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Archive for the tag “Southeast Asia”

More than income for her family

Evelyn Adamson writes for

dressesUncertainty rocked Vanna Keo* after her husband accepted Christ. She had never met any Christians before, and now her husband was one. In supporting her husband, she agreed to meet Don and Dayla Patrick,* IMB workers in Southeast Asia for more than 15 years. The Patricks were the ones who shared the Gospel with her husband and led him to Christ. She also wanted to see for herself what real Christians were like.

Laughing at her perspective at the time, Keo says, “I met them [the Patricks] and saw who they were. They did not do any weird or crazy things to us. After that, I didn’t have any bad feelings towards them.”

A couple of years following her husband’s conversion, Keo accepted Christ and coincidentally, their family came upon hard financial times when their Muslim community turned against them. Unable to cover the family’s expenses, Keo’s husband, Rith,* looked for work aiding several Christian organizations with various projects. But the jobs did not produce much income for the family.

Dayla Patrick and Keo continued building a friendship, and Patrick noted the difficult times the family was going through.

Patrick’s dark curls bob as she says, “Knowing them, and visiting their house, we began to see their salaries could not keep up with the expenses.” 

Keo looked for ways she could help bring in money, saying, “I considered what I could do since I’m a mother, and I decided on sewing.”

Her ability to sew sparked an idea in Patrick’s mind.

“After Keo sewed for me,” she says, “I thought, ‘Maybe this is something to that can help them.’”

Six years later, Keo and Patrick sit on a white tiled floor, poring over new designs for the dresses that sustain Keo’s family.

Generating an income

Bold pink and brown designs splay across the ground as Keo holds several strips of brown cloth in her hands. Lines furrow across her forehead as she glances between fabrics before finally calling Patrick over to help decide which material best complements the pink. Tucking her knees under, Patrick narrows the selection to two designs, leaving the final choice up to Keo.

After selecting a chocolate brown material, Keo clicks on the sewing machine and sets to work cutting, fitting, sewing and tweaking a dress for one of Patrick’s daughters to try on for size. Her fingers guide the material through the machine, correcting any misdirection before a mistake results. 

These dresses are primarily sold in churches across the U.S., allowing women in America to help Keo and her friends support their families.

While Keo sews, Patrick watches and talks about helping start the sewing project.

Folding several bolts of fabric, she says, “I don’t really know how to sew, but Keo is a seamstress. It was the best way to help her make money for their family. So I learned.” 

Stacking an assortment of fabrics, Patrick says that while Keo’s husband studied the Bible and set to work on an important ministry project, it was the dresses Keo sold that supported the family until Rith found a steady stream of income.   

Holding up a finished dress, Keo joins Patrick on the floor while they examine the finished product.

Keo says the dresses have done more than provide an income for her family. The project has deepened her faith. 

“I have experienced the Lord’s intervention in my life.” Looking at the newly sewn dress, she continues, “To see answered prayers has helped my faith grow and helped me through difficult struggles.”

Keo gathers more fabric for a second dress and Patrick helps her pick out a bold blue pattern. She sets the fabric on the table and turns to tell how the dresses allow her to share the Gospel as well.

Her eyes light up as she says, “When they come, I can share about Jesus, That is what is important about this project — the opportunity to share my faith I wouldn’t normally have in the community.” 

Lessons learned

Keo finishes the second dress. Then while the children play in the early evening, she and Patrick sit on the cool tile and talk about what they have learned from the sewing project. For Keo, it was more than a hobby; her family experienced relief to tangible needs. 

She pauses before looking up and saying, “We had money for once; I had a job. At one point my brother was helping us, and now he is at university. It paid for his university. The project was a way for my family to help themselves during a time of real need.”

Holding Keo’s hand, Patrick says, “One of the things I really like about the project is it connects women in Southeast Asia, who are trying to feed their families, with women in the States, who want to help in a tangible way.” 

Susan McPherson,* who lives in Texas and is long-time customer of Patrick’s and Keo’s project, echoes Patrick’s thoughts on buying the dresses. “The quality is wonderful and I loved that I was able to help other mothers across the world by buying a dress from them.”

McPherson has bought dresses when Patrick sells them in churches during her visits to the U.S. Patrick sends the profits directly to Keo.

*Name changed

Kingdom Justice … briefly

Community development changing lives in SE Asia

Recently BGR partners provided community development training to over 150 families in one Southeast Asian village. They helped start family food gardens by passing out chili pepper plants and tomato plants, as well as vegetable seeds. They coordinated two health clinics in which families were educated about dental hygiene, worm treatment, healthy diet, etc. Two weekly “Mommy and Me” classes were started with 18 children. The children are learning to recognize their letters, numbers, colors, etc. These community development principles have opened many doors for deepening relationships. Ask God to work through those relationships to help people find the new lives he offers them. (source)

cd seasia

‘Feminized poverty’ afflicts millions worldwide

Laura Fielding writes for

jewelsHow do you teach women who have no concept of what a germ is, about good health care practices?

“If you don’t have an education where you understand that, for instance, bacteria and viruses and parasites that you cannot see are causing you to be ill … then it’s a big leap of faith for them to believe that,” said Vicki Grossmann, a primary care medical practitioner in Guatemala.

This is but one challenge Southern Baptist health care workers face as they minister to women overseas.

Another hurdle? Poverty … extreme poverty.

