An ominous layer of mist was just beginning to settle into the lush Thai jungle as a team of Christian volunteers and missionaries set out on their seven-hour trek to the quiet village of Mae Sot. Nestled deep into the jungle on the border of Thailand this village houses a people that have been displaced and discriminated against.
The van rocked and weaved through the foliage quickly leaving behind any familiar comforts of civilization and entering a world where the only traffic was that of the countless species of insects and birds whizzing quickly to and fro.
Model actor and Pepperdine alum Kai Braden lay quietly in pain in the back of a van. His body sweating and cold regardless of the near-hundred-degree heat and humidity was weakly convulsing with a high fever. As the van pushed deeper and deeper into the jungle and thus farther and farther from civilization and aid Braden’s sickness grew steadily worse. In his pain he found himself seeking comfort from God.
“They were going to bring me to the emergency room but there is no emergency room in the middle of the jungle Braden said, flashing his signature white grin. I had to pray. I had no other choice. I put all of myself into my faith.”
The passing deep greens and browns of the heavily forested area became a blur to Braden. All sounds of life including the lively chatter of the birds overseeing the group’s journey faded to a distant whisper and Braden closed his eyes.
The next morning the team arrived at a migrant school in the village. Braden having been miraculously healed stepped out of the van onto the moist earth.
He had come to Thailand on a modeling contract with a business mindset but he was about to discover a passion and calling that he never could have imagined. A recent graduate of Pepperdine University Braden had known from a young age that he was destined for the entertainment industry. What he did not expect was to eventually utilize his career to promote social justice.
When he was 16 years old Braden began expressing an interest in acting professionally and sought a career in modeling as a means to launching a successful acting career. As his modeling career took off providing him with a variety of opportunities and experiences Braden continued to hone his craft and pursue his acting career.
He is currently represented by twu2 Management LLC has done work for 7 For All Mankind and has appeared in Cosmopolitan Magazine advertisements for KFC and shows such as “One Life to Live” and “90210.”
“To this day it’s been six years since I’ve been in the entertainment industry and I’ve worked in smaller markets like San Francisco but the majority of my work has come from New York or LA or overseas like London and Singapore and Bangkok Braden said.
It was through a four-month modeling contract in Bangkok, Thailand, that Braden was able to realize a passion outside of the entertainment industry: service.
I [was] away from family and friends and everything familiar to me; I needed something to ground me so I started going to this international church and men’s Bible study. The leader of the Bible study Nate he really kind of took me on as a friend and led me spiritually.”
It was through the international church that Braden took a mission trip through the jungle to the border of Burma and Thailand and fell in love with a village of people displaced and undocumented that he felt a calling to help.
“I went onsite to a migrant school and started doing some manual labor. Then I ended up taking pictures and playing with the kids. I’m a lot better at that Braden said with a slight laugh. I don’t know. I fell in love with these kids. These kids I just met. While I was there I also learned about what was going on in Burma.”
As a result of the Myanmar dictatorship’s rise to power in 1988 Burma has been plagued with mass killings ethnic cleansing and religious persecution of Burmese minorities by the Myanmar armed forces Braden said. Countless people continue to be forced from their homes and into hiding from the government. Families were separated and other injustices such as enslavement and forced prostitution took place and are still happening today.
Braden witnessed first hand the plight of these people and the injustices that they face and felt called to pursue change.
“I did research when I got back [to Bangkok] and I learned about child prostitution and slavery that still exist and then I came back to the U.S. after my contract was done and I still felt their pain. Every morning literally every single day for at least six to seven months I thought about those kids at that migrant school that I went to and I first felt the pain and after I started to gain control of the pain I felt empowered.”
With the support of family and friends and utilizing his contacts he had gained through Pepperdine Braden took a leap of faith and started AMEN Missionary a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that seeks to aid the children he met in Burma.
“I took it one step at a time … on hyper mode Braden said of the conception of AMEN. I filled out paperwork and we started brainstorming and now we’re here with two offices one in Thailand and one in the U.S. We have multiple current projects that we’re sponsoring; we have a team that is made up of people on both sides of the world. It’s just evolved organically.”
AMEN currently sponsors multiple programs such as an after school program. It offers lessons in English Thai and mathematics while providing a simple lunch for as many as 80 children. This program assists single parents and orphans by providing emergency funds for staple items such as food and housing. A recent Christmas project created a social event for over 300 villagers and care packages for over 100 families.
Currently residing in Hollywood Braden is actively working on his career but maintains his passion for the people he met in Burma.
“I just read this parable in the Bible today Matthew 25:14-30 the parable of the three servants. It pretty much just says use what you have use your skills that you were given that you were naturally born with for something good. That’s what I really believe. I love the entertainment industry — it’s fun. I feel alive and like I’m in the place that I was meant to be and I want to use that. I want to use my connections. I want to use my artistic side my creativity to spread awareness and to unite people together and fight for social justice and to fight for good.”
Additionally Braden hopes to someday widen the reach of his non-profit to aid people in all regions of the world the United States included.
“We’re inspired by faith in God. Whatever God directs us to do that’s where we’re going to go he said.
For more information on Braden and AMEN Missionary, e-mail Info@AmenMissionary.org or visit KaiBraden.com.