My time in Thailand is coming to a close (for now). I wish that I could sum up even a fraction of my time here, but my memories alongside these blog reflections and my journal entries will have to suffice. It is with this realization that I must record one of the greatest joys of being here. Bear with me.
I have seen tragedy.
I have seen exploited children on the streets of Bangkok being forced to beg for money. I have seen police officers look the other way as illegal activity takes place on the streets of China Town. I have seen girls throw themselves at men to earn a living. I have seen the presence of the sex industry in every city I’ve visited in Thailand. I have seen sadness in the eyes of struggling addicts. I have had children in the slums hang on me just to get an ounce of affection that they otherwise go without. I have seen the hearts of broken women, whose lives have been plagued with poverty, pressures, and an extreme misunderstanding of love. I have seen evil everywhere I have gone.
It’s inescapable. We live in the worst kind of place. A place riddled with sinful, broken people who create sinful, broken cultures, which make up sinful, broken countries which leave us in a worldwide mess of tragedy. This isn’t a Thailand problem. This is a heart problem. This is a humanity problem. But in Thailand, it has been overwhelmingly evident to me. I don’t really know how else to put it. I guess Americans strive for life, liberty, and happiness without flaw, and we’re pretty good at following through with covering up our imperfections. But in Thailand there is a mediocre goal of good merit and saving face and yet there is a cultural norm of corruption, promiscuity, and infidelity. So it sticks out. No one will do or say anything about it at the risk of “losing face” and yet that very inaction contradicts the strive for what I believe would be good merit (lending a hand to those in need?). It’s a bit backwards, and also very different from what I’ve grown up with. So I think that’s another reason why it seems so much more visible to me. This cycle of ignored evil and abuse is tragic. But it is also beautiful.
Tragedy lays the foundation for what is truly beautiful- and that is Jesus’ fully restorative, redemptive, unending, unconditional grace. Without tragedy, without evil, and without sin, our Jesus is unnecessary. His whole life is meaningless. Yet here we are in this world full of tragedy, evil and sin, with the reality of a God who is able, willing, and faithful to show us the power of His almighty hand. That is beauty, and therefore we see beauty. Therefore, I have seen beauty.
I have seen children join hands and passionately pray for each other. I have seen God’s power to lead our outreach to the person in most desperate need of exactly what we had to give them. I have seen the smile of a girl in prison who has taken the responsibility of caring for the younger children and her father. I have seen an innocent 4 year old victim of a nearly fatal motorcycle accident lead a whole Thanksgiving table of missionaries in worship. I have seen the fruit of a growing church plant led by pastors who were once held captive for 11 months in the worst circumstances. I have seen the joy of refugees worshiping the Lord far from the persecution that they escaped. I have seen a prevention ministry that is mentoring and living alongside teenage girls giving them safety and reinstating potential. I have seen the impact that organizations like Compassion International have on a child’s life. I have seen and met people who are all furthering God’s kingdom in the way He has uniquely called them. I have seen and experienced God’s divinity and truth in Romans 8:28. I have seen the hearts of restored women whose lives were plagued with poverty, pressures, and an extreme misunderstanding of love now reaching back to those where they once were. I have seen beauty everywhere I have gone. And I will see beauty everywhere I go.
This is one of the greatest joys I have experienced here- to know and see that in every tragedy, no matter how grave or twisted or evil it may seem, we always have hope in the beautiful redemption offered by Jesus. People live in tragic situations all over the world, and it is heartbreaking! But how heart-filling is it to see and to continue believing for God’s Kingdom come on this earth? It is more than filling. It is overflowing. And all glory goes to Him who created it all.