Our 2009 Other Sheep Asia Trip
Meeting with Myanmar (Burma) and Thai gay & straight
Christians in Mae Sot, Thailand.
August 28-29, 2009.
photos by steve parelli
How it came about
that we went to the
Christians living in
Thailand and what
it meant for Steve
as a former Baptist

During the final days of our trip
in Southeast Asia, Jose and I
were given the contact
information of a gay Christian
Burmese LGBT activist, Saw
Yuri, a young gospel singer
living in Mae Sot, Thailand.  Saw
Yuri is the president of
Gay Education. It had been our
desire months before leaving
the States to be able to go to
Mai Sot,Thailand, where the
Karen of Myanmar, many of
them Christians, have fled as

With only four days in Bangkok
before our Friday (August 28)
morning seminar there, Jose
and I realized that the best time
to schedule the trip to Mae Sot
would be to travel Friday
afternoon following the Bangkok
seminar - about a six-to-seven
hour trip by car; give a Saturday
morning seminar (in Mae Sot on
August 29); and then return by
car to Bangkok on the same day
to catch our flight home to the
USA which was to depart just
after midnight (or about 1am on
Sunday, August 30).  An
ambitious trip, indeed.

Initially we had invited Saw Yuri
to come to Bangkok at our
expense to meet us there, but
because of prior obligations, he
could not leave Mae Sot.  He
strongly expressed his need
and desire to see our
Powerpoint on the Bible and
homosexuality.  We decided we
would go to Mae Sot and happily
give him a private presentation.  

Having confirmed our plans with
Saw Yuri on Monday, August 24,
to our surprise he phoned us on
Tuesday evening, August 25,
just as we were entering our
pre-show dinning area, to tell us
that he was sending out
invitations to the Karen
Christians of Myanmar, renting
a hall, and hoping for many to
come to the study on the Bible
and homosexuality.

Jose and I were celebrating our
first wedding anniversary when
Yuri called.  We were wedded,
August 25, 2008, in
Sacramento, California.  As part
of our first anniversary
celebration, we were doing a
diner and show -
Siam Niramit -
in the city center of Bangkok.  
Just as the taxi was pulling up
to the complex, Saw Yuri
phoned us with his plans to
invite others to the "private"
Bible study we had agreed to
give him.  We were, of course,
excited that others might attend.  
Our dinner-and-show evening
could not have received better

At we sat at our dinning table, I
was struck with a thought that
brought tears to my eyes.  Jose
sat without saying a word (the
good school counselor that he
is), but postured himself in a
supportive manner.  He was
waiting for my remarks, if any.

I told him I was crying because
this final contact in Southeast
Asia, our last two days, was a
highlight for me in that it was
very, very special.  My faith
tradition is Baptist; I was
ordained a Baptist preacher,
and Myanmar (or Burma)
historically first received the
Christian message from a most
famous Baptist missionary,
Adoniram Judson.  My thoughts
ran this way:  while I was totally
rejected in New York State at my
attempt to reach out to my
Baptist association there
Empire State Fellowship of
Regular Baptist Churches) as a
gay  Christian, I was able to
speak to the same topic, here,
half way around the world, to
Karen Christians of Myanmar.  I
saw this opportunity as a
touch-stone with Baptist
missions history with a bit of
irony that while at home I could
not speak to my Baptist
fellowship, I was speaking here
to fellow Karen Christians of
Myanmar who have a Baptist
history, so I assumed (and so it
turned out).

You see, the three who
responded to Saw Yuri's
invitation to join the one-time
Saturday morning Bible study
on homosexuality were all
Baptist.  How rewarding this
was for me.

So then, from Adoniram
Judson's historic Baptist
mission work in Burma to our
two-hour or so Bible study with
Karen (of Burma) Baptist
Christians living in Mae Sot,
Thailand - teaching them that
God is no respecter of persons,
including LGBT people of faith -
well, for me, this was truly a
remarkable way to end our 2009
trip in Southeast Asia.
Members from the cast of the show Siam Niramit:
On this evening in Bangkok, Saw Yuri phoned us from
Mae Sot, Thailand, with his plan to expand the Bible
study to other Karen Christians.
Above Photo:
Steve Parelli (left foreground) and Jose Ortiz (right
foreground) with
Joyce Hanks (center foreground), David Ya
(back left) and
Saw Yuri Galler (back right).  Mae Sot, Thailand.  
August 29, 2009.

