How God Moves in the Dark, Hopeless Places
The global team spent 10 days in Bangkok Thailand, building relationships with young women in the sex industry in two prominent red light districts, culminating with invitations to two Christmas parties held in their honor, where they were treated to a night of fun, food, and a chance to hear the Gospel. Each night ended with an invitation to leave the sex trade and live at Home of New Beginnings - a home close by that offers housing, vocational training, and education through college. The team also visited the site of a new Beginnings home in the nearby seaside city of Pattaya, commonly referred to as the "Sex Capitol of the World". Here is a story from one team member:
I volunteered for the "outreach team" both Christmas party nights, which meant that I would go to the bars with a small team, invite the women from the bars, and then walk them back to the hotel where the party was being held. I would then spend the night with the women I walked back, getting to know them and being the face and heart of Jesus to them, a completely foreign concept to most, and certainly not the type of love they are used to.
The second night, however, the outreach teams ended up showing up too early as most bar workers had not arrived yet. So, we all joined up and by the time I was able to return to the hotel, most of the team members had already left. So instead of having my own group of women, I arrived at the party and was seated at a table that was already formed.
A little disappointed at not having that initial connection, I did my best to get to know those on my right and left, but it wasn't until the end of the night that I found out something incredible, something that I had never experienced.
Our table consisted of girls all from the same bar, as well as their mamasan. A mamasan is an older female manager of sorts, someone who works in the bars by taking care of the young workers and keeping them in line. She is most likely a former sex worker herself who aged out, but make no mistake: she is often still for sale at a premium price. Some can be very cruel, others are more maternal and genuinely care for the girls they are responsible for. The mamasan at my table was the latter.
I noticed that everyone at my table called her "mother", and they seemed to respect and love her. It was she that took me aside after the party was over, and promptly blew all my expectations out of the water. She told me that her bar owner was against Christianity and would never allow his workers to attend our parties. However, she had attended in the past and because of her relationship with us, made the decision to quietly invite girls at her bar on her own. Instead of us going in and paying the bar fines so they could attend, they planned ahead of time to come and paid the bar fines themselves to be there.
We quickly arranged to pay them back the fees after the party was over, but the whole time my mind was reeling. The girl to my left that I had gotten to know a little bit had informed me earlier that evening that she had never been before, and when the Gospel story was given, she said the prayer and accepted Christ. All because her mamasan - not us - had invited her.
She is one of fifty girls who took a step in the gospel that night. This experience reminded me of what one of our team members explained during the preparation portion of our trip. She felt compelled to go because that's what Jesus would have done. Jesus wouldn't sit back and stay comfortable. Jesus comes to us WHERE WE ARE. It is so true!
I am so thankful that despite all my expectations, He shows up in the darkest, seemingly hopeless places that we are convinced He has abandoned. There is still as much evil, sin, and brokenness in the streets of Bangkok, but God has not left them, and His plans for the men, women, and children being exploited there are more than we can ever hope to imagine.