Since April 8th, 2013, our ministry partners have been operating Famous Ray’s in Mae Sot Thailand. Many of you were a part of our Burgers for Burma capital campaign to fund the opening of the restaurant. It was the dream and project of the inaugural Journey team to help Ray and Candace Ward open a business to help sustain ministry projects and be a place of ministry itself. We currently employ 6 Burmese workers in our restaurant and provide a consistent, liveable wage that is very hard to find in this area.
Business was a little slow through rainy season. Every business in town was slow through rainy season. When it’s pouring down rain and you either have to ride a bicycle or motorbike to go out to eat, you’re more likely to stay at home. Still yet, business was consistent throughout the summer, rainy months. We are definitely garnering a good reputation for a quality product. I think most people would say we definitely offer the best burger in town. Ray and his team have added a fried chicken burger and a pork burger to the menu to appeal to the local Thai patrons. They aren’t use to having quality beef and therefore generally pick chicken or pork. For those Thai’s who have been willing to try our beef burgers, we’ve heard rave reviews! Western NGO and missionaries frequent the restaurant to get their taste of home. You could even say we have “regulars.”
This past week we were able to introduce our first “monthly special!” The staff created a Mexican burger with a fajita spiced beef patty, spicy jalapeno escabeche, grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and our garlic mayo sauce. The meal even comes with a side of real salsa! Some of our team members who have come to Mae Sot have said our burgers are the best… anywhere. These aren’t even the participants who have lived overseas for months at a time! Only 4 days after leaving American soil, they sing the praises of Famous Ray’s and “the best burger they’ve ever had.”
The restaurant is also coming into it’s own identity. It’s not uncommon to see at least 15 bicycle’s outside of the restaurant at one time. Many of these are fixed-gear bikes. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s basically a super trendy brake-less bike that urban bike messengers use to get around town. The famous Raymond Ward has taken interest in bikes and we now have several as decorations around the storefront. One super cool bike even hangs from the wall!
It’s not just about selling burgers either. We’re building great relationships with our workers. Many of you remember Nali and her story to support herself and her family as a young Burmese woman living in Mae Sot. She’s our assistant manager and one of our dearest friends. Nali has also been with us to Burma and the children’s home that Ray and Candace support through their ministry called The Refuge. We get to do Bible studies with her and bring her along for worship and ministry.
The guys who work at the restaurant take part in Saturday sports with the Outpour Movement staff and our friends from various children’s homes in town. Our team will sit down with them and help them with English in the afternoon if we aren’t busy in the restaurant. Solopan was a huge help to Christin and I this summer when we were trying to help a young street kid find a home. We love the employees and consider them dear friends. I’m so thankful that this year’s hard work has helped create opportunities for such amazing people like them.
Business is growing and we have some big marketing plans ahead! We’re offering more options, creating more specials, and even selling local fair-trade products to support other organizations and ministries in town.
So business is good and it’s growing. More importantly, it’s becoming a hub for our growing presence and ministry here in Mae Sot. More teams, more long-term missionaries, and more friends are meeting around our tables to see what God has in store for this town and it’s people. While more unacceptable realities exist along the border, Famous Ray’s is a beacon of hope that hard work does pay-off and we can change realities for the people here.
Look for an announcement on our new sustainable business and ministry project later this week. We’re excited to share what God is doing! Also, we need more participants for our Spring Journey. If you really want to work and take action to change realities, let me know!