What I learned in Thailand

This blog was written in April 2010, during my time Thailand on the World Race

There are 27 million people in slavery in the world today.

80% are women who have been trafficked.

The revenues from the modern global slave trade add up to $32 billion.
Before coming on the World Race I was unaware of these statistics. I was busy living my own live, going to class, and trying to make rent every month. I was too busy. I was too busy until now. These statistics are now my reality; the women trapped in sex slavery are no longer just a number to me but now have names and faces.
Every night I pursue these women. I want to hear their stories and tell them there is hope. Some don’t want to leave and some don’t believe it’s possible, but every one of them is worth it.
Walking down Soi Gonzo one woman caught my attention and I turned to talk to her. Immediately my senses were hit with the strong smell of alcohol as she moved forward to hug me. Casually I took her hands off of me and put them back on her own lap. I kept telling myself she’s drunk and she is just trying to do her job. What the heck?! Her job is throwing herself at men and women alike, anything to make a buck. As she wobbled precariously on her bar stool and chattered in broken English my heart broke for her.
I asked her questions about her life and she willingly told me. She came from Bangkok trying to flee from an abusive boyfriend. She did not have any children and she had been working at the bar for 2 months. She didn’t like it but she felt she had little choice. While she tells me her story I glance over at the bartender and see her glaring at me. I shuddered as I felt those hard eyes bore into mine. She was not happy we were talking to one of her girls.
As I direct my attention back to *Jasmine she bats her eyelashes at me and asks how long we will be here for. I quickly explain why we are there and emphasize we are her friends – we do not want to use her. She doesn’t seem to understand what I mean by friend though, because when I ask if she could meet us for lunch the next day she thought I wanted to buy her. I felt like I was hitting a concrete wall. How could this precious daughter of God think I wanted to buy her for sex? I wanted to take her away from that bar and the lies she was entrenched in, yet all I could do was continue to ask her questions and hold her roaming hands down on the table.
She told me that she lived above the bar in one room with ten other women. They were not allowed to go anywhere unless they went with a customer. She didn’t see any of the money she made at the bar as it went straight to her room and board. Her only other income was whatever the customer decided to pay her for sex. As she talked I could see the sadness in her eyes and hear the fear in her voice. She wanted out but she was too scared to do anything.
I wrote out the number for SHE Thailand and told her I would visit her again. Hopefully next time she would be sober and understand that we really want to just help her. As I walked away from Jasmine I felt tears coming on. I had to quickly get out of there before I totally fell apart. My teammates, Andrea and Tamica, knew I was crumbling. They followed me to an isolated spot on the beach where I just stood there and cried. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. That girl thought I wanted to buy her! All she knows is lies and abuse and lust and sex. My heart broke because I know our Father had created her for so much more, and He feels her hurt and pain and loneliness. As I cried I found myself on my knees begging God to intervene somehow. I didn’t care if He used me or not, I just wanted someone to help her. It didn’t matter that she had hit on me and made me feel uncomfortable, I had felt God’s love for her; I had seen her through His eyes. And all I could do was cry and pray for her. Together, my teammates and I handed Jasmine over to God that night. With our eyes closed and our heads bowed we thanked Him for bringing her to us and we asked Him to protect her. I could have sat on that beach all night crying out to God, but after awhile I knew it was time to go. There were still so many girls out there just like Jasmine who needed help. So with one last look at the ocean we all stood up, brushed the sand off ourselves, and headed back into the bars.

SHE Thailand: Started in 2006, SHE (Self Help and Empowerment) is a Christian charity committed to helping women and children at risk in Thailand, many of whom are trapped in the commercial sex trade. SHE is dedicated to providing employment, vocational training and counseling for women who want to help themselves out of this industry. All proceeds go directly to helping them find employment, community, friendship, restoration, and above all restoration of their own value.