Pat is a self-taught farmer who loves Jesus. He took up farming as a way to serve the poor and destitute in his community in Northern Thailand. Three years ago, as he began to visit young men in the juvenile detention center near his home in Chiang Mai, he realized that, upon their release, they had no support and were almost certain to return to a life of crime and abuse.
So Pat began inviting these young men into his own house to live with his family. He fed them, gave them work and taught them to follow Jesus. Soon, there were fourteen young men living and working on the farm, which was totally self-sustaining and received no outside funding.
Recently, I spent a day on the farm with Pat and I met the young men who live with him. Out in the fields, I got to know a fourteen-year-old named Chok Dii. Together we worked at planting some kind of tree that will one day be part of an edible fence that surrounds the farm property. Chok Dii has a painful story that is all too familiar in Thailand. He came to the farm not from the juvenile detention center like the others, but from a government orphanage where he was abused. Even at his young age, his life has been characterized by so much fear and mistreatment. I was surprised and encouraged that he was so willing to trust me, to talk and even laugh about my haphazard farming skills.
Pat told me that he was shocked that a Buddhist government would be so willing to partner with him and his farming project. But it seems that the government system is overloaded and unable to care for so many orphaned children. But according to Pat, the main reason why the farm is succeeding and drawing attention even from the government is that young lives are being transformed.
“When I first started visiting the detention center,” Pat said, “the officials would not allow me to speak about my faith in Jesus. But now the doors are open to me.” Very quickly, Pat has gained the trust of the leadership at the detention center and at other government institutions. Now they come to him for help in finding jobs, housing and skills training for these young men.
“They see how the prisoners are working on the farm and making a contribution to society,” said Pat. “They see changed lives.”
Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).