Our story began with one man standing on a beach in England prayerfully making a decision.
This was repeated 16 years later in 1881, with the same man, Hudson Taylor, standing on yet another beach thousands of kilometers away. There, at a small coastal village called Chefoo, on the eastern coast of China, the first boarding school for CIM missionary children opened.
Hudson Taylor saw the need for families to stay together, rather than sending loved ones back to their home country to be separated from one another for many years. Since then many things have changed. With the reluctant exodus from China, the original Chefoo School ceased to exist in 1951.
Other boarding schools named after the coastal village sprang up in five Asian countries where OMF had begun work. Many years on, these smaller schools have closed. The most recent was Chefoo School in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. Its doors closed in 2001, ending the history of OMF Chefoo schools.
OMF does not have its own school any more, but still runs three boarding homes in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and supplies teachers to international schools. Homeschool helpers are also sent to families around Asia to support the ministries of missionary families by providing education for their children.
Missionary families can take advantage of the range of education opportunities offered to them, from national or international schools, to homeschooling. This is reflected in the low percentage of OMF missionary children in boarding schools (only 5 per cent of school age children in 2015). Parents are advised to evaluate the decision for each child. When it comes to schooling options there is no ‘one size fits all’. One child may thrive in a boarding environment, while their sibling might not. We seek to help parents find the best schooling option for each of their children.
We must constantly seek to improve and to provide a caring and loving environment that will bring out the best in children. This includes rigorous screening and professional development of staff, accountability embedded into the boarding programme structure, annual training on child safety and protection issues, and provision of external advocates for the boarding students and their parents. Each year a new set of four or five advocates, male and female, OMF workers and non-OMF workers, are asked to serve by being available to students and their parents. Though students and parents are encouraged to address concerns directly to boarding home parents, the boarding home coordinator or members of the management group, we acknowledge that there may be times when none of these people is available. In such exceptional times, students and parents are encouraged to contact one of the advocates, who will have a listening ear, keep confidentiality and give adequate support.
Nowadays, children who board are united with their family at least four times a year, and parents are encouraged to visit during term time. Modern technology makes it possible to stay in touch regularly via e-mail, text messaging or video call. But even with these developments, some of the old challenges remain: times of separation, times of transition, cultural re-adjustments, homesickness, to name a few. What has changed is the way these challenges are addressed. We aim to help students express their feelings and process their emotions, guiding them through challenges and rejoicing with them in joys and achievements.
Each year we are looking for new boarding staff. We would like to see a Boarding Home Parent couple in each of the three homes in Chiang Mai serving long term, and alongside them two Boarding Home Assistants to support this important ministry. The boarding homes are modelled on the family to create a home away from home. Knowing that we will never be able to replace the original families and indeed should not, we work hand in hand with parents to share parenting and to be collaborative in the task of caring for the boarding children.
If you would like more information or would like to support this vital ministry, please get in touch with the Boarding Home Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayer points – from Rachael Bosma, Dorm Parent in Chiang Mai
- Pray for the Dorm Parents of Saeng Pratheep Dorm, Mountain View Dorm and Haus Benaja Dorm as they provide a loving and caring environment for the TCK’s of OMF.
- Pray for the new dorm children in the three OMF dorms, and their families. Pray that they will settle well into the dorms.
- Pray for the provision of Dorm Parents and Dorm Assistants for now and in the future.
- Pray for the senior students, as they complete their final year and prepare for university in their home countries.
- Pray for the International School of Chiang Mai, Thailand, Chiang Mai International School, Grace International School and the German International School.
- Pray for the provision of more Christian teachers.