2f.8: The Story of the Ban Meata Christian Children’s Village

THE STORY OF THE
BAN MEATA CHRISTIAN CHILDREN’S VILLAGE
Ban Meata (Thai: Ban Meata = House of Mercy)
… a house of mercy, hope, joy, happiness, new life for the children of Thailand.

BAN KLANG BOROUGHY
LOMSAK, PHETCHABUN
THAILAND

September 2000 Edition

INTRODUCTION:

In October 1999, I was able to visit the North Thailand Ban Meata Christian Children’s Village (Thai: Barn Meata = House of Mercy). I went as a volunteer Permaculture facilitator and planner for self-sufficiency in their foodgardens. Since my brain injury in December 1995 and my rehabilitation, my going to Thailand alone, was a major undertaking. While I was there, I set up a long-term plan for self-sufficiency in the foodgardens. This involved writing a fifteen-page report which can be evaluated over time by e-mail and added to as the project is implemented. I am currently writing a section on no-dig gardens since my personal success with this method over recent months.

The Village is not just an orphanage, as some of the children have parents who have abandoned them. The Village provides a safety net for about one hundred children. Ten Thai staff who run the Village in conjunction with an Australian couple, Rob and Jean Dunk who are based here in Brisbane.

The Village has six very well built and well kept buildings on several hectares of what was initially bare farmland. It is set among rolling hills in Phetchabun Province, about 360 kms. North of Bangkok. The three-kilometre dirt road off the main bitumen road, branches off in the low-lying, waterfilled rice paddy country and rises to the rolling hills.

The Village has two deep dams on site, abundant fresh bore water, a duckpond, a chicken coop, a small pigsty and about half a hectare of chillies (Thais eat a lot of chillies). There is about the same area of trees: Government donated teak tree seedlings which have now grown into six metre high trees. The Government hands out free seedlings to farmers in an endeavour to reforestate Thailand rainforest timber for furniture production. I was sponsored to travel through friends, who run an international Christian Humanitarian Aid Service.

My qualifications for this task include:

  • A initial background in farming when I was a teenager at Wilsons Creek, Mullumbimby, Northern NSW: bananas and small crops
  • A science background from my B.Sc. UQ in the ‘70’s: botany, ecology and horticulture
  • Landscape Design – Architecture / Construction background (’75 – ’95)
  • Experience with nurseries and propagation of plants (’75 – ’95)
  • Knowledge of Sustainable Farming and Gardening (’93 – ’99)
  • TAFE teaching background (‘85, ’86)
  • Plenty of free time on my hands with an income for life from my accident insurance

Cultural Context:
.
PEOPLE: There are 65 million people in Thailand. Australia which only has 18 million, a big difference. Bangkok, the capital is a city of 11 million people and 50 kms. across – a bit bigger than Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane put together.

RELIGION: The general background is Buddhism as the cultural religion. 95% of the Thai citizenry are Thervada Buddhists (meaning the teaching of the elders).

AIDS and HIV VIRUS: Its influence. AIDS has become such a major problem that one in five babies born in Thailand are HIV positive. Ban Meata as a future project is setting up a babies home. They already have five babies in their care with one them as being tested already as HIV negative already. With increasing staff levels, there is the further need for self-sufficiency.

ECONOMY: apart from the cities, the economy is based on a mosaic of very intensively farmed small plots of land.

CLIMATE: It is a tropical climate of either two (or three) seasons: the dry and the wet from the yearly monsoons.

PEOPLE: It is regular practice for poor parents to sell their twelve-year-old daughters into prostitution to help pay towards their later years. Between 500 to one million prostitutes help to spread AIDS around the Kingdom unknowingly.
Primary objective of the trip:
To setup a long-term plan for the establishment of a working prototype food garden in fruits and vegetables based on Permaculture is ‘Permanent Agriculture’ …..>>>> This can be then applied on other similar sites around the world.
Secondary objectives of the trip:

  • To enable the Village to be continuously self sufficient in homegrown fruit, vegetables and herbs, meat, chickens, and eggs
  • If possible, to produce an excess which can be bartered for items not produced by the Village or else to be sold

