Lately, life has shifted gears and moved into fast-forward. We arrived in Thailand about a week ago, and I've already started bar-hopping ... my ministry this month.
I'm serving on a fantastic team of all women this month, while Jack gets some bonding time with the men on our squad - he's doing manual labor and mentoring kids at an orphanage that rescues vulnerable children from the cycle of human trafficking.
We are about an hour away from each other, will only see each other a few days this month, and expect our time apart to challenge and stretch us as we focus on separate ministries and allow our lives to look different for the month.
My ministry this month is very unique, and very new to me. It's also something I'd like to invite you to join in a special way. My passion for this ministry is best expressed by Carly Crookston; an amazing woman, a gifted writer, and one of my new team members. She wrote the peice below that describes what we're doing this month. I'm thrilled to serve alongside her as we reach out to broken women this month ...
broken women in the red-light district...
How much is she worth?
How much money would you be willing to pay to hang out with your waitress for the night? Five dollars? Ten dollars? More? Less?
What if she was your best friend? What if she was your little sister? What if she was your daughter? What if she was your wife?
How much then?
Take a walk with me. We're in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It's nearly midnight, but you wouldn't know it by the looks of it -- the lights flicker and glow enticingly, the music blares, the streets pulse with all of the people on them. We walk into a bar, slide into a booth and a young woman comes to take our order. To call her a young woman might be a little bit generous -- she can't be much older than eighteen. She's pretty, the way that all of the women here are pretty with their fine bone structure and round cheeks and sweet smiles. Can you see her? Who does she look like?
To me, she looks like my best friend Andrea. She looks like my sisters-in-law, Kimberly and Abigail. Could this have been one of them? What if they hadn't been priviledged enough to be born in America, into homes that sheltered them from the harsh reality of forced prostitution?
If you read this blog, chances are that you know me. You've probably talked with me or spent time with me at some point… After reading these posts for the past seven months, you surely know what I've been experiencing and learning lately. So what if it was me? What if I was the girl “waiting tables” at these bars and I was tired? What if I was tired of my life, but I had no other options? Would you help me?
If you read this blog, chances are that I know you. And after being blessed by your generosity and support thus far, I know that you would help me. To many of you, I am your friend, your sister, your daughter -- or at least, I could be. You wouldn't pass by me when I was desperate. I know that you wouldn't.
So let's not pass by these women when they are desperate. Let's not pass by the young girls stuck in these bars. Let's not walk past them, most of whom are not here by their own design. Close your eyes and see your little girl, your best friend, your only sister, exploited and alone. What are you going to do about it?
My team and I are partnering with Lighthouse in Action ministries this month. We're walking those streets, sitting in those bars, talking with those girls and our goal is to be Jesus. We're not walking in with Bibles, preaching a message of condemnation or anger. We're walking in to be girlfriends. We're trying to get to know these girls, to build relationships. The program director made it very clear: we're not a SWAT team running in to grab the women. We're farmers -- we're planting seeds, watering them, and maybe even harvesting a couple if the season is right.
How do we do that specifically? Our ministry this month centers around two of my favorite things -- praying and dating. Every day and every night, some part of our team will be in the prayer room, interceding for this country and the women that we meet. Then we spend two days and two nights a week in bars, getting to know the girls and inviting them out on dates. We want to take them to lunch, to the movies, to get our nails done -- the regular things girlfriends do with one another. Ministry this month is deeply relational. Success is not counted in how many women we personally pull out of the bar scene; it's about the depth and quality of friendships made.
But I need your help. My team needs your help. We have to pay to buy ourselves [non-alcoholic] drinks in every bar we go -- even the ones we go in just to pray. We have to pay to buy the women drinks and the price doubles. I'm hoping to get to the point where I can offer to pay a girl's bar fee, pay to take her out of there for the night. Then on any of the dates we have, we're paying for the women. But all of this requires cash, something that runs pretty short after seven months around the world. My team and I are trying to raise some money so that we can treat these women. We want to make some real, quality friendships -- friendships where we aren't trying to get anything out of them, but just showing them the love of Jesus through our lives.
If you would be willing to partner with us on this, you can email me for more information on how to give. Any money that we have left over after the end of the month will be given to this ministry; a prominent bar is closing at the end of April and the director has a vision for a rehabilitation program, where the women can come to learn about Jesus, but also to learn practical job skills. The four-month program costs about $1,000 dollars per woman, so any money that we do not use “dating” the girls will go directly towards that project.
So there we are, sitting in the booth. The pretty girl's name is Nam and she's ready to take our order. What will you have? Coca-cola? A cocktail? Maybe the girl herself?
He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8