(This post was written by Chris Woodruff, our executive director) This summer, while I was visiting Bangkok, I found myself in a dimly lit prison, looking through the holes of a chain link fence.
I was there because my presence allowed for me to request that Vee come out of his cage for an hour, meet in a common area, and receive, food, water, and toiletries from me.
I watched as Vee walked out into the common area, head hung low. There, he met his wife, Mae, who my wife had been able to call out. They stood up against the fence together, politely trying to make conversation with me, though they could hardly speak English.
I stepped back, and signalled to them that this was their time. Their time to see each other, talk to each other, touch each other. As their hands met, she rested her head against his chest, and he whispered something in her ear.
Soon, their time would be up. Prison guards would escort them back to their separate cells, where they would be crammed in so tight with other prisoners that they would have to take turns sleeping. Cells with two holes for toilets, and where violence from prison guards reined. They could only pray they would have visitors again soon, so they could have food and water after what we brought ran out.
Vee and Mae are Hmong refugees from Northern Vietnam who were persecuted for being Christians. Facing death, they fled to Thailand. But Thailand does not recognize the concept of a refugee. So as soon as their visas were expired, Thai police hunted them down and threw them in this prison.
Their only hope to get out is to get official refugee status with the UN, but the UN has rejected them.
But there is hope. Our volunteers are able to visit them on a regular basis, bringing them food, water and toiletries; items that make the prison a little less terrible. Additionally, with the help of a good lawyer, there is hope for them to receive refugee status, and start a new life in a new country.
And that’s where I come in. After I graduate in May, I plan to return to Bangkok, and lead our work full time. I have lots of big dreams: Innovative ideas for education, training, and helping new families. But being able to represent this beautiful couple, help them receive refugee status, and find a new, safe country where they can truly be together, might be the most exciting of them all.
It is in the darkest places that light shines brightest. The more terrible the tomb, the more wonderful the resurrection.