CONTEXT FOR THE VILLAGE: Layout and Organisation:

LOCATION and IMPRESSIONS: 360 kilometres north of Bangkok near the town of Lom Sak (one hours drive away), and twenty six kilometres from Phetchabun, the province city….. roads throughout Thailand are excellent, even way up in the mountains in North Thailand …. electricity is available throughout the country … Ban Meata is set in gently rolling hills above flat rice – paddied country ….. a three kilometre dirt road services the neighbours and Ban Meata traffic …. Thai farming houses always have a series of large earth painted concrete bowl – like water tanks with a pipe from the galvanised guttering …. Bamboo screens protect verandahs from the hot sun.

LAND and BUILDINGS: a collection of six compact buildings in white painted concrete block, all financed by various Australian churches and individuals ….. buildings organised informally near each other with a central area on one side, for meals and worship. Future all weather playing area in between the buildings ….. just the concrete has been laid at the moment / future funding need for the structure.

Some of the features of the site are:

  • Dormitories with individual rooms for each child
  • Several acres of land with duck pond and chicken coop, plantings of chillies (Thais eat a lot of chilli in their food)
  • Teak tree plantings as Government gives out free teak tree seedlings to help in the reforestation of Thailand and provide valuable future furniture timber
  • Grass and nice landscape plantings along concrete path edges
  • Mixed fruit tree plantings: pawpaws, mangoes, bananas etc.
  • Two large deep dams on the site
  • Very good bore water for drinking and washing

DIRECTORS: Rob and Jean Dunk, David Storer

STAFF:

  • Pawinee Agnoi (Manager), Niphaa ( 2nd in Charge and House Parent for Bill McMartin House)
  • Ploy (farming background and looks after the gardens)
  • Khamphat (Kam – pat) (in charge of Darwin House)
  • Dee(Organising Secretary)
    Sopar (House Parent for Living Waters House ++ in charge the small children)
  • Aire (project manager and handyman)
  • Lom (Aire’s wife who takes care of the washing)
  • Bon (Bo-on) (Laundry Assistant etc.)
  • YIA (The cook)
  • Phorn ( in charge of Baby Home)
  • Noy (Assistant at Baby Home)

CHILDREN: It is more a children’s village rather than an orphanage as some of the children have parents … it may be very difficult to be at home …… maybe the father died and the new stepfather doesn’t want the new children. There are up to 100 children all in wonderful care …. They are housed, fed., given personal pocket money every week, fed the best rice in their food, given three varied meals at day if they are not at school

YOUTH HOSTEL: the Village rents premises in at Phetchabun for a Youth Hostel. Young people can go to High School in there.

BABIES HOME: They have three babies already with more babies being planned for. The goal is to provide a home for HIV positive babies. In Uganda where there a similar problem to Thailand, it has been demonstrated that when such babies are given love, good food and much prayer, they are finding a very high rate of recovery. When the babies become HIV negative, they do not revert to a positive situation.

HOLIDAY FARM: in early October, Rob, Pawinee and I were driven by Pawinee’s brother and sister in law about two hours drive north of Lomsak (about 150 Kms north, looking for some extra land for Ban Meata. We found some very cheap farming land high up the mountains. Rob was envisioning that if he could buy land like this, Ban Meata could set it up as a permanent farm where the Village children could come to stay instead of going home to very difficult situations eg. being married off to older men.

SUSTAINABLE GARDENING PROJECT: I was sponsored in early October 1999 to setup a long-term plan for the establishment of a working prototype foodgarden in fruits and vegetables based on Permaculture (Permanent Agriculture) principles with non technical people, which can be evaluated on over time by an e-mail system.

