In the city of Pataya, with over 35000 women working as prostitutes, and in the slums of Bankok, we have seen some incredible organizations doing God's work in places we would think of as godless. Continue reading "Examples in integration"
I didn't expect to find refugees in Thailand, but I wasn't surprised. Thailand currently has around 10,000 refugees, which isn't very many compared to the sorroundong countries which might have as many as 10x the number of refugees. Many of these refugees are Pakistani Christians that fled religious persecution. Patrick, a Pakistan refugee that we met, explained that each person's religion is displayed on their ID card which makes it easy to identify Christians. He told us about a Christian family that was killed due to blasphemy against Islam. Continue reading "Refugee School"
During our stay here in Siem Reap, we had the wonderful opportunity to tour a few of NIBC's schools in the area. New International Builders Community (NIBC) is a Christian nonprofit operating in the Siem Reap area of Cambodia dedicated to improving the education of kids within the community. Among a few of operations of NIBC are a charter school, elementary school, and a international university focused on training future leaders. We also had the privilege of meeting the students of these schools. A few of the things we did was play with kids in the elementary school, assist in the classroom with English, and worship with the university students. In all of these activities I was blessed to interact with many wonderful students and teachers. A question presented to us was "how has your preception of the kingdom of God changed since coming to Cambodia?" Since this trip has started, I've come to realize just how wide-reaching God and Christianity is. I've heard many times before how Christianity reaches across the world, but by interacting with the faith of the students and members of NIBC, I've come to realize a little better what that means. It is easy to fall into the habit of imagining Christianity as a larger scale extension of Calvin and the CRC. This is not the the case though. By praying with other students in their native tongues and belting out bible songs with Cambodian children, I've seen just how global and diverse Christianity is. The global diversity of the church is something I find amazing and I believe is a key part of the kingdom of God. Ive been blessed to vist NIBC and all the other grouos dedicated to helping Cambodia. As I go along this trip, I also hope to see the more of God's rich and diverse kingdom.
One of the first days of this trip I was talking to Professor Dornbos about the state of the country of Thailand and he said something that I haven't been able to shake since I've began noticing it. He presented the countries of Thailand and Cambodia as countries of contrasts. These contrasts have become increasingly noticeable as the trip has worn on. One of the first groups we worked with, UNOH, explained that often times pockets of slums exist in close proximity to brand new sky risers due to the fact that a building company will erect shanty towns for their migrant workers. Continue reading "A World of Contrasts – Blog Post 2"
During our first day in Bangkok half of us had the opportunity to visit a Pakistani refugee learning center. We were able to meet some incredible people with cool stories. In Bangkok there is a UN post so refugees from different countries, such as Pakistan flee to Bangkok. They do this so they have a higher chance of being resettled. The government in Thailand doesn't do much to help them. The police will arrest the refugees and send them to jail, where they can pay bail to get out. Once they pay bail the government leaves them alone because they already have there money. So they are unable to work, which makes it harder for them to support their families. Continue reading "Blogpost2- refugees"
My heart was broken into a million pieces on January 11, not once, but 34,000 times--the estimated number of prostitutes in Pattaya. This, tied with the fact that of the 8 to 9 million tourists per year, 75% are males. This makes Pattaya the sex capital of the world. It also falls in third place for women. Today, 17 Caucasian males and females walk the streets of the Pattaya in a densely packed bar area. At 2 PM, we started our slow silent trek through the streets. All the time the women were catcalling or curiously studying us. The street we walked was a designated street for foreign men seeking Thai women or lady men, a pattern started by the US GIs seeking prostitutes company during the Vietnam war. I saw a girl no more than 15 years old working to win the attention of a passerby. Another, using vulgar hand motions to successfully attractive a male. Seductive smiles were pasted onto their faces when a potential customer was there. But as soon as a potential left, the prostitutes return to an empty expression offering a small window into their hearts. Police intervention is limited, choosing to step in only when the age minimum of 15 is not met. Other than that, police are common patrons Pattaya. In this place, where is God working? His servants at Tamar L.I.F.E. Foundation actively work to take the women, who are most often in the profession by choice, off the streets but equipping them with support, career, and English lessons. Nevertheless, although this seems like the obvious choice to a westerner, the prostitutes' morbidity rate exist due to the appeal of money and familial pressure. Of all the outreach the Tamar center creates, The most prominent for me was the bimonthly party where the Tamar center goes out and buys 100 women from the bars for the night and then tells them they are free for the night. However, they can choose to come to a party equipped with games, prizes, food, and a worship service with a short sermon. To offer a woman or a lady man freedom for an evening while also creating an environment conducive to evangelism? God is working here. So how do we react to something so foreign? All the NGOs we talked to, asked us not for money (although it is needed) but for prayer. God placed the phrase "let your love reign down, let your love rain down" over and over while we were praying for the city. Daniel, are the man who manages operations at the Tamar Center, asked us to remember Thailand, remember Pattaya and to pray for the women who are prostitutes, the lady men, the men and women who seek prostitutes, and for the bar owners. Also for the operations: for Christly decisions, for the funds necessary for operation to be made consistently available, and for direction.
As we left the city of Bangkok, I could not help but feel that this place needs the forgiveness and love of Christ Jesus. My pray for them is that those who are lost, be it in sex trafficking to drugs, to find their way to you. May they seek forgiveness for their action and change their ways. Please Lord give those who live in the slum and extrem poverty love as well as hope that their is a future that will be better than it is now. Please be with the workers who try to help these people find you in their ministers, be it in money, strength to carry on, and hope that great things will come from their work. May we never forget what we saw in our time in Thailand, so that we can share their story to the world allowing more aid to come their way. In your holy name Amen.
