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From the Field | Ending Bondage in Bangkok



  • February 26, 2016
Noel Brewer Yeatts

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Bangkok, Thailand is the last stop in my journey—and it’s here where the horrors of the international sex industry seem to culminate. There’s an estimated 15,000 sex workers in one area of the city alone, and thousands of individuals from around the world come to visit for one reason.

These visitors call it “sex tourism,” as if it were simply a part of their holiday experience.

I’m broken by what I’ve seen in Bangkok, still unable to fully process my emotions. But here is the raw version—because I can’t tidy these truths up. I just can’t.

Watch From the Field: Thailand | Rebuilding Lives of Sex Workers in Bangkok from World Help.

I came to Thailand to tell you the truth . . . but also to show you hope.

Our partner is located in Bangkok’s red-light district. It’s a place of refuge in the middle of devastating darkness. Our team works by entering busy bars and building personal relationships with the women entertaining there.

Then they make them an offer: the chance to leave the sex trade once and for all and complete their education for free—whether that means finishing high school, attending a university, or earning a vocational degree. While there, each woman in the program is offered a safe place to stay, three meals a day, counseling, the support of a loving community, and the love and dignity of Christ.

Because most of these women are uneducated and come from impoverished backgrounds, the offer almost seems too good to be true. For these women, education is their escape from prostitution. But it also leaves them with a choice . . . to invest in their education or earn money every night on the streets.

Thailand Red Light

The answer is simple, right?

Actually, it’s far from simple. So many of these women work in Bangkok to help support their families back home. They make 10 times the amount here than they would in their own villages, and to quit would leave their families empty-handed.

The sex industry is a complex web . . . but I saw the redemption that’s possible through compassionate dedication.

I joined our partner one evening in the heart of Bangkok’s red-light district—a regular routine for her as she seeks to build trust with these young women. We sat down at a go-go bar, waiting for the right opportunity to speak to whomever would eventually wait on our table. All around me I saw men—mostly western—bidding on women who were literally numbered.

I felt sick.

Thailand Sex Workers

There in the bar, surrounded by vulgarity and what seemed like the abandonment of all justice, the gravity of the situation began to suffocate me. It was all I could do to hold back the tears and appear strong. But as soon as I got back in our vehicle, my emotions poured out.

“How do you do this . . . every night?” were the only words I could muster shakily through tears to our partner later that evening. And it was as if her response was the answer I had been waiting for all along.

“If we don’t do it, who will?”

It hit me. This isn’t someone else’s problem. This is our problem.

 

In God’s perfect timing, at our next stop, I saw our partner’s work in action and began to see the hope.

Our waitress arrived, and in an instant, our partner began her work. We had only moments with her. The urgency was so great. But in those few sacred minutes, she was told about the home and about receiving an education for free. We learned this young lady had only just begun her career as a bar girl, but the desperation was already visible on her face. Her eyes lit up when we spoke of a different way of life, and we left her that night closer to hope than she had ever come since arriving in Bangkok.

Back at the home, I spoke with a young woman named Arinya who had found a new identity through the love and care she found there. She came to Bangkok when she was just 15 years old to help support her poor farming family.

She endured three years of working in the industry at a bar. And just when she thought she couldn’t take anymore, she heard about the Home of New Beginnings.

Thailand Sewing

Today, Arinya has graduated with a business degree and earns a respectable income. While at the home, she also discovered the love of her heavenly Father and couldn’t resist His forgiveness. Now, she feels called to reach out to women who were chained to a life of humiliation just like her.

One by one, this work is transforming lives for eternity.

Bangkok is where my journey ends, but it’s also where a new chapter begins. I invite you to partner with World Help as we continue to bring light to the dark . . . to set captives free . . . to do justice.

Each rescue takes considerable time and investment—but every penny is worth it. As I think back on the faces of the young women I met on this journey, those words still ring in my ears: If we don’t do it, who will?

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