EDITOR’S NOTE: The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supplements Cooperative Program giving to support more than 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the Gospel overseas. This year’s offering goal is $175 million. The focus is on celebrating what God has done in recent years, praising Him for allowing Southern Baptists to be a part of His work, while emphasizing that reaching those who remain untouched by the Gospel is a doable task, but these will be the hardest people groups to reach — requiring that believers pray, go, partner and give as never before. The 2010 Week of Prayer for International Missions is Nov. 28-Dec. 5. To find resources about the offering, go to imb.org/offering.
BANGKOK, Thailand (BP)–Rather than looking forward to freedom, Noon dreaded the day of her prison release.
No one had visited her or had even written a letter during the time she had served in Thailand for drug possession. She realized that when prison officials set her free, she would have no place to go and no home to go to.
“Everyone in my family, my relatives, they rejected me and forgot me,” the quiet 25-year-old remembers.
But then another prisoner, a Christian, told her about God. The Christian prisoner also began to teach Noon how to pray.
“The first prayer I prayed was ‘If You are God, please bring someone to visit me,’ because for almost two years, no one visited me or wrote a letter to me,” Noon says. “I said, ‘God, if You want me to know Your grace, answer me and let someone come to visit me.'”
One week after her plea to God, an officer announced over the loudspeakers that a visitor had, in fact, come to see her.
She remembers crying, “Oh, thank You, God! Thank You, God!”
“I was so excited and very glad,” Noon recalls. She went to the room used for prison visits, and through the glass that separates inmates from visitors she saw an aunt, her mother’s sister, who had come to bring news from her family.
And she knew that with a miracle such as this, God must be real.
She began worshipping with a Christian group that met inside the prison. She also learned about a team that came each week from the Christian Prison Ministry Foundation to share Christ’s love through music, Bible study and preaching. The ministry, now active in 60 prisons throughout the country, was formed by an International Mission Board missionary supported by Southern Baptists’ giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program. For the past 10 years, a Thai Christian has led the foundation.
“So at the time of the service when the leader of that group asked us to open our hearts for Christ, I opened my heart and asked Jesus to be my Savior,” Noon recounts.
After Noon accepted Christ, she still had five months of her sentence to serve. As her release day loomed nearer, she worried because she felt that she had no one to depend on, and certainly no one who would be waiting outside the prison gates to take her home.
“The people that I used to write letters to never answered me. I had no one,” she said.
Tiwan, a member of the prison ministry team and a former prisoner herself, explains that it’s very difficult for prisoners when they are released. Most leave prisons with nothing — no clothing, no allowance, not even enough coins for a bus fare.
“In many prisons they don’t allow them to bring out notebooks, Bibles, diaries. They have to leave everything,” Tiwan says. Because they leave with nothing, they are particularly vulnerable.
It was about that time that Noon heard about the Christian halfway house that is one of the endeavors of the Christian Prison Ministry Foundation. The House of Blessing provides a place for former inmates to live as they begin new lives outside the prison walls. Daily Bible study and worship strengthen former prisoners as they build a new future.
Tiwan assured Noon that she would have a place at the House of Blessing. But just getting to the House or Blessing was a task Noon could not complete on her own. She was relying on the ministry team to be there on her release day.
But Noon was not released on a Monday, the usual day that the ministry team visited her prison. When it was too late to notify the team, Noon discovered that she would be released on a Tuesday.
Furthermore, because of some special meetings, the team had missed two consecutive Monday sessions at Noon’s prison.
Noon recalls her dread about the approaching day of her release. “I was so worried about no one to pick me up,” Noon recalls. “But I prayed and prayed.”
And again, God answered her prayer.
Tiwan, not knowing that Noon’s day for release had been changed, had rearranged her schedule that week and arrived at the prison on that very Tuesday.
“When she saw us, she cried,” Tiwan says. “When she came out she was so happy.”
“I took her to shop for clothes, for everything that she didn’t have,” Tiwan recalls. “This is what we do.” She then took her home to the House of Blessing.
Since coming to the halfway house, Noon has been baptized. She is studying the Bible, as all those who live there do, and gaining strength through daily studies and worship times. She says she feels stronger and more confident in her life and her knowledge of God.
“In the past I bowed down to the idols all the time. Every time I saw an idol, I bowed down,” Noon says. “But since becoming a Christian, I don’t bow down to idols because I know that God is a mighty God.”
She gives God the credit for providing a way forward for her life. “One thing that I confirm since I became a Christian, I won’t go back to my old life or old ways anymore,” Noon says.
“I want to thank God that He has called me and chosen me from nothing.”
Released by the International Mission Board communications office. Thailand is the focus of the 2010 International Mission Study available from WMU (www.wmu.org) or LifeWay Christian Stores.