Tag Archives: red light district

oh oswald

Oh Oswald.

I love how Oswald Chambers always has just the words I need to hear.

It’s really not him, it’s God and the Holy Spirit using the daily bits of wisdom to speak to my heart.

April 29th’s entry is about gracious uncertainty, and boy, did I need to hear (or in this case, read) it.

“Our natural inclination is to be so precise – trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next – that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing,” Chambers writes.

Though I don’t consider myself a scheduled, detailed person and my Myers’ Briggs personality has me as a “P,” I like to dream and plan for the future. Forget about today and this week, let’s think about what could happen in six months or a year. Or two years. To-do lists? I usually get bored writing them and start actually working.

I do like to sit and think about the future and dream about what if I were in a certain circumstance. I love daydreaming.

“Our common sense says, “Well, what if I were in that circumstance?” We cannot presume to see ourselves in any circumstance in which we have never been.”

I know I’ve exasperated my parents with “what if’s” and my excessive need to think and plan for the future. Sometimes I focus so much on this I get lost in the present.”What if I don’t get into Baylor, what if I don’t get the writing job I want overseas, what if …”

My questions now are, what do I do after this three-year assignment? What if I come back right away, what if I stay in the US, and if I stay, will I be able to come back? What if I chose the wrong seminary?

The questions are endless and typically end up with me overwhelmed and exasperated.

“We think that we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life. The nature of the spiritual life is that we are uncertain in our certainty.”

I’m the type of person who likes surprises, but when it comes to planning the rest of my life, I like to have clues. For example, if I could just know that going back for seminary is what I need to do, I could be patient with everything else being revealed later.

But, as Chambers says, the nature of our spiritual life is uncertainty.

“To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring,” Chambers writes.

Yikes. I think I’ve been taking certainty into my own hands. I want to know what tomorrow will bring, now.

“This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation.”

I love this line. Breathless expectation. I don’t want sighs and sadness in my life. I want to take hold of the breathless expectation Chambers writes about. It’s like a kid that’s so ecstatic for Christmas morning they sometimes forget to breathe.

Life is a divine adventure and I fear I’m so worried about the future I am missing the adventure with all my sighing. God, I want to live in breathless expectation. I don’t want to schedule out my future and schedule you out of it.

“We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and to the task He has placed closest to us,  He begins to fill our lives with surprises.”

I’m even more in love with those two sentences. I cling so tightly to life and the future that I’m not joyfully doing or completing the tasks closest to me. Right now, the tasks I feel God has placed in my life are my job as a writer and social marketer and the ministry in the red light district.

The tighter I cling, the less God is in these tasks and the fruit of them isn’t juicy. Who likes dried, juice-less fruit? Hopefully you didn’t say, “Me!”

I obsess over my writing. I cling to the words in Microsoft Word. Writing is what I’ve wanted to do since I was 12. I want so badly to succeed. I want to do justice to the stories of the men and women who follow God in the midst of persecution most of us can only imagine.

I want to see souls freed from bondage in the red light district. I want them to know Jesus like I do. I want to be a better friend to them.

I take these burdens upon myself and it’s a burden I cannot bear alone.

The beauty is, I don’t need to.

I’ve placed them before God before, but I somehow seem to keep picking up my offering off of the altar.

“When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God – it is only believing  our belief about Him.”

Chambers continues, “If our certainty us only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled.”

As Chambers so beautifully put it, once we abandon ourselves to Him, “He begins to fill our lives with surprises.”

I love surprises. My parents started a tradition where on Christmas Eve, after we were asleep, they’d leave a small present under the mini trees in our bedrooms. I loved waking up to find what it was. I loved running out to the tree to see the presents they’d placed out under the bigger tree.

I want my life to be filled with godly surprises. I’ve been clinging to certainty too long.

“We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next.”

I don’t know where I’ll be after I head back to the U.S. this October. I don’t know the next step in my life.

“But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy,” Chambers writes.

