Hello from Thailand!
This is the first update since arriving and I’ve officially been here for 9 days. At present I’m writing this blog from my apartment in Bangkok. This is where I’ll be staying for 3 months (till December 16) to learn Thai at Union Language School. (Today I completed one week of classes!) As I was preparing to leave for Thailand, I presumed that once I arrived I would hit the ground running, however, the pace is a lot slower over here. I’ve had plenty of time to meet my new missionary family, revive from jet lag, get into a morning routine, start exploring the city, settle into living on my own, and practice a little bit of Thai. It’s been really fun! A typical day for me looks like, waking up at 5:30am to spend time reading, working out at 6:00am and leaving for school by 7:30am. Class starts at 8:00am and ends at 12:00pm. I then walk back to my apartment drop off my notebooks and walk down the street to find some lunch.
There are many food vendors on every street, and about 3,650 7-Eleven stores in Bangkok alone. The city is very convenient, urban, and exciting. The best way I can describe Bangkok: it’s a myriad of cities within a city. The Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS), or Skytrain, runs through the city, and every stop (I’d estimate less than 10 minutes between each stop) is PACKED with street vendors, apartments, business complexes, malls, mom&pop shops, and every possible thing one person could need in a lifetime! I’m wagering it’s impossible to see every cool thing in the city of Bangkok alone. So far, Thailand is a multi-faceted diamond to me, every day there is something new to explore.
There are many tourists here, so I don’t stick out as much, which is nice, because it gets awkward having locals stare at me like they’ve never seen a white person before. ;) I got to talk to a couple other missionaries about the tourists that visit the “red light districts.” I found out that those notorious 3-story bars are a lot closer to me than I realized. Nana, is one city that is most popular for the teeming go-go bars and beers bars. In the next couple of weeks I plan to go with an outreach team to the bars and persuade some of the dancers and hostesses to talk with the Thai members of the outreach team. In learning about the culture, and particularly how the culture plays into the problem of sexual exploitation, the issue seems increasingly daunting and the resolution hopeless.
That’s just me telling you how I honestly felt. Let me share a little of what I learned on how women get into sexually exploitative situations in Bangkok. Starting with the family unit, it is socially expected that Thai parents provide for their son’s education, while the daughter is expected to care for the parents. If a young woman cannot care for her parents, or if she chooses a job that is not very lucrative (ie. being a businesswoman), she will be burdened with a lot of shame. For that reason, a woman is highly praised when she decides to work as a hostess in the bars of Bangkok. In the bars, the women are expected to meet business quotas, however, they typically do not know how much money they make. The money they are given, is sent home to their family.
The injustice of sexual exploitation is not simply due to poverty, otherwise we could throw down some money and fix it. It’s not simply due to unfair gender roles, otherwise we could Westernize the nation and fix it (that’s a joke ;). It’s not simply a sex addiction, or simply the love of money, or simply low self-esteem, or simply a corrupt government, or simply the product of growing up in a broken home. What these people need is Jesus! All of those factors play a role in feeding the system of sexual exploitation and the only way to interrupt the cycle is to present the love of Christ to individuals who need to be made new. So as I was laying in my bed yesterday night crying to God because “how does one person affect a nation?” He reminded me that He is the one who established the Heavens and the Earth. Psalm 8:3–4 says “When I consider Your Heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that you take thought of him? And the son of man that You care for him?” God calls out the stars by name (Isaiah 40:26), He set in place every detail of the human body (Psalms 139), He alone created Heaven and Earth in six days.. it is not impossible for Him to speak into the human heart (Matthew 19:26). Also, Jesus was one man, who only lived on Earth for 33 years, and yet His legacy lives on. And so I ask God that He would teach me to number my days and establish the work of my hands (Psalm 90).
On my own the problem is daunting and the resolution hopeless. But God simply calls me to live a life of surrendered, loving obedience to Him, and by His power and for His name’s sake, He will turn the world upside down.
So, onward we go!