The Surin Foundation
Sharing God's Word and Love to the People of Thailand
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The History of the Surin Foundation

The Director's Cut

I first bacame involved in missions in Thailand in 2001 under the Methodist Mission Society (MMS) of Singapore. Although I was only there for two months, those months were foundational in my development as a missionary. I was posted to the Rangsit Methodist Church where I assisted in the Boy's Brigade program, Sunday School, and ran Evangelistic English Classes. However, it was my posting at the Surisuksa Primary School teaching English to the students where my burden for long-term missions in Thailand began to take shape. It was here that I came across a 10 year old deaf girl, by the name of Yeen, who desired nothing more than to be simply accepted by her classmates. She was one of millions of disadvantaged children living in a society which has become so used to their presence, that one could pass 100 such children in the course of an average day and not even notice or remember a single one. You see them in the orphanages, abandoned by parents who are too poor to raise them, or who have died from of AIDS. You see them on the bridges crouching under the hot sun begging for money and for someone to notice them. You find them in the bars, strip joints, and brothels in Bangkok and Pattaya feeding the lust of foreigners. Every now and then a person is awoken to their plight and feels the burden to do something about it. Fortunately Yeen's teacher was one of these people who gave me the idea of raising some money to fit Yeen with a hearing aid. It was during these pioneering months that I also came to meet Satit and his wife, who later joined me in the Surin Foundation. At that time they were both employed by the Rangsit Methodist church, and because of Satit's fluency in English he was put in charge of overseeing my placement with the church.

After those incredible two months, I had a great burden to equip myself with theological education and so I returned to Australia to commence my studies at the Bible College of Victoria. However upon returning I felt that a huge part of my life had been left in Thailand; a part that wanted to do something about the millions of people in that country that did not personally know the love of God and His Word. In fact my burden was so great that within four months of returning to Australia, I had convinced my home church (Sth Camberwell Uniting Church), to allow me to lead a short term missions team to Thailand. The team of eight shared some of our most moving moments of our lives ministering to the Sirisuksa School and the members of the Rangsit Methodist Church. One team member told me 'before coming on this trip, everything you told me about your burden for Thai children was detached and abstract for me, but now I also share your burden and it is so real to me.'

As my relationship with Satit began to deepen he shared with me his passion to reach out to his wife's home town in Surin. Our first trip to Surin together was in January 2003 with a mission team from the Sth Camberwell Uniting Church. I have often shared with others (in a humourous way) how that first trip was almost my last. After completing an exhausting 3 days of school teaching, concluding with an evangelistic rally, I had retired to the toilet to 'finish' the day. As I squatted over the 'hole' in the ground in the total darkness of the enclosed shed, using one hand to swipe the mosquitoes from landing on my backside, and the other to hold a torch so I could keep an eye on the invading cockroaches, and furthermore biting a role of toilet paper between my teeth to keep it from dropping onto the muddy floor I told myself that I would never return here again. Before I even finished my 'business', the Lord had already won me over, and I realized that if we did not come back these people may never hear of God's Word and God's love.

I returned to Surin with Satit's family in July 2003 and again April 2004. At that time we began to see a need for greater funding and resources if we were to really make a difference. And so during the trip of April 2004, we came up with the concept of the Surin Foundation. It would be a not-for-profit, interdenominational Christian organization to raise funds and manage resources with the objective of Sharing God's Word and love to the people of Thailand. It took us another 18 months, two more mission trips (December 2004, May 2005), and numerous meetings between the board members (James Choi, Peter Poon, Aileen Ibuki and myself) to finalize the constitution, values, vision and objectives and legally register the foundation. And thus the Surin Foundation was launched in October 2005 with the motto: 'Sharing God's Word and love to Thailand through empowering people and creating opportunity'. I was appointed the Director of the Australian branch, and Satit was granted the role of field director in Thailand. We supported our first short-term missionaries (Michelle Wong and Anni Li) to Surin in November 2005. Apart from their work in Surin, they were also involved in the first survey team to Phrao, where a new ministry base would later be formed. Following this in 2006 we began a sponsorship program to support disadvantaged children in Thailand. The program worked by assigning children from poor families to the support of regular sponsors based in Australia, who assisted with their education needs and covered for after-school development programs run by the Foundation.

In April 2006, the Surin Foundation shifted its focus of operations to the northern town of Phrao. In partnership with the First Church in Phrao, the Foundation sponsored the building of a boarding house to provide safe accommodation for hill tribe students who come down from the surrounding mountains to study in the local schools. Without such facilities, parents often put their children in cheap housing arrangements where they are exposed to drugs, crime, and live in unhygienic conditions. Moreover, the isolation of the children from Christian communities back home, lead many to abandon their faith. In the first two years, the boarding house hosted 33 children ranging from 5 - 14 years old. Half of these children were under sponsorship arrangements by supporters in Australia. From April - October 2008, my wife and I were assigned to the boarding house project for six months where we ministered to the children daily through English lessons, guitar classes, shared meals with them, played with them, and learnt to know each of them by name. It was a remarkable time which we and the boarding children will treasure for the rest of our lives.
 
In October 2008, Satit ended his partnership with the Surin Foundation and stepped down from his role as Field Director. The Surin Foundation thus completed its commitment to the Phrao boarding house project which was assumed under the care of the First Church. In spite of this, the Foundation was able to move forward and begin its long awaited Early Learning Centre (ELC) in the same town of Phrao in November 2008. The program ministers to the community of Phrao through English learning programs for nursery children. An afterschool English tuition program was also commenced for primary level children, including classes for the parents. Forty people were enrolled in various programs in the first six months of operations. Building on the success of the ELC, the Surin Foundation raised funds to build a Christian kindergarten which opened in 2012. A church service using the same venue as the kindergarten was started in 2014 to cater for interested staff and parents.

Let me finish off with the story of Yeen. The last time I saw her was in hospital a few year ago. She was dying of leukaemia. All her hair had fallen out. I wondered if anything worst could happen to this girl. I read her a story about the Jesus. I gave her a doll that my wife had asked me to pass to her. As I departed she began to cry softly. They say that a good parent can read the cry of their child and know exactly what they are saying. That day as I was leaving Yeen for the last time, I knew what she was saying to me; I might not ever see you again, but thank you for all that you have done.

We may not be able to help every 'Yeen' in Thailand but at least we can bring the joy of God to the faces of a few. And those few, will hopefully inspire others to do the same as well. 

-Daniel Loo (first written June, 2007; Revised edition May 2009, second revised edition in April 2016)

Afternote: I've since heard that Yeen had been miraculously been healed from her leukaemia through the prayers of the members at the Rangsit Methodist Church.
  1. Managing Director
  2. Managing Director
  3. Managing Director
  4. Managing Director
  5. Managing Director
  6. Managing Director
Sharing God's Word and Love to the people of Thailand