I do know that I am going to focus on my relationship with God and I’m looking forward to the spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.

“Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in – but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.”

Yes sir, I think I shall.

Leave a comment

Filed under Life

white as snow

They are white as snow. I wish I could say I was talking about my friends in the red light district.

My Thai friends recently knit beautiful white scarves for me and my friends as a present. I wish I could say my Thai friends were also white as snow – they are workers in Thailand’s sex industry.

They can be white as snow though. It’s my prayer they will be – that they’ll accept the sacrifice of the One who was slain.

All but one friend hasn’t yet, but it’s a new year and a new chance.

In our weekly English class we talked about our wishes for the New Year. Wishes is easier to translate and say than “New Year’s Resolutions.”

I asked them what they wished for. They answered: more money, more customers, better health and to have their own home.

I told the men and women my New Year’s wish was to grow closer to God this year. He makes us beautiful, I said.

They are beautiful outside, but inside, they are still searching, still lost.

One of my new favorite songs is “Beautiful Things” by Gungor. The song talks about God making a beautiful creation out of us.

“You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us.”

He created us from the dust and we are beautiful because of His Gospel’s transformation in our lives.

He also makes us new.

“You make me new, You are making me new,” the song says.

I pray that this year He will make these men and women new. He can create something beautiful inside of them. They are already beautiful outside and He can make them beautiful inside too.

Beauty comes from the dirty ground. Beauty isn’t instantaneous and it often involved pain. Is beauty worth the pain of transformation for these women and men?

As Gungor’s song says:

“All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all.”

Yes, yes it can. Because He makes beautiful things out of us.

These men and women in the sex industry are beautiful creations of God. He’s working in their hearts and will make them beautiful if they allow Him to make them white as snow.

That’s my prayer, that this year they’ll allow the Lamb who was slain to make them white as snow.

Here’s a link to listen: Beautiful Things

2 Comments

Filed under Life

When a heart breaks

She walks out of the massage parlor with the sun-glassed man. Japanese, I think. He leaves quickly. She sits down on the bench, avoiding eye contact.

Everyone around knows what’s just happened.

As I’ve sat and listened to my friend teach English the past 30 minutes, she’s been upstairs in a room with this man, most likely doing much more than a massage.

She’s in it for the money. Most of these women are. Many come from poor families in eastern Thailand and many haven’t finished high school. They are left with few opportunities. Some can’t read Thai.

When she comes back she pulls out a deck of playing cards and starts playing a game, most likely to get her mind off of what just happened.

Watching her that day broke my heart. Every time I go down to the red light district it break my heart. Every single time.

We’re hoping and praying that these women and men will use the English we’re teaching them to get out of the business. But, we’ve just heard that some women are going to another massage parlor to learn English sex talk to help “empower” them.

When your heart breaks, what do you do about it?

I chatted with a woman today who’s married and has three daughters. We talked about how the flooding in Bangkok has affected her sister. I asked her about her daughters and about the massage parlor’s business.

I don’t know if her husband knows what she does. He might. She left our English lesson early to wrap her arms around a Western man and lead him upstairs.

When your heart breaks, what will you do about it?

There’s a new girl who works at this massage parlor. She lied about her age. She said she’s 18 but she’s only 17. She has a boyfriend, she told us, he’s 16. She also left the English lesson early with a customer. I don’t know if every time these ladies have a customer if it results in more than a massage. Many times it does.

When your heart breaks, what are you doing about it?

One of our regular students brought her 17-year old son. She doesn’t look nearly old enough to have a son that age. He’s looking for work. We want to make sure he doesn’t end up working in the red light district like his mom. His mom left the English lesson early today with a man. She escorted him right past her son. Does he know what his mom does?

When a heart breaks, what should you be doing about it?

2 Comments

Filed under Life

call me rude

Rihanna’s “Rude” plays in the background of a darkly silhouetted bar. Western men lean in to whisper dirty nothings into the ears of petite and scantily-clad Thai women.