VILLAGE LIFE AT BAN MEATA …. some personal insights and impressions:

  • From Udom, the twenty-two year old student teacher: teachers only get paid 6,500 Bt.(Baht) / month (0.26 Bt /A$1.00) which is equal to $250.00 / month. This not a lot of money but things are so cheap over here to say the least.
  • The last Sunday I was there, Pawinee brought the three Aids babies from the Phetchabun babies home. Rob is still preparing with the staff for a babies home with many babies to come. They are beautiful and it was like a tangible sign in God of better things to come.
  • The whole Village runs on prayer in its sponsorship and the whole operation.
  • Just some wonderful children.
  • Yia the cook. is nineteen year girl / other staff members take turns in cooking.
  • I went on Friday to Lom Sak, a regional town to the area … it has everything for every one. The staff were going shopping for the weekly supplies in the School Truck. I loved going to see a totally different culture at work. We went to the vegetable market with farmers in loaded utes turn up for sales of the daily vegetables …… are they loaded to the limits!! Woman with metre high baskets on wheeled trolleys shopping for provisions ….… so different to home.
  • We then went to the covered markets up the street. There are small stalls of about everything you can think of …. mainly fresh food such as: fresh meat cut up in portions (with flies all around / no refrigeration), chook feet, pigs trotters, pigs intestine, bulk pieces of liver, fresh fish with heads cut off, vegetables and fruit, cooked crickets, squirming small eels in a big tub, live catfish again in a big tub, a tub of white 50 mm long caterpillars which are regarded as a delicacy when fried up, land crabs tied together, cooked fish on bamboo slats or skewers, chook intestines in plastic bags, fresh eggs, honey carob, flowers, honeycomb, sundried fish of many different kinds, vegetables of many different kinds. In a sunny open side alley there were shallow baskets of sundrying filleted fish. Then there were non food items like clothes, socks, tools, toys, thongs (the universal footwear), pots and pans, detergent, shampoo, soap etc. etc.
  • Thailand is a land of contrasts to Australia …… being a tropical country with only two, maybe three seasons (the monsoonal wet, the dry and maybe a season between) …. The place is so green and luxuriant.
  • Every one gets around on small motorcycles ….. Thais are thinner than Australians … it was common to see two on a motorcycle and often three persons: a child on the front, the driver then a pillion ….no helmets are required except in Bangkok … High School students especially have their own bikes …. in the country villages there is the ubiquitous ute parked under the handmade house …. I have many photos of farm houses ….. they are beautiful …. often with stalls out the front for vegetable sales if they are on a main road.
  • The children at Ban Meata are up and dressed by 5.30 am in the morning …. Breakfast is at 6.00 am … the Village bus for school leaves at 7.00 am … school commences at 8.00 am …finishes about 4.00 p.m. …. This includes small Primary School and High School kids.
  • Farmers are out in the dirt road outside the Village by 7.00 am …. going by in their tuk tuks …. shallow – trayed farm vehicles with a small motor in the front …. there are no traffic rules for riding in an open vehicle …. on the main road it was common to see ten to fifteen farm workers going home at the end of the day crowded like sardines into the back of a tuk tuk.
  • I really got to know the people of the Village. Sommai and Udom want to know when I am coming back. ….. maybe in a year when they have the gardening proposal up and running …. Rob is so excited about the integration of the ideas I have proposed …… will work so beautifully for them in making Ban Meata largely sufficient in food.

I understand from Darryl Morgan who organised for me to be sponsored, there are many more projects this …. The ideas are very transferable …. New career in God? … new doors opening?
THAILAND CONTEXT: The reason for the Ban Meata story:

By understanding this you will understand the special place Ban Meata has in this culture.

RELIGION: The general background is Buddhism as the cultural religion meaning that 95% of the Thai citizenry are Theravada Buddhists (meaning the teaching of the elders). This form of Buddhism tried to preserve or limit the Buddhist doctrines only to those canons codified in the early Buddhist era. There is a later school which is built on the earlier teachings, ‘expounding’ the doctrine in such a way as to respond more to the needs of the lay people, so it is claimed.

The Theravada doctrine stresses the three principal aspects of existence: dukka (suffering, unsatisfactoriness, disease), annica (impermanence, transience of all things), and anatta (non – substantiality or non – essentiality of reality – no permanent soul. When taught by Buddha in the 6th century BC, was in direct contrast to the Hindu belief in an eternal, blissful self, hence Buddhism was a Hindu heresy against India’s Brahmanic religion.

