Dreams of Transformation

There are no simple issues here, nor are there simple answers or solutions.  I haven’t even been here two weeks and have already been floored by the complexity of the needs, the depth of the challenges facing the people of this nation, and the amount of time and energy it will take to see any sort of real, measurable progress by which we westerners measure “success”.

I’ve realized how much I have left to learn.

Thanks to Wikipedia you can quickly read statistics on the scope of Thailand’s deeply-rooted sex tourism industry.  The NY Times recently did a piece on the complex issues facing Thailand’s rural countryside, highlighting growing issues with drugs and violence facing the youth, added to a lack of economic opportunity, particularly for women.  Books are written about sex trafficking or sexual exploitation; causes spring up on Facebook; magazines are published to highlight the issues.

Each time I read a new article or see a new statistic I realize there are about a dozen underlying issues that are unimaginably more complex.  I’m overwhelmed enough just reading about it; seeing it firsthand and hearing the stories of individuals that are living it is exponentially more heartbreaking.

I just got back to Bangkok after spending a few days out in Buriram province – a province located in the Isan region which is known as Thailand’s poorest region.  Agriculture is the main economic driver there, but the area isn’t as productive as other parts of Thailand due to the socio-economic conditions and a hotter, drier climate.  It is a region from which a large number of men come to Bangkok to find work or women come to work in the bars.

Being there for a few days provided only a small taste of the countryside, but a taste that got my wheels spinning and my heart pumping nonetheless.

What did I see?

  • Beautiful scenery – bright green rice fields with some sugarcane, cassava and eucalyptus peppering the countryside. But it’s also peppered with small, rural communities that are clearly hurting.
  • Absent men – either physically absent as they’ve had to move to Bangkok to find work, or effectively absent as they’re caught in a vicious cycle of drinking, drugs and gambling.
  • Beautiful women and children – This truly is the “land of smiles” but behind many of those smiles is an environment where there is a severe lack of hope or opportunity for so many women.
  • Potential….. I saw a handful of Thai men and women with hearts and potential to invest in transformation.  Men mentoring young men.  Women popping up as leaders, willing to host educational seminars for family and neighbors.  I saw a few innovative economic ideas popping up with potential, spearheaded by a couple of motivated Thai families.

One of the current economic generators for women is silk-making.  It’s a tedious process but one that provides a unique opportunity for women to be able to stay home to care for their children, make some beautiful products and generate some income if they have some help marketing their products.  It’s not a panacea, but it’s one thing that can be (and is being) done now.

Women grow the worms, extract the silk, spin and dye it, and make gorgeous silk weavings.

Silkworms

Weaving

Despite the glimpses of potential I’m seeing, it would easy to be overwhelmed and discouraged by the challenges here.  It’s overwhelming for this western mind that wants to identify a problem, come up with a solution and fix it “yesterday.”  Or at least set up a plan where it can be solved and I can report back to donors and supporters and say “Look!  Check out your return on investment.”

But I’m afraid that might not be realistic.  It’s hard for me to comprehend just how long it might take before we see real change here in Thailand.  Waiting around for results is a hard thing for me to do, but I’m going to have to be ok with it. And I’m praying that those supporting my time here will understand and be ok with that.  Even more than that, I hope that we all will realize that it’s actually a good thing in the long term.  That this is a long term investment from which we may or may not be able to see the tangible fruit in the near term, but that this is what God meant when He told us to “preach the Gospel” and “make disciples”.  It’s to invest in transformational change, understanding that transformational change takes time.

It takes time to build relationships.  To understand cultural nuance.  To understand root causes rather than surface symptoms.  To wait for God to reveal His intention in changing people and building character, which is the only way that lasting change will happen.

That said, I’m going to have to get out of my accomplishment-oriented, results-based mindset and settle in for the long haul.  And I’m going to have to ask you not to hold your breath for riveting stories about the issues going away overnight.

However, what I do hope to be able to share is stories of the road to transformation.  The cultivation of character, and how that cultivation of character will lead to changed lives and families and, eventually, communities and countries.

What does that look like?  It’s my dream to see men invested in as leaders of strong character – regaining economic opportunity and a drive to produce and care for their family.  Women experiencing healing and restoration, along with economic opportunity that enables them to stay home and care for their families as they wish to do; not requiring them to move to the city and work in the bars in order to pay to fix a leaking roof.  Children with educational opportunities and strong male and female role models, raised as the next generation of Thai leaders that wish to invest in continued development and transformation of Thailand’s rural areas.

There are a lot of people that have been here a lot longer than me and that learned these lessons long before I did. They’ve been making this investment and dreaming this dream for a long time.  The folks at The Well and the other long-term volunteers I’m working with here are an encouragement and an inspiration and I feel privileged to be able to come alongside and learn from them.

It may be discouraging to face the depth and complexity of the issues here, but our encouragement comes from knowing it’s not up to us to fix everything.  It comes from knowing that God’s heart is all about transformation and He’s the one moving here.  We’re just along for the ride.

We just have to be ok with the fact that it could be a really long ride.

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  • Comments (9)
  1. Great thoughts on transformational change! We’ve got time. We are in this for the long haul with you.

    • Jessica
    • August 29th, 2010

    Thanks for sharing your heart so openly and honestly. You are touching lives on both sides of the world now, sweet friend! Love you. And ditto what my husband said 🙂

    • Jenn
    • August 30th, 2010

    Is this your passive aggressive way of informing me that my “back in 6 months” plan for you will not be a reality? Sigh…

    • Rach
    • August 30th, 2010

    Piling on to what Jess and Jared said–don’t worry about your donors. I prefer long term, deep, transformational results to surface oriented short fixes. Keep up the good work girly! love you! xoxo

    • Ammani
    • August 30th, 2010

    Piling on – and echoing Jared’s comments. We’re in it for the long haul. The Lord will redeem lives – families – generations one person at a time. And He will redeem the years that “the locusts have eaten.” Love you.

    • Dave
    • September 3rd, 2010

    This vision is God-sized! I’m on the edge of my seat reading these posts Cori. You’re being prayed for daily!

    • Russell
    • September 3rd, 2010

    This sounds like progress to me just knowing that you learning more about the situation and the task ahead. You planted the seeds. Keep cultivating the fields and God will bring the harvest in his time!

  2. Love this, love you & I am thrilled to see how God is going to use you and orchestrate your steps. Love you muchooo! 🙂 Praying for you & thinking of you often (& your really cool flashlight phone!! haha)

    • Roy Bessell
    • February 24th, 2012

    I became a Christian four years after I left the Vietnam war. Soon I was praying for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. (They had fallen to communism.) In 1998, I saw a TV documentary about the sex industry in Thailand. And I started praying for Thailand. I went there for the first time in 2004. I learned about The Well online in 2006. I was actually trying to research Bangkok Institute of Theology because I was sponsoring a student there. It was a long circuitous route for me to finally see the very thing that I had prayed for in Thailand. And you are part of the answer to my prayers.

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