It’s ministry week. We have the privilege of hearing from 7 different missionaries who are serving the Lord in various capacities here in Thailand. Plus- yesterday we got to try our hand at collaborating to teach an English class to women who have left the sex industry. Let me just say that I am so thankful to be a part of this program. In the past few weeks I have been overwhelmed with the excitement of learning more about serving the Lord overseas. I have learned so many things about myself. And I can gladly say that there are so many things I love about it here. What a blessing.
In just 6 short days, I will enter into the next phase- my internship. This week God has very clearly reminded me that I have been in training to be better equipped and sent as a Kingdom worker-specifically with the women in the sex industry here in Bangkok. Yesterday afternoon I had my first real-life glimpse into the realities of this billion dollar industry.
After teaching English, we headed out from Nightlight for a prayer walk through the Nana Red-light District. It was around 4 in the afternoon, so the bars were relatively empty. However there were men everywhere-just sitting around. Some of them had Thai women casually around them, some of them sat in groups with their buddies, some of them were alone. The bars appeared to be just like any sports bar in America. Gathering places where men relax, drink beer and talk sports. But these are not sports bars. These are “beer bars.” Gathering places where men relax, drink beer, and buy women.
If only I had the words to describe the weight of feelings that I experienced in that hour. If only I could give you a clear image of the things I saw. If only I could tell you that my thoughts were Christ-like as we passed the bars. But I can’t do any of those things. I will try to explain- but even after hearing many times about the realities of the sex industry, nothing can compare to walking the streets, seeing the faces, and having your emotions ferociously set on fire. Here’s my best attempt to describe it:
Bars. Men-young and old, mostly caucasian, sitting at tables.
Thai women-smiling and hanging on the arms of the men.
The men-smiling back, laughing, enjoying themselves.
More women- at less occupied bars applying makeup and getting ready for the evening of work they had ahead of them.
Eyes. All of the eyes told a different story. Men and women alike-all clearly broken people.
2 separate hotels where women from Africa and Uzbekistan are trafficked to.
A currently vacant, enormous, outdoor bar. 3 floors. Floor 1 had tables with many rooms that each had a circular booth with a table in the center, and 5-8 poles from the table to the ceiling. Floor 2 I didn’t personally go up to, but there was an area pointed out to us where many of the “lady boys” work. Floor 3 is where the sex shows are performed. We were told that around 3,000 women are employed at this single establishment.
I cried 3 times.
I was infuriated, sad, frustrated, discouraged, and in utter disbelief of what I was seeing-in broad daylight. I cannot even imagine the things I will see next week as I begin going with The Well on night outreaches.
And so in the midst of all of this, we prayed. We interceded for the women, for the men, for the trafficked victims, for the traffickers, for the children, for the parents, for the government. We prayed in the name of Jesus. We prayed with power. We prayed in faith that the people who walked the same ground we were on hours later would be transformed. We prayed that God would restore the streets and the lives that have been overcome by this industry of exploitation. And we believe that, in his perfect timing, He will transform and He will restore.
This morning the President and CEO of Nightlight International, Annie Dieselberg, came to speak to us on prostitution and human trafficking. She presented us with a very clear picture of what happens here in Bangkok through research she has done and through her many years of ministry experiences here in Thailand. I will save a lot of the facts for a later post, but I’d like to end with the encouragement that she gave us, because it’s important to remember that in all of this bad, there is something- or rather someone- PERFECT and GOOD. She said:
The more we encounter darkness, the more we notice and see God’s light. In a bright room it is often easy to ignore or overlook the light that comes from a candle- but place a candle in a dark room, and your attention will be drawn to it. You won’t be able to miss it.
Jesus wraps himself in light, and darkness can try to hide, but will always tremble at His voice. Light beats darkness-always.
(How Great is our God?)