Norwich couple's bid to help Thailand orphans
A young Norwich Christian couple are about to embark on a life-changing move to Thailand to launch an innovative project with the Thai government to develop local family placement care for orphans. Keith Morris reports.
Thomas and Rachel Abbott (pictured right) have sold virtually all of their possessions, moved out of their Norwich flat and are about to fly off to Thailand to launch the project for charity Care for Children, whose UK base is in Norwich.
The couple, who are members of Servant's Church (www.servantschurch.org.uk) in Norwich, both have parents who were missionaries in the Far East. Thomas grew up in Pakistan, Rachel in China. They met in Shanghai, dated in Beijing and got married in London.
Rachel is a midwife and daughter of Care for Children founder Robert Glover OBE. Thomas is UK Assistant Director of the charity, and now also the Project Manager for Thailand.
“According to UNICEF, there are 71 million orphans in Asia, that's 12 million more than in Africa! Millions of orphans are living in institutions – but God designed the family to care for children,” said Thomas. “Care for Children has helped the Chinese government place over 250,000 Chinese orphans back in to Chinese families in China, and over the years, God has also given us favour with the Thai government.
“We have now signed a project agreement to help them develop local family placement care for their orphans as a positive alternative to institutional care, starting in Chiang Mai (North Thailand).
“Rachel and I are moving to Chiang Mai in order to lead this project on the ground. We are humbled with the responsibility to facilitate this work, and will do so sensitively and with utmost respect for our government partners – but nonetheless driven by a long-term and exciting vision to see tens of thousands of vulnerable children in Thailand placed into the care of good, local, committed families.”
Care for Children exists to relieve hardship, distress and sickness in abandoned and orphaned children in Asia by the introduction of strategic initiatives in local family placement care as an alternative to institutional care, in partnership with government authorities. It has a vision to see one million children placed into families.
Thomas said: “Above all, our heart is to encourage and equip the local church to be at the forefront of this work. It would be truly awesome to see the Thai church earn a reputation for caring for orphans in their communities. Not only does it become an amazing form of witness in their community, but it speaks volumes to both the local and national government.
“We have seen this happen in China, despite the many restrictions imposed on the church. While Thai culture will have its own unique challenges, including within the Church, we will enjoy working in a country that supports religious freedom. We believe this is a work that will 'make ready a people prepared for the Lord' (Luke 1:17).”
Thomas’ parents, Rupert and Janet Abbott, were missionaries in northern Pakistan (Himalayas), launching agricultural development projects in some of the most hard-to-reach and fundamentally Islamic parts of the country. They then moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where Rupert was the Senior Pastor at the International Chiang Mai Community Church, and Janet fostered orphaned children. They moved back to the UK in November 2011.
Rachel’s parents, Robert and Elizabeth Glover, moved from the UK to Shanghai in 1998, together with their six young children in a government-to-government initiative to launch Care for Children. In 2006, Robert earned an OBE for his efforts and the project is now beginning to expand into other countries in Asia.
After graduating from St Mary’s University in London in 2002, Thomas got a teaching job with the British Council in Shanghai, where he met the Glovers at Hang Shen International Community Church. Inspired by the mission, vision, and strategic outlook the Glovers had for Care for Children, he did some work experience as the project moved from its pilot stage in Shanghai to a national project operating out of Beijing in 2003. Nine years later, he’s still working for Care for Children, married to the Glover’s oldest daughter, and is about to lead the first project outside of China.
Rachel, grew up in China and went to boarding school in the UK. She then read midwifery at the University of East Anglia and has since cared for hundreds of women, and delivered over 100 babies in Norwich. She has given up her job to move to Chiang Mai, where she is sure her professional skills will be in demand.
Thomas said: “During the first few months, I will need to set up an office, begin liaising with the orphanage and local government authorities, get to know local churches and their leaders and perhaps travel a little in the region. But most importantly, I want to make sure Rachel and I are settled and secure in the right home – from which we will be able to focus our full attention on the urgent work at hand.”
The couple are appealing for funds to help Care for Children get the project off the ground initially and if you are able to help you can visit:
You can also follow their personal blog at: www.thomasandrachel.co.uk