Margaret Bricker,* a health care provider in Southeast Asia, works in a medical clinic and hosts mobile clinics in her community. Though Bricker has worked in this third-world country for nearly 16 years, she is still struck by the physical toll poverty takes.

She recently met a 37-year-old woman from the slums who looked as if she were 50. A life full of struggle — including keeping her children off the streets and finding enough money each day to survive — had caused debilitating worry. She slept only three hours a night.

“… Even if there is someone with a competent medical provider in the area, if [these poor women] don’t really have the resources, they really can’t access them,” Bricker said.

Across the globe, millions of women are suffering because they lack access to or knowledge of good health care. The major culprits: poverty, lack of education and inequality in society.

“Globally, in any society, women have more health issues and needs than men,” said Sheryl Stack,* a health care worker in North Africa and the Middle East. “In societies where health care is both physically and economically challenging to access, women are particularly impacted and in need of advocacy.”

Conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth and gynecology are typical, but other issues including cardiovascular disease, cancer, physical and sexual abuse, HIV/AIDS, mental illness, lack of proper nutrition and respiratory disease also are prevalent. Even easily treatable conditions like diarrhea, anemia, high blood pressure and diabetes become serious health concerns for these women.

“Going door to door is a great thing, handing out Bibles is a great thing … but it’s much more effective to build a relationship and to meet people’s perceived needs,” said Grossman. “You might say, ‘Well, God is interested in them going to heaven’ — yes, He is interested in them knowing Him as Savior. Yes, I agree, but they don’t know that; they don’t see that. They don’t feel that as a need — but they feel a need that they’re hungry or that they’re sick.”

By meeting their human needs, she continued, people are more open to hearing about how God can meet their spiritual needs.


Jenny Byrd* serves in a developing country where people often have “no food, no shelter and no hope.”

“When you live like this, taking care of your health becomes a special privilege,” said Byrd, a family nurse practitioner in North Africa and the Middle East. “Life is focused on just surviving day to day — and hoping there is food to eat and water to drink.”

According to the United Nations’ “End Poverty 2015” campaign: “Women disproportionately suffer from hunger, disease, environmental degradation and impoverishment. As a result, poverty remains stubbornly ‘feminized,’ with women accounting for a vast percentage of the world’s absolute poor.”


In many societies, families can afford for only one or two children to attend school; sons are sent first. But educating women, say Southern Baptist workers, is vital.

“Just a simple intervention like letting girls go to school and learn to read has huge implications for their future families, health and kids,” said Dr. Levi Gladstone,* a physician in Central Asia.

Bricker, too, sees the ill effects of poor education in her Southeast Asian community. Many times, people “absolutely have no real idea about how the body functions and why nutrition is important.”

A common belief among women in her area is that water makes them fat, so they drink little more than a thimbleful a day. They suffer from headaches and fatigue, not realizing they are simply dehydrated. “[Women’s health] shapes the health of the whole family — and for the next generation — because what they know and understand is what they pass off to their children,” Bricker said.


Unfortunately, women in many cultures simply lack the right to make their own health decisions.

“If men keep most of the finances [and] are the decision makers, then many of the women are not independent to make the decision or have the access to the finances,” said Stack of the trend she sees in North Africa and the Middle East.

Grossmann also observes gender inequality in Guatemala. She recently encountered a woman  suffering from a gynecological issue. Because she did not work and make her own money, her husband was unwilling to give her funds for medical help.

“That’s the concept of marriage — you marry a woman to have children and cook for you,” Grossmann said. “… [Men] often don’t see that cooking, caring for the house, buying food, taking care of children is valuable. You don’t get paid for domestic work, so it’s not as valuable as the man’s outside job that pays.”

Gender inequality can even translate into food distribution —in many third-world countries men get the first portion or the meat and women get whatever is left.

“Women are thought of as second [class], sometimes as a possession, and not given the same opportunities as men,” said Josie Gabdon,* a nurse in South Asia.


Southern Baptists have a long history of meeting both physical and spiritual needs around the globe. The first overseas medical missionary was appointed in 1846, just one year after the Southern Baptist Convention was formed. The first female doctor was appointed in 1881, and the first female nurse was appointed in 1901, both of whom served in China.

In the years following, IMB established overseas hospitals in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas. Since the 1980s these institutions have been handed over to local Baptist conventions, other organizations or governments to run — but Southern Baptists still have missionary personnel present in a few.

IMB’s medical missions focus has shifted to outpatient clinics, basic health care and education, community health training and disaster response. Today, approximately 300 health care-qualified personnel serve overseas.

“By working in what is my passion — medicine — the Gospel and telling all my patients about Him naturally flows and each of them hear Truth when they come [to my clinic],” Byrd said.

In 2009, Byrd gave hospice care to a woman dying of breast cancer. For four months she eased the woman’s physical pain, but Byrd also shared the hope for eternal life. Two months before her death, May* accepted Christ.

“I did not know what to do for May — I had no cures or answers … all I had was our heavenly Father, and ultimately that was all she needed,” Byrd said. (Read May’s full story here).

For these Southern Baptist workers, health and the Gospel go hand in hand — and the Great Physician is the best doctor.

“We really see this as the most important thing to do — which is share the Gospel with people,” said Bricker of the ones she serves. “And we don’t want to just heal their physical bodies now, and then have them die and go into an eternity without God.”

*Names changed

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