I am super tired drained at the moment, but do not want to hold off on updating about my experiences today. (We are all currently sharing a couple of computers to post, so I apologize for the inconsistency. First world problems, I know!) I am eager to share as I am sure many of you are to read (or at least I hope!) Sorry in advance for length. Today was an emotionally taxing day. My group had the opportunity to visit the city of Pattaya, the world's number one sex tourism destination. We visited the Tamar Center and got information regarding their work in Thailand. We learned a lot about the history and what has caused it to be what it is today. Thailand has never been colonized and therefore has never been exposed to Christianity to the degree of other countries. The Buddhist religion does not inherently prohibit the act of prostitution and interestingly enough, Monks go to prostitutes to "experience" all of life.(I am not really sure how to say that any other way?) 90% of Thai men go to prostitutes, but it is shameful, so the brothels they go to are private and cannot be seen. So this leaves us with the question of all of the infamous stories of bars and streets filled with prostitutes. Well their main clientele is foreigners... Unlike the sex trafficking we often hear about, the Thai women are free to leave whenever they want. The difference is that there is pressure from their families due to financial reason. This is known as indirect prostitution. It is illegal, but the police are corrupt and do not care as long as the prostitutes are not underage(, which is 15 in Thailand). The Tamar Center focuses on helping the age group of 16-40. They have an Outreach Center, which is located in the midst of what is essentially a red light district. They visit the bars and invite the girls to visit their center. They offer programs like teaching the girls hairdressing skills, English, and counseling. As heartbroken as it was to see these girls and lady boys(males transitioning to becoming females) in the streets, I could not help but feel sadness for the old men who were seeking companion from these prostitutes. I cannot help but think of what ways we can help these men as well. The Outreach Center has played contemporary Christian music outside their building and it has caused people to stand outside and listen. It is little, but I have hope that change is possible.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to experience visiting the Tamar Center in Pattaya. Before I proceed, I shall first paint a picture of Pattaya. Pattaya is the sex tourism of the world. There are approximately 35,000 prostitutes and 8,000 lady boys. Prostitution has been in Thailand for generations, as nearly 90% of men partake. Roughly 75% of tourists come for sex. The Tamar Center is working within this community and aims to provide outreach to the target demographic of 16-4o year olds. Tamar provides educational opportunities, hairstylist training, counseling, and jobs with a graceful evangelical touch. I was took back by their compassion, and optimistic outlook. The center does a great job of spreading the Good News. We were blessed to tour their facilities in the center of a prominent red light district street. Upon reaching the top floor, we were greeted with a breathtaking view of the street and all its business. As a group, we were given the chance to pray over the city, the building and the street. I prayed for quite a number of things. I first and foremost prayed for the prostitutes. I pray that God touches their hearts and shows them His love, compassion and forgiveness and grace. May they be touched and blessed by the Tamar Center and the positive outreach being done in their industry. May they be protected by God from the disgusting men and all that comes with. May God inspire change and for them not to be withold from the culture of shame and their family's dependance on the income. May You protect their well-being. Emotionally, many of these women had expressions of brokenness, loneliness, and depression. May God's love lift their spirits and help them find joy. When visiting I became highly aware of the potential health issues that these women face. As HIV/AIDS prevalence is relatively unknown, may You encourage openness, and remove the shame that is associated with seeking medical attention. May the industry support proper prevention and health awareness to the women as health education is invaluable especially when used to diminish misconceptions of personal heath, promote adoption and raising children. Tom summarize, I prayed for that God may transform these women and improve their wellbeing. I chose to also pray for those visiting these bars and brothels. When scanning the crown, I noticed many alone Caucasian men. Upon analyzing body language and facial expression, I felt deep concern and sorrow for these men. It had me wondering exactly why they are visiting, what they are dealing with. Many of these men likely have families, and potentially even wives. What led them to seek prostitution? What demnons are they fighting? What are they trying to escape? I pray that God will open the eyes of these men and awaken them from their cycle of sin. May they feel God's love and may God transform these men. When listening to Daniel speak about Tamar's operations, he mentioned a well known CCM song "God of this City." It struck me upon hearing that this song was about THIS city. Daniel's message was that God WILL change this city. I wanted to leave you with the music and a small prayer list provded by the Tamar Center Chris Tomlin God of This City Prayer Points:
- A deep understanding of the Thai culture and language
- Protection while working in the red light districts
- Good team unity and good health for us
- Wisdom for the work and ideas to move the work forward.
Today was our last day in Thailand before we head to Cambodia. With each day, there is something meaningful. Today We visited an organization that ministers to elderly people who live in the slums of the city. This is nothing like I had imagined. The living conditions are horrifying. There is no way to describe it accurately. The smell is strong with smoke and waste. There is years worth of trash covering everything. Going to that community, my life felt so irrelevant. These people have piles of stress, yet show so much gratitude for what they have. Not only that, but they are eager to share whatever they have with others. For example, the founder of the Ruth Center, Noi, told one grandma to remember that she should eat some of the oranges we gave her too, instead of just giving them to her grandchildren. It is hard to fathom how appreciative people can be when they live 7 people in a house that is the size of my bedroom. I did not expect this trip to have such a spiritual impact on my life. This is a good thing and it has come at a good time for me personally. Yesterday, in church, we sang Blessed be Your Name, and it really hit home for me. "Blessed be your name in the land that is plentiful/ Blessed be your name , on the road marked with suffering" Every single person that I've encountered on this trip is well acquainted with both places, but it is so clear here how strong God is through all of it. God's really cool like that. Even though the people we saw today had barely anything, God still had placed people in their life to get them from one day to the next, and sometimes that's all it takes. Thanks for that, God. Not only for doing that in this beautiful country of Thailand, but also in my life. Even when I haven't seen it.