Today it is on my heart to write about the goings on of an outreach. A weekly event which plays strongly on my heart. The emotions that run through me are incredibly mixed. The love I feel on these outreaches is sometimes incontrollable. It spills out of me. To be able to go and meet with women on a weekly basis is an absolute privilege. To sit and sip a cool refreshing mango juice eating some chocolate goodies in a brothel is to me normality and I just adore it, yet one mustn’t forget the darkness that these outreaches entail. We are not naïve, we understand that not only are we at risk of danger but we are fighting a spiritual battle. As I step off the sky train post 7pm into the red-light district of Bangkok the oppression sits heavily on my shoulders. Has this feeling become normal to me? No, I don’t think it has nor will it ever.
Let me take you on an outreach. First let’s skip back to last Friday evening. Our little team meets prior to outreach and we begin catching up on our day. The atmosphere is always one of joy and light humour. When you work in an area such as we do you have to keep up the entertainment. There is a time for weeping and a time for laughing.
The most important thing we can do as a team is pray. We must remember this is not about us. We are mere vessels for God’s work. When we take time to focus on Jesus we open our hearts and our ears. We can get a sense of where he wants us to go and who he wants us to connect with. I must note here that it is also equally important for us to talk about what is on our minds and where our hearts are on that day. If spiritually we feel low or it’s generally been a tough old day we need to ensure we talk about this and get it off our chest, if we don’t it will only distract us and make us more vulnerable.
As we walk out in our groups (Usually about 3’s or 4’s) We head into Nana Plaza. Nicknamed “The World’s Largest Adult Playground” Tonight me and 3 others are heading into a bar named “Bangkok Bunnies” claiming to only advertise “Real women” with the ever-growing culture of Lady boys within Thailand this bar felt the need to state just what you were purchasing.
We step inside, the bar is heaving tonight. I have visited this specific bar around 3 times previously but tonight I was seeing it at near enough full capacity. The music was blaring and there was sexual anticipation in the air. My favourite Song by Ed Sheeran was remixed into a club hit and it was contributing to the excitable atmosphere. Tonight, all eyes were upon the stage. Around 35 women were crammed onto a platform. Some were topless, some were sporting bikins, no matter the difference they all had one thing in common. Attached to the women was a number. If a man wishes to either spend some time with this women or purchase her for the night he simply calls over the Mama San ( Boss ) and states the number he desires. It’s that simple. The women has become an object, an object to be bought and returned the next day. One of the women comes over to talk to me. You must understand that we look out of place. Why should a small group of women come in to watch this show? Ofcourse our sexuality Is questioned. When all the awkwardness is dealt with and we assure them we have just come to chat they relax. We are safe. Our touch is safe, our eyes are safe.
On this night I have the pleasure of talking to a beautiful women called *Leah, she is 23 , tonight she wants to talk if not at least to have a rest from prying eyes. I am required to pay for her time to chat so I order her a drink, we have at least 10 minutes. I find out from her that she has been working at this bar for 1 month however she has worked in other bars prior to this. She comes from an Eastern province in Thailand where many of the other women in the bars come from. I want to know her heart, I want to know why she is here and most of all I want to know her dreams. She wants to work for an airline one day as cabin crew. She adores people however since working in the bars her perception of people has become somewhat distorted. Despite these dreams, she feels trapped. Her sense of worth has disappeared. She does not see herself the way I see her, the way her creator sees her. In front of me sits the most stunning girl, her smile is full of heart. I do not see an object and skin to be taken.
When our time is up *Leah retreats back to the stage and continues to dance in the bid to attracting a customer. I try to get eye contact with her, I want her to know that I am for her and that my gaze is different to the usual looks she receives. I look forward to meeting her again next week.
Taking a long look around the area, men are entranced. It is so interesting to observe, they click their fingers and women are obedient to their call. I am not here to judge the actions of others nor would I want to. I believe there is a reason that drives a man there to this bar in order to pay for affection but that’s a story for another time.
When we leave the bar, we walk around the plaza taking In the atmosphere and proclaiming the name of Jesus, there is no doubt about it, this place is dark however in some twisted way it has become normal. To me this area is a trap for men and women alike. It’s full of false promises. Somewhere along the line the truth was twisted. The lie that it is ok to pay for sex was believed by many in our society. Exploitation takes place in these streets every single day and yet when you walk around you could almost be mistaken by the smiles. It’s a charade, an act. Behind those smiles are tales of desperation and sadness.
Every week I walk into Nana Plaza I have a sense of belonging. My job is to bring light and love. I am not an outsider, I belong in those bars just as much as the customers, if not more.
It’s been a busy week for nightlight. Our outreaches have come with the specific focus of handing out invitations for our medical clinic which we had on Wednesday night. I am excited to say that we had around 60 women walk through our doors for a check-up. Alongside this we also had nail painting and music playing. It was a safe space for both Thai and international women to come. Looking back and processing the evening, I feel joy at what took place. I see it as a blessing to be able to spend time with these women. It has given me life and I hope in the small hours of the morning they felt a sense of love and peace.
What I have learnt that after breakthroughs and joy, attack will happen. On the night of the medical clinic a raid took place on the streets of the Red light area and many African women were taken away by the police. They were treated as criminals and not as victims. I have not seen the women since this took place so I am unsure as to their whereabouts. Please pray for their safety, my heart is breaking for them.
Please pray for *Leah. I want her to be free. I have seen the way her eyes light up when she talks of the dreams on her heart. Pray that a seed would slowly start to grow.
The number of African women on the streets is increasing dramatically. These women are victims of human trafficking and each story is worse than the last. It pains me. Pray for freedom and protection every single night that they are forced to work.
*Name changed to protect identity.