Thoughts from the Streets

Two women crouched down on the dirty ground in their high heels, reapplying makeup based on the reflection they saw in the dirty glass shop door.  That image is burned in my brain and on my heart.

We’ve had a few heartbreaking nights of outreach lately.  Not that they aren’t always heartbreaking, but they’ve been hitting particularly hard lately.

Outreach is a generic term we use for the time we spend building and maintaining relationships with women in Bangkok’s red light districts. There are a few specific areas that are hubs of Bangkok’s sex tourism industry, either targeting foreigners or local residents, and this is where we spend a couple evenings during the week.

A few observations:

First, I’m not a particularly violent person, but outreach tends to bring out the fighter in me.  As heartbroken as I am for the women, I’m equally outraged by the men that are perpetuating the demand for this.  Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not just the men that are to blame.  There’s plenty of blame to throw around at the system as a whole.  Knowing this doesn’t change the fact that it’s all I can do to keep my fists to myself.

Second, I get a deeper understanding of God every time I go.  I learn how fiercely He loves His children.  I see women that are hardened from abuse. Women that have left a rather uncomfortable life in the countryside for an even more uncomfortable life working in the bars. So many unique individuals with unique stories of their road there. I catch a small glimpse of what He must see when He sees His kids broken and hiding in some pretty dark places.

For some it’s a conscious choice.  University-educated, world traveled, and working a corner to make more money than she would be able to otherwise.  For some it’s not a choice at all.  They are sold into it, guilted into it, or essentially forced to make value concessions due to economic demands placed on them.

Regardless of past or current motivation for being there, I just want these women to see more than this distorted reflection of themselves.

A few women we’ve met recently left a particularly deep impression on me.  One is a 30-year-old with a college education in communications and art. She spoke English and Japanese and served as the “big sister” or protector of three other women we met on the street.  She told us she chose to go back to prostitution because she liked it.

It’s actually not uncommon for women to respond this way early on; often the stories change greatly after you’ve had a couple more conversations. Many have a history of abuse, leading them to discount their value as a human with inherent beauty and value beyond that of their body, and making it “easier” to succumb to the allure of those neon lights, attention and cash.

Regardless of her motivation, I just couldn’t help but see the natural leader in her; a fiercely protective, loyal and obviously bright woman. She was dripping with potential.  It left me both frustrated and oddly inspired – inspired to know that God is about restoration and transformation of lives, and I can only imagine what He might have up His sleeve.

The other young woman is 19 years old with a two-year-old son that she had to leave with her mother-in-law in rural Buriram while she moved in to Bangkok to work in the bars. She didn’t want to be there but said she was pressured into it and didn’t have anything better to do.  She’s been there a month.  She said she cries a lot; she misses her son and doesn’t like it there.

Another girl from Buriram.  It gets under my skin.

Such beauty.  Such potential.  No more reflections in dirty glass windows; I want them to see what God sees.  And I want to get back out to Buriram…

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  • Comments (1)
  1. What compassion you have, thank you for sharing! Miss you friend, so thankful you are able to be a loving presence there.

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