Even though Buddhism is the cultural religion, I understand from Rob, the director of Ban Meata, that the influence of Buddhism is waning in the population. This is verified by the following facts:

  • The leadership of Buddhism in the temples has been men but now it is by woman
  • Charms which were sold over time and resold, would accumulate in value with age. Values for these charms has fallen greatly in the last year to 60% of their value
  • At one very popular temple, there would be thousands of people to blessed by the Abbot. He would go from 6 am in the morning to 6 p.m. at night. The people to be blessed, could come from around the world. They would bring his lunch in between his work of touching all the heads of the people as they came by. In recent years, his work has only taken about three hours in the morning
  • The effects Buddhism are in the poverty of the people. The offerings to the temple or wat, the cost of funerals in the temple crematorium would not be cheap and would work to keep the people poor. One of the Buddhist doctrines is to accept your poorness as part of life
  • Buddhism doesn’t have a doctrine of God but only of spirits. Often outside a Thai house or hotel, there is a spirit – house to attract the spirits out of the main building into the spirit – house. This is done by offerings, candles and incense. In Thailand there is a great cultural sense of service but it doesn’t come from a love for people. You only do things for other people because that will help earn you credit points in the next life when you reincarnated into something else. Khamphat, whose story I mention later on, explained the difference as a series of opposites:

BUDDHISM >>>> What you do for yourself >>> Credit added to >> rebirth uncertain

CHRISTIANITY >>>>What God has done for you >>> credit accepted from Jesus Christ >>> accepted by you but no working to accept it

This lack of compassion for people comes out in direct contrast to Ban Meata being a House of Mercy for all nations. This lack of compassion comes out in the practice of parents selling their daughters into prostitution to help their later years. It is further in direct contrast to the Gospel of Jesus Christ which emphasises a love for people. Does this portray new openings for the Gospel in this nation? I believe it is so.

This lack of compassion for people often comes out also in the lack real love between husband and wife. The husband often has a minor wife on the side. To celebrate the situation when a boy reaches fourteen years old, apparently it is common for the father to take him down to the local brothel. A farmer many travel down to the City from a village. On the way home he may visit the local brothel. In so doing, he carries Aids back to his wife and the village. The mother may be nursing a baby and so the baby gets Aids from the mother’s milk. It is predicted that some Hilltribes in Northern Thailand may die out from Aids.

AIDS and HIV VIRUS: Its influence. Has become such a major problem that one in five babies born in Thailand are HIV positive… a result of the widespread promiscuity and drug taking spread by the 500,000 – one million prostitutes who work in the sex industry in the Kingdom.

Christian centres for HIV+ babies in other third world countries are finding that with clean, hygienic surroundings, excellent nutrition, lots and lots of love and prayer, 86% of these babies are declared free of the virus between 18 to 24 months of age.

PEOPLE: There are 65 million people in Thailand compared to Australia which only has 18 million. A big difference! Bangkok as the capital is a city of 11 million people alone and has a diameter of 50 kms. …. A bit bigger than Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane put together.

ECONOMY: apart from the cities, the economy is based on a mosaic of very intensively farmed small plots of land.

CLIMATE: It is a tropical climate of either two or three seasons: the dry of wet from the yearly monsoons.

____________________________________________________________________________
SOME PERSONAL STORIES:

There many remarkable stories of God’s specific protection, presence and providence in the leading of staff and children here. There are amazing divine appointments where God has brought events with people within minutes of timing. They could never have brought about such events by themselves. There has been a deliverance from evil spirits with one future staff member, spiritual leading from Buddhism to physical protection from grave dangers in other experiences with the children.

Even though my Thai understanding is nil and Rob Dunks is minimal, these people have and experience and knowledge in the things and ways of God that is by revelation from the Holy Spirit alone.

One afternoon, I was out on one back lawn near a shaded table and seats as one of the young Thai teenage boys had a guitar out and was seated on the ground with a group of other children. He was playing worship songs and all the others were singing with him. The depth of worship was unbelievable. I was so affected by the spirit of it and their love for God, I had to go inside as my eyes were filled with tears. I was just really touched by it. Who taught them this? Rob Dunk certainly didn’t. It was by the Holy Spirit alone.

