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I didn’t ask to be challenged by the sex trade in Southeast Asia anymore than I asked to be challenged by the the AIDS pandemic in Africa. It’s one of those things that has rattled me out of the pillowed complacency of normal life and demanded that I care. It’s an easy issue to avoid – the sex trade shows the ugly underside of humanity – the part where one human degrades another human for personal pleasure. It’s seamy and evil.
Yet, I can recall how, as a 22 year-old neophyte in Bangkok, I was sadly ignorant. I didn’t understand the issues. Rather than responding with compassion, I viewed the whole thing as a kind of cultural spectacle. No one had prepared me for it and I didn’t begin to see the girls caught up in it as God saw them.
How could I understand the cultural pressures placed on a young girl growing up in the rice fields to care for her aging parents? How could I understand the mix of guilt and disgust she feels in trading her purity in return for money? How could I understand her desperation to turn a trick when she’s been spurned all night? Or the sense of worthlessness she feels from having traded herself away? Who could have explained to me the hopelessness she feels – the sense of being trapped?
My friend and ministry partner in Bangkok, Jim Larson, writes a blog about these struggles and sees them every day. A few examples from his recent experience:
Joy has been sick and discouraged, pulled down yet again by her dysfunctional mom.
Jane has been extra self-centered and shallow.
Waw is tired and depressed.
June started worry about money again–probably her biggest weak spot.
Wan left as quickly as she came back and obviously still needs more time.
Mint is just as stuck as ever in a sick codependent relationship.
In the last few years as more and more of our teams (my oldest two children on two of them) have ministered to girls caught in the sex trade, this issue has thrust itself into my awareness and rattled my cage. These young girls over there need our attention. Kim’s video captures it well.