Team Radical Grace – the Thai arm of SIM's global ministry to people living with the effects of HIV – recently opened the doors to Shalom House (Baan Shaa Lom Jai in Thai), a new ministry space for their outreaches and programs. Radical Grace has had a vision for a place like Shalom House for a long time, and funding through SIM International has allowed the team to cover costs for a one-year pilot of the project. It is a place that is open and welcoming for youth, those living with or affected by HIV, the vulnerable, and anyone who needs a place of rest and community.
“From our understanding, the local church is a safe space for people, but we know that's not always the case,” say Ann and Daeng, Radical Grace’s team leaders. “Many churches don't want to talk about sexuality, it's 'dirty' and 'sinful'. We've seen churches that find out that someone is living with HIV, and then see them as 'unclean'."
Shalom House is located near Victory Church, which Daeng and Ann attend and serve with.
“Many of the youth we know and work with are struggling with sexuality and how to understand sex. The church doesn't talk about sexuality, and neither do many Christian families. Most of these youth are studying at Buddhist schools, so they learn about sexuality outside of church and their Christian communities," say Ann and Daeng. "These youth aren't sure how to integrate their Christian life with the rest of their lives, including sexuality; there's no discipleship or mentorship, so they face it on their own.”
Radical Grace will focus on building community amongst the church's youth and grow from there. So far, the house has hosted the youth group's weekly worship service, and will soon welcome the group's Bible study, too. The Radical Grace team wants these youth to feel ownership over Shalom House and some of the young people have already invited their non-Christian friends into the space. Daeng and Ann feel that relationships and a sense of community are already developing.
"They come and they feel warm, they feel peace," says Ann.
Daeng echoes her optimisim, “This is our inspiration to run Shalom House. We want it to be a space where we help the youth face their problems and find healthy solutions that are Christ-centered. We want it to be a home with open doors where everyone feels welcome."
Other programs will follow: English lessons, music lessons, life skills, counseling, etc. Ultimately, Radical Grace hopes to connect with other local churches so that Shalom House can be a resource to them, so that people being strengthened and encouraged in Shalom House can strengthen and encourage the local church.
“We don't know what will happen and how Shalom House will grow – but one thing we're sure of is that this place belongs to God,” Daeng says. "We want to help people change their lives fully and holistically – and this takes time. But we're ready for the challenge and know God is too."