We are planting a Burmese church in a factory in Khon Kaen. The factory has over 2000 Burmese migrant workers who work long days for little money. We knew some of them were not completely legal, but the factory was still very happy to employ them. The Burmese workers work a twelve hour day and the Thai workers only eight hours. On top of that the Burmese earn less for the twelve hours then the Thai do for their eight hours of work.
Around two weeks ago the police came to check the check the paperwork of the workers. Somehow the factory owner knew this was going to happen and the day and night before the police came they transported over 900 illegal workers to a forest, some 50 kilometers away from the factory.
When the police came another 200 illegal workers fled and the police couldn’t catch a single one in the factory. This is good news for the factory, because if they are caught employing illegal workers there’s a huge fine for each illegal person.
But the police got to know about the 900 illegal workers in the forest and went to the place. All 900, including over 200 children and youth below eighteen years of age got arrested and were locked up in prison. Among this group were three of our church members, one of them being a key-person and potential leader. Just a couple of days ago all workers were transported back to Burma after being in prison for around two weeks.
This whole situation has had an impact on the Burmese church in the factory as well. We haven’t been able to worship in the factory for around six months now, but we moved to a Thai church close by. Because of the lack of paperwork from many church members the Thai church doesn’t want us to use their building anymore. So last week we started to look for a new location.
We found a ‘salaa’ opposite the entrance of the factory. This is a wayside shelter where people wait to be picked up by a bus, car etc. We decided to have a worship service in this ‘salaa’ and so we did. We worshipped the Lord with around ten Burmese brothers and sisters. We had to sing loud, because the bus stop is along the highway. We prayed it wouldn’t start to rain, because the roof isn’t very good. But through this all we had a great time together singing, sharing, preaching, listening, and having communion.
No, we didn’t worship in a nice building with all the convenience we think we need in the West. But yes…we had good fellowship, we remembered the Lord’s death, we were built up, Jesus was in our midst and there was love and unity among us. That’s what is important! I pray that the church thoughout the world will understand that gathering as a church is not about the building, but about the body of Christ coming together to worship Him. And He will bless us…even if we come together in a bus stop along the highway!’