Tag Archives: friends

Promise of unconditional love

Americans wear rings on their left hands, right? To show you are married?

Last night I went down to the red light district to visit my friend John.* His grandmother wants him to get married and have children so she can have great grandchildren. John is gay and I don’t think his grandmother knows this. We haven’t had a talk about it yet and I am praying for wisdom when we do.

John’s grandmother’s wishes sparked a conversation on wedding rings, husbands/wives and marriage.

“Are you married?” Hannah,* asked,  pointing to my ring finger. I just met Hannah last night.

I explained that my dad gave me this ring as a promise for my future husband and I’d give the ring to him when I married. Natasha,* a man who underwent sex reassignment surgery to become a woman, listened in.

I asked Hannah if she had a significant other.

“I have a son,” Hannah told me. “But no husband.”

Her boyfriend left her and now the responsibility of raising their son rests on her.

“Is your son in Chiang Mai?” I asked.

“No, I am not able to care for him,” she said sadly. She pulled out her phone and showed me a picture of him. He’s living with family in her hometown. She came to work in the red light district to make money to send back to him.

I’m discovering that many Thai women who work in Chiang Mai’s red light district have boyfriends or husbands who’ve left them. This also happened to Angie,* my friend who recently became a believer.

Many times women will meet a guy in their teens or early 20s and see a future with them. The girls are “all in” emotionally. They invest everything, but the guy isn’t as attached and when the responsibility increases, sometimes with the birth of a child, they leave. Their love was conditional. The girls are hard-pressed for money to care for their kid, so they head to the place that guarantees quick money: the red light district.

Red light districts attract hundreds of Western men who’ve come to Thailand specifically for the sex trade. Some “stumble upon” it. The red light district also lures Western and Asian men who travel to Thailand on business trips.

It makes me sick. And sad. And angry.

My heart hurts for these women. I want so badly for them to leave this industry. I want them to know they are fearfully and wonderfully made and God loves them. I want something better for them. I want them to know unconditional love, God’s love.

I want them to know promises aren’t always broken.

*name changed

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washed in the waterfall

“I’m so happy,” John* said, smiling and shivering a little from the waterfall’s cold water.

Angie* emerged from the water with a smile I won’t easily forget.

I’m still recovering from a recurring case of glorious goosebumps.

Today, my two dear friends from the red light district followed Jesus in believer’s baptism. We went to a nearby waterfall to baptize them. We celebrated with roast chicken, papaya salad, sticky rice and brownies.

In the past year, several women I work with started a ministry to reach out to men and women in the red light district here in Thailand.

God has placed on my heart a burden for the women and men in the red light district. As I’ve traveled for work, I’ve encountered stories of redemption, heartbreak and renewal in red light districts across Asia. These are my people, God told me. “They need me, they’ve always needed me, and this is the time,” He said.

For the past several months, I’ve been venturing into Thailand’s nightlife with my coworkers, trying to meet people and share Christ’s message of redemption. It’s been God, all God. Whenever I don’t feel like going or don’t feel like I have anything to say, that’s when God knocks my socks off.

Isn’t it awesome how His power is made perfect in our weakness? It’s so we know that this all-surpassing greatness is from Him and not from us.

Let’s back up a little and I’ll explain how we met Angie and John.

Prior to my busy summer travel schedule, I’d been going out once or twice with other women involved in the ministry to share God’s stories. A friend and I met Angie one night after a door closed with another friend of ours.

Angie approached us and invited us in to sit and talk at the massage parlor where she works. This started a beautiful friendship.

Angie told us she’d been wanting to learn about God and Christianity. This caught me off guard. Not many Thai people say this.

I told her that my friend and I like to talk about God and that we would love to talk with her. She was very excited. I pulled out my Thai-English Bible and started to flip through to the book of John. Just then, a little old man came, asking us to sign a petition. Another man came out of the massage parlor and walked purposely toward us.

“Blast,” I thought, we are going to get her in trouble.

Turns out, he was coming to make sure the man with the petition didn’t bother us. His name is John — and there started another beautiful friendship.

John also showed an interest in learning about God. Let’s study together, we suggested.

“But, where do I read, where do I start?” Angie asked. From there, my coworker and I decided to start studying John with them. We visited weekly, reading a chapter at a time, and studying. Angie’s English is excellent, John is wanting to improve his English. We used our Bible study times to also teach English.

The beginning of June, John trust Christ as his personal Savior. Several weeks later, Angie decided to become a believer.

Today, they were both baptized.

To God be the glory.

There’s much more to the story, so stay tuned to the next installment.

*name changed.

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While in Vietnam

While in Vietnam:

I ate pho perched on a squat stool. A Singaporean man sitting behind us told us he wasn’t eating because he was already 105 kg.

