

This dormitory, dedicated this month, will allow Home of Blessing to take in more young girls rescued from prostitution and the sex trade in Thailand. (Submitted photo)

"The parents didn't even know who they were," said Lewis. But the forgiveness shown by the girls was such an example that it became a means of evangelism.

"Many people in the village became Christian," said Lewis.

On a visit to Home of Blessing in April, Lewis was asked for help by the girls from Lao Takow in funding a church building for their village. Christians in the village had been meeting in individual homes. Within three days of his return from the April trip, Lewis got commitments for both the land and the materials. One Shelbyville woman promised to pay for all of the materials herself.

During the November trip, Lewis and his teammates got to attend the dedication of the new church. There was standing-room only, and some of those in attendance were outside the church peering in. As a sign of gratitude, the people of the village gave Lewis a small watermelon.

"They didn't have much to give," said Lewis, but just as in the parable of the widow's mite, Lewis was moved by their generosity.

The ministry has now been asked to fund a similar church project in the village of Ras Pak Dee. Lewis had commitments to pay for the project within a day of returning from this month's trip. The ministry now has a goal to plant five new churches in northern Thailand in 2007. They also plan a conference facility at Home of Blessing where pastors and families can come for training.

The Sept. 19 coup in which Thailand's prime minister was removed from office while on a trip abroad was a non-issue when it came to this month's trip, said Lewis.

On one occasion, when the team ventured into Nan province, there was a crowd of 500 on the first evening of services, the provincial governor -- a Buddhist -- opened their worship service, with respectful words of welcome and congratulations.

All in all, Lewis called the trip a success, but he noted that the team was exhausted on its return home. The trip to Thailand includes a 15-hour plane ride as one leg.

Meanwhile, Celebrate Life Ministries is active in domestic programs as well, with support groups for addictions and family issues. The ministry has gotten permission to use the former Butler's Creek Community Clubhouse as a family wellness center and is planning courses in money management and parenting.