A passion to serve those affected by, and at risk of, human trafficking on the Thai-Burma border motivated AC graduate Ruth Lesmana to move to Thailand three years ago. While studying for her Bachelor of Contemporary Ministry, Ruth developed an interest in anti-trafficking movements through AC’s student-led missions initiative, Sounds of Silence, and from going on a number of short-term mission trips to Thailand. Ruth felt called to the Thai-Burma border to serve displaced people affected by the long running civil war. Through her ministry with Global Alms Incorporated, Ruth helps to transform the victims, and communities at risk of human trafficking into self-sufficient, independent individuals through building partnerships with organisations in the area, as well as teaching English and vocational skills; and assisting with sustainability projects with natural farming, and raising goats and chickens. Ruth tells us in her own words her hopes, advice and how living on the Thai-Burma border has changed her perspective.
What is your hope for the people that you minister to?
My hope is that they would come to understand their inherent value and worth and to be equipped and empowered to achieve their own dreams and goals. Most of the young women and children who we work with are stuck in situations where they are forced to meet certain expectations of providing for their families, or exploited for other peoples’ gains, or can’t go outside of their own home due to having no identification papers. Our aim is to see them rise above this and become confident leaders within their community.
What is your advice to students considering overseas mission?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned has been the fact that every person has a story, and is more than capable of helping themselves. Sometimes it’s tempting to step into a situation and assume that we have all of the answers or solutions. But spending time to learn their background, culture, and language is often half the battle. Ask God to show which community He is breaking your heart for. The need will always be great, but it’s His leading and our commitment which will make us stay to build genuine relationships with people. This allows us to shift our focus from saying, “This is what we can do for you”, to constantly asking, “How could we support you?”
How has living on the Thai-Burma border changed your perspective on life?
It’s challenged me to think about the things I take for granted, such as having citizenship (and a passport!), access to quality education, and health care. It has also opened up my eyes to the daily struggles and difficulties which refugees and migrants have to go through, including those who have re-settled in another country. It constantly reminds me of the strength and determination which people possess, and how genuine communities can be.