These women work in Thailand’s sex industry. Many come from eastern Thailand to find work in the city. Some come under false pretenses. Some know what they’re getting into. The journey to Chiang Mai and Bangkok work in bars, massage parlors, clubs and strip clubs.

Men from around the world come to Thailand to hook up. Many of these men are 50 + and many come to find a woman in her 20s. Many of these men are old enough to be these girls’ father and some are old enough to be their grandfather.

Every night children wander up and down the aisle of bars selling roses. These children are under 10 years old and selling flowers to the Western men to buy for their woman of the night. The money the children make from selling roses goes to an adult at the end of each evening. They walk past these bars late at night and they see all that goes on.

They live in red light.

Last night several friends from the U.S. went with one of my colleagues and I to prayer walk in this area, in Chiang Mai’s red light district.

We had the chance to talk with several of these flower-selling youth for a few minutes.

It breaks my heart. At their age I was playing with Pet Shop Animals and Polly Pockets – not watching drunken men seduce women to the tune of this week’s favorite hit hip hop artist.

“God bless you,” I said in Thai to one of the girls as we said our goodbyes, leaving the children to make their rounds.

“God bless you too,” she answered.

Does she know who God is? Does she know Jesus loves the little children? Does she know true love isn’t a one-night stand?

I don’t know.

She knows the tune of Rihanna’s song.

Will you pray for these children?

3 Comments

Filed under Life

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

6 Comments

Filed under Life

Clean, unclean, washed in His blood

“I only do massages,” Angie* told me a few months ago.

She told me that she used to work for a “clean” massage parlor.

“Do you know what I mean by that?” she asked me.

I nodded, slowly.

The massage parlor she where she works now isn’t a clean parlor.

Angie said many of the other women she works with do “bad things,” like flirt and arrange to meet with men later for more money. She told me what they do is wrong and she doesn’t like it. She likes the art of massage and isn’t in the business for the “extra stuff.”

“I only get 80 baht, but I am not going to do bad things,” she said.”Do you understand what I mean?”

Yes, I said.

As we drove to church, Angie pointed out the clean and unclean massage parlors.

She said the other girls give her a hard time and try to tell her about all the money she’ll get. I tried to encourage her and told her she is doing the right thing. I shared about how our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and doing “bad things” doesn’t please God.

Angie makes a pittance. Her two children stay with extended family in another city. She’s living in a small room that she shares with several other women that’s above the massage parlor  working to save money for them. She comes from a huge family, I think she has at least 10 siblings.

They are so poor. It breaks my heart.

At church, the speaker talked about struggling with worry and how the Lord answered his prayers and showed him that He is the provider. It was a simple message, but oh so apropos. Angie worries about money and supporting her family and she said the message really encouraged her.

I worry about such small things. I have enough to eat, enough to support myself and enough go see 3D movies. She has so much more to worry about.

During the prayer time at church, Angie asked if I could teach her how to pray. I was ecstatic.

I told her praying is just like talking to a dear friend. I told her I say God or Father usually when I start and share my worries and requests. Then, I told her I thank Him for how He’s answered my prayers and I praise Him for who He is.

She asked if she could hold our hands and pray. Precious. Her prayer was so sweet and simple. It gives me goosebumps, yes, the glorious kind, just thinking about it. She prayed for my grandparents, who I told them had been sick and she prayed for herself to understand who God is.

When she finished praying, her face was radiant. I don’t say that in the cliche way. She was literally radiating.

“That felt so good!” she said.

God heard your prayer, I told her. I told her she can pray wherever and whenever she wanted to.

Angie is one of those people you feel like you’ve known longer than you really have.

I know my friends and coworkers would agree. Three of us have gotten to know Angie and I’d daresay we’ll never be the same.

Stay tuned for more stories of God’s greatness and how He’s moved and worked in Angie’s life.

*name changed

Leave a comment

Filed under Life

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.

4 Comments

Filed under Life