It turned out be Sommai, a fifteen year old High School student who was also doing an English subject and who I also met later in the week.
______________________________________________________________________________
KHAMPHAT’S STORY:

I came in early one morning to the early morning children’s worship before the main service at 10.00 am on the first Sunday morning I was there. Khamphat, one of the staff, was intensively involved in the worship to God in the music being played. Later she took a very vigorous and animated preaching from the Word in the main service after 10.00 am. Udom, one of the Village’s young men who knows quite a bit of English, sat beside me voluntarily, quietly interpreting for me the meaning of what she was preaching on. I hadn’t heard anyone preach in such dynamic way for awhile. She sure knew her Scriptures and had a real grasp of the spirit-filled life. Udom referred me to the passages she was drawing on.

I was sharing my insights with Rob, a few nights later as he had been in Bangkok over this weekend. He began to tell me a very inspiring story of God’s saving grace in this Thai woman’s life some years earlier. Khamphat’s father had died before she was born the and mother had died about one month after she was born. Khamphat finished being brought up by her grandmother who often went to the Buddhist Temple down the road from the Children’s Village. As her grandmother took her more and more to the temple, Khamphat became more involved in the life of the temple as she grew up.

In the course of events, she became possessed by an evil spirit. She began teaching the Buddhist Scriptures very fluently. People would come the several hundred kilometres from Bangkok to hear her and also to see her levitate about a metre off the floor …. going around the room (under the power of the spirit). Under the spirits influence, she was a very difficult person to get along with ….. being be rude, ill mannered and very abrasive to others.

Khamphat was a cousin to Pawinee and Glom who were involved in Ban Meata in the early days. They had begun to talk to her about Jesus. Glom was always an evangelist at heart in her spiritual giftings and for seven months after dinner, would take photos of her, Khamphat, Pawinee and would pray for Khamphat for half an hour at a time in tongues (for those not familiar with form of praying, it is a powerful prayer language in the Holy Spirit). After this period, Khamphat expressed a desire to come out to Ban Meata one night and see her cousins at the Village. In talking with her, Glom began to speak about Jesus. The evil spirit in her began to manifest in a disturbing way with Khamphat twitching and writhing like a snake on the floor instead of sitting up. What would you do if you were there?

Glom said she would go and get Bom, the head manager of the Village at that time. Phorn, another girl who was with them, was only a two-month-old Christian then, didn’t have knowledge on issues like this and was a bit dismayed. Phorn asked Glom not to leave and what should she do about it. In the way Phorn heard it, it sounded like hit her with the Word. What Glom really meant was to quote the Word of God over the manifesting Khamphat as the Word of God is more sharper and powerful than a two-edged sword.

Glom came back with Bom and found Phorn physically hitting Khamphat with a real Bible … not quite the intention of Glom’s words. As they began and take control of the evil spirit, not one spirit came out but nine spirits came out. Khamphat became a new person in Jesus Christ that night. Eventually she became a staff member at the Village and preaches not Buddhist Scriptures not from Lord Buddha but the saving word of the Lord Jesus Christ who is over all other names.

Soon after this time she had an opportunity to attend a Christian Bible College at Khon Kaen, a city nearby. In between being a staff member at Ban Meata, she has had another opportunity to attend the Bible College.

I understand her knowledge of her God comes not from her Thai Bible alone and from the Holy Spirit. She doesn’t read any other Christian books. I was really moved and inspired when I heard Khamphat’s story. The story challenges us from western countries to re-examine our personal lives for any legalistic or religious influence which comes from a materialistic or rational outlook on spiritual things.
NIPHAA’S STORY: The 2nd in charge of Ban Meata

Niphaa is a quiet Thai girl in her early thirties who came from a Buddhist background only five years ago. She has a gentle spirit that is full of deep spiritual beauty and great depth in understanding God’s ways. As she speaks part English, I was having a quiet talk with her one afternoon about her plans for the future and she came to be here. She sees her whole calling in God and ministry as being here serving God and the children at Ban Meata.