I discovered I have very expensive tastes in (fake) designer handbags (the most expensive was a Gucci at $380).

We ate at a Vietnamese restaurant that gives an opportunity for youth from underprivileged to work and receive training. We had a marvelous set of food that included tasty eggplant.

I got hit by a bicyclist. Vietnam has a plethora of motorbikes and I somehow managed to not get hit by one. It’s less crazy than India, but still, crazy.

I navigated the Cu Chi Tunnels where the Viet Cong hid out underground for 21 years. It was a great quad work out going through those tunnels. In our tour group were five recent college graduates from London. They were a hoot.

I shot an AK-47. I used to think I was a decent shot. The AK-47 was so loud and unnerving I wasn’t quite sure what I hit.

I marveled at Vietnamese art. I love artwork. The Vietnamese are known for their lacquer wood art. It’s almost like a history lesson looking at the artwork. I love seeing the expressions on people’s faces that the artists capture.

I visited the past, the Vietnam War past. This was the hardest part of the trip, visiting the War Remnants Museum.

I tried for Texas barbeque but settled for an Australian grill. We met the owner, Bernie, and I had a panini.

I visited the Reunification Palace where Vietnam was reunified. Sat at the president’s desk in the war room. I also sang a song for the entire basement. Another highlight was learning how to play the nose whistle across from the room where all the pictures of dignitaries are displayed.

I sipped iced coffee at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and gazed at a replica of the Notre Dame cathedral. Vietnam was a colony of France for many years and its influences can still be seen. The Chinese also ruled in Vietnam. Vietnam was an interesting mixture between Chinese, French and Vietnamese culture.

I had the opportunity to drink quarts oh-so-smooth Vietnamese coffee. The Vietnamese and Turkish do coffee right. When you order, they bring a little filter apparatus and you watch your coffee brew. It’s by far the smoothest coffee I’ve had.

I bought weasel poop coffee.

I sampled wild boar and venison at a Vietnamese barbeque. I love both meats.

We wandered by mansions in the expat side of town looking for a restaurant. We asked an Australian lady in a gated community where “The Deck” was. After two more tries, we found it.

At The Deck, I talked about the future with great friends, one who is a prophet and ate an ostrich steak and black eyed peas by the peaceful Saigon river.

These are some of the memories I’ll hold on to and remember when I’m old.

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Upchuck and Uplift

The trash can never saw it coming.

I upchucked into a yellow public trash can in front of a pool table in a street night market tonight. It was mortifying and humiliating. But after the spew, I made an instantaneous recovery and could continue on with my North Face backpack purchase and relationship building with Thais.

Let’s back up. Why did I upchuck in a trash can? Is this normally part of my ministry? Well, not really.

I pushed myself hard tonight in my work out at the gym tonight. I ran for 40 minutes, did an ab workout and squatted. After showering, my roommate Holly and I headed over to a nearby night market that we’ve started ministering in. Last week was our first week to go and we made two new friends. Our goal for tonight was to visit our new friends and buy a backpack for our upcoming beach jaunt this weekend (more to come on that later).

I ordered a spicy noodle dish for Holly and I in the market. It was spicier than I’ve ever had it. We stomached all of it though. I really wasn’t hungry but out of pride and stubbornness I made myself eat more than I really should have. I also guzzled an Oishi green tea.

Almost immediately after eating nausea set in. I ate too soon, too much spicy and too much for a post-hard-work-out tummy.

“Gotta, get, home,” I grumbled and mumbled. There goes ministry for the night, I thought.

I managed to upchuck in a trash can and not in front of a store, thank you Jesus. I didn’t want to be remembered as the “foreigner girl who threw up on the doorstep of a stall.” Now, I’ll only be known as the “foreigner girl who threw up in front of the bar.” Hopefully no one will believe the guys playing pool at the bar–blame it on the alcohol–people will just say they were intoxicated. (At least this is what I am hoping. I really think they were sober, but for the sake of my pride let’s say they weren’t).

“You OK?” Holly asked.

Yep, all good. All better.

I made my backpack buy. We got to pray for our friend Niw* who’s been having a rough week. We also got invited to listen to traditional Thai music at our friend Lan’s* second workplace. We are forging a relationship with the spicy noodle restaurant staff.

All in all, tonight proved productive. Despite my unfortunate upchuck, Holly and I were able to uplift two Thai friends.

If you’re ever feeling woozy I’d advise the following:

1. Don’t throw up on the storefronts of those you’re trying to tell about Jesus

2. Don’t let unfortunate circumstances distract you from what God’s called you to do

3. Roll with the punches. Life’s an adventure

3. Count it all joy

*names changed

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