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Couple with Erwin ties provides update on overseas mission projects

Erwin Record photo by Richard Rourk • Joel and Kelly Lillie spoke at Erwin’s The Bramble recently about their missionary work to help people in Thailand and India. The Kellies spotlighted two programs – Rhythms in Motion and Koala Love – that they hope will transform lives for people in India and Thailand.

By Richard Rourk

A couple with local ties say that they have been called by God to serve the people of Thailand. While back in Erwin recently, Joel and Kelly Lillie provided an update on several projects that they have underway in Thailand and India. 

Joel is a graduate of East Tennessee State University and Kelly is an Erwin native. Together, they are working in Thailand with the mission organization Extend International. 

The Lillies stopped by The Bramble in downtown Erwin on Thursday, June 24, to discuss two specific programs that they have undertaken as part of their missionary work.

“More than two-thirds of people in India live in poverty,” Joel Lillie said. “We thought about ways to help the locals and Kelly came up with an idea.”

Joel explained that his wife’s idea was for a new textile project that they have called Rhythms in Motion.

The couple explained that the vision of Rhythms in Motion is to produce earth-friendly textile products fabricated by underprivileged individuals in a safe working environment in order to achieve economic self-sufficiency and encounter the transforming love of Jesus Christ. 

“This is a non profit business that women could benefit from,” Kelly Lillie said. “In a lot of these countries women are the ones that go out and make money”

Kelly explained that this project was a way to use an idea that she has experience in and would benefit many, including older women, in some of the poverty stricken communities of India and Thailand. 

“I’ve always loved textiles,” Kelly said. “Through a lot of prayer, I got the vision that will help many become self-sustained. We hope to hire older women that aren’t getting paid or treated well.”

Achieving economic self sufficiency would let many of the participating women expand their lives, which could include learning more about Christianity.

Joel announced that the second program the couple is introducing is designed to protect against injuries among motorcyclists.

“We operate Koala Love, which provides motorcycle helmets to children to help eliminate injuries and fatalities,” he said. “Thailand has the eighth highest road crash fatality rate in the world. Motorcycle deaths in Thailand among children is 14 times higher than dengue hemorrhagic fever, which affects thousands of children in Thailand.”

He noted that getting motorcyclists to wear a helmet can reduce crash deaths by 42% and injuries by 69%. 

“We are careful to get nice quality helmets to give to the children of Thailand,” he added.

Joel explained that Koala Love works hand in hand with local Thai churches to deliver helmets and a Gospel message. 

“We approach their ‘head’ knowledge about road safety,” Joel explained. “We then have the opportunity to discuss their ‘heart’ knowledge about Christ’s love with Bibles and tracts in their own language.”

To learn more about the missionary work being conducted by the Lillies, including how to donate online, please visit or email the couple at [email protected]

Those interested can also donate by sending a tax exempt donation to Extend International, PO Box 4056, Kendallville, Indiana 46755.