When I gently asked about having a husband and home, she began to express her anxiety that in Thai culture, where could she find a good Christian husband? HIV is so rampant from drug using and promiscuity, there would be a good chance of being infected. Her quiet calm in God and the peace about it all, really moved me again.
____________________________________________________________________________
NIT’S STORY:

At Ban Meata are a number of children who come from the same family: Nit, Noy, and Jaffu. How they came be here is a story of God’s providence, his care for single children of the millions of people on this earth. They were brought through the intervention of Pastor Praphan Nawrat from Chiang Mai, about four hundred kms away, west of Ban Meata. Chiang Mai is a city which is the capital of another province which is like a different state. The family was from a poor village in amongst the Hilltribes sixty kilometres north beyond Chiang Mai. At the initial time of the story a number of years ago, Nit was the elder sister to Noy who was twelve at the time. They both had an older sister who was a prostitute at Chang Mai. Their mother was into drugs and prostitution also. The children were not being looked after and Pastor Praphan had arranged for the children to come to live at Ban Meata.

After two years, Pawinee (the new manger), had to take the children back to Chiang Mai to comply with Government regulations that all children such as these, had to return to their respective provinces after a two year period. Pawinee was to meet the mother with the Government Officer outside the Government Office. She was about to leave when the mother said to the Officer to call the police as she maintained that Pawinee had kidnapped the children. This was further substantiated by the village chief who had turned up as she was maintaining this story. It was probably all arranged before hand and for him turn up and verify the story. He would have got a percentage of monies if the girls were working in brothels as well their eldest sister. The police came in at that point to take Pawinee away . … a real dilemma as she only had a portion of the paperwork

It was at that point the Government Officer (Welfare Officer?) for Lomsak area (about an hours drive from Ban Meata) walked in. He was just passing by, so far home, near Ban Meata (four hundred kms from home). ‘What you doing here Pawinee?’ he asked He explained the situation to the policeman that she managed a very good orphanage near Lomsak and he had known her quite a while.

It was that point that another Government Officer walked in who knew Pawinee also. He was also passing by. ‘What you doing here Pawinee? he asked. He also confirmed the story of the other Government Officer. With all this conflict in the story that the policeman said to everyone there was something going on more than the story so far told.

With this the mother changed her story and said she wasn’t very well and needed Nit at home to look after her. Nit being the elder sister to Noy, wasn’t as physically and intellectually developed as Noy her younger twelve year old sister. This was due to prior lack of care and nutrition.

Noy was a Christian who knew what was going on. She volunteered to go in place of Nit and so went home with her mother. As soon she got home, she was taken to work in the brothel with her eldest sister. That first night, she managed to hide under her sister’s bed while the sister served twenty men.

In the morning, Noy went out to talk the brothel manager and told him she wanted to go home. That wasn’t possible as she had to work here. She explained to the manager that she was only twelve years and he could get trouble with the Government with her age. Give her a year and she would think about it. The manager finally let her go. With that, Noy went out and phoned the pastor who had originally got the children into Ban Meata. The pastor soon after, enabled Noy to get back to Ban Meata. At least she was safe.

This now meant Nit had to go to be with her mother. Even though she maybe intellectually, not very advanced, Nit had something there which wouldn’t accept the situation. When she went to her mother, she was immediately placed in the brothel. The first thing she does there at night , is climb out the window and steal a bike. She begins to pedal in the dark the sixty kilometres back to Chang Mai. Along the way she is knocked off her bike by a passing car. She lies unconscious there all till 6 am in the morning. She just starting to come too when Pastor Praphan is out there on way to somewhere else. He sees a dazed figure getting up on the side of the road. He stops and sees it is Nit. ‘What are doing here Nit ?’he asks. Nit is soon back at Ban Meata also. God cares about even an intellectually underdeveloped girl so many kilometres from home who has not much going for herself to be in a divine appointment with a pastor who can help her. He causes a pastor to be out travelling at that precise time of the morning in that area of countryside.
The End


Want to Leave a Reply?

You must be logged in to post a comment.