About the people:  
  • Steve Parelli and Jose Ortiz are with Other Sheep  
  • Joyce Hanks, a former university professor in French
    language, is presently teaching English in Thailand with the
    Peace Corps.  Joyce is the former wife of Rev. Dr.
    Thomas Hanks, founder of Other Sheep.  Their son,
    Stan, is an openly gay man, living with his partner in
  • Saw Yuri Galler is President of Myanmar Gay Education,
    he is a professing Christian and gospel singer  
  • David Aye Myat is Support Executive of Myanmar Gay

Contact Information:

Joyce Hanks -
Saw Yuri Galler - yuri@myanmargay.org
David Aye Myat - ya@myanmargay.org

Myanmar Gay Education website
The leaders who worked together to bring about the Mae Sot morning study
session of the Bible and homosexuality
The night Jose and Steve learned that Saw Yuri would have
an open study group at Mae Sot by inviting others to attend.
Above Photo  - The story behind the picture:

The Saturday morning, August 29, 2009, study that was initially to be
with one person - Saw Yuri - with Steve and Jose  grew to include
Joyce Hanks, David Ya, and three Myanmar  Baptist Christians, two of
which are pictured here.

The people, left to right:
  • Myanmar Baptist Christian
  • Jose Ortiz, Other Sheep
  • David Ya, Support Executive, Myanmar Gay Education
  • Saw Yuri, President, Myanmar Gay Education, and gospel
  • Myanmar Baptist Christian
  • Joyce Hanks, English teacher with the Peace Corps in
    Thailand and former wife of Rev. Dr. Thomas Hanks, founder of
    Other Sheep
  • Steve Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep

Not pictured:  A third Myanmar Baptist Christian
The Mae Sot, Thailand, group that attended and/or participated, on the Bible
and homosexuality  (one attendee not pictured).
"Think Cirque de Soleil plus Italian grand opera and
classical Thai dance dressed by Las Vegas costumers
and staged by Hollywood."

Susan McKee
Jax Fax Travel Marketing Magazine
Myanmar Gay Education, President
Above photo, left to right:  Joyce Hanks,  Steve Parelli, Jose Ortiz, and
Saw Yuri.  Morning of August 29, 2009, Mae Sot.  Breakfast together.
To listen to one of Yuri's gospel
songs, go to his featured webpage by
Jose Ortiz (left) with David Aye Myat  (center) and Saw
Yuri  Galler (right).  A first-time meeting.  Jose is
displaying David and Yuri's
Myanmar Gay Education
business cards.  August 28, 2009, Mae Sot, Thailand.
Here (photo at left), Jose
Ortiz is seen with Joyce
Hanks in her home in the
vicinity of Khlong Khlung,
Thailand.  Joyce, the
former wife of the founder
of Other Sheep, is, at this
time of writing, in Thailand
teaching English.

An easy stop on the way
to Mae Sot from Bangkok,
Joyce gladly joined Steve
and Jose in their trip to Mae

She gave a brief,
interesting talk before the
Mae Sot group (below and
General photos
at the boarder of
Myanmar and
webpage on
Joyce Hanks in
Joyce Hanks
The group attending the study discussed how they might have, in the
not-to-distant future, a second seminar on the same topic so that
others might be able to attend.  They wish to duplicate what they are
Above photo, left to right:  Steve Parelli, Joyce
Hanks and Jose Ortiz, at the Friendship
Bridge between Thailand and Myanmar, Mae
Sot, Thailand, August 29, 2009.
This web page was created September 11-13, in the Bronx, NY.
Visits to this site since September 2009.
Take the 2009 Southeast Asia tour: NEXT
Above left:  Saw Yuri Galler, President
of Myanmar Gay Education

Above right:  David Aye Myat, Support
Executive of Myanmar Gay Education
The Mae Sot meeting on the
Bible and Homosexuality,
August 29, 2009
Our 2009
Southeast Asia Trip
--Table of Contents--

Photo Album of Sites


Written Report

June 28 - July 10, 2009

Chiang Mai, Thailand
July 11 - 29, 2009

Bangkok & Mae Sot
August 23-30

August 1 - 7, 2009
August 9 - 13, 2009

August 7 - 9, 2009
August 13 - 23, 2009

August 30, 2009