Christmas is supposed to be a time of celebrating with loved ones. But for many people around the world — it’s a lonely season.
I’ve just returned from visiting women in some of Thailand’s largest red-light districts, which, in my opinion, is one of the loneliest places on earth. Most of these girls didn’t choose to be here; they were forced into the sex industry by extreme poverty. They’ve had to do something — anything — to provide for their families, who in many cases live far away in rural villages.
This was the case for Palma, whose name I’ve changed to protect her.
Too poor to get a good education, Palma decided to look for work in Bangkok. “I never intended to work in the bars,” she said. But shortly after arriving in the city, a man took advantage of Palma. She lost her virginity and, with it, her self-worth. She became depressed and started believing that the only work she was good enough for was the sex industry.
After two long years of working in the bars and on the streets, Palma was completely worn down. “I felt very tired, and I had no happiness,” she said. Then, she met a stranger who invited her to a Christmas party.
Generous donors help provide a Christmas party each year for the girls who work in bars in Pattaya and Bangkok. These donors provide the “bar fees” — what a girl would normally earn for her workplace that night — so the girls are free to leave and have a night off.
At the party, the girls can relax, play games, enjoy a special meal, and simply be themselves. They also hear the Gospel and learn about the opportunity to start a new life at a Freedom Home, where they can receive an education or vocational training, have a safe place to live, and learn more about Jesus.
I had the privilege of attending one of these parties last week. It was so powerful leading the women out of the bar and to a place where they would be introduced to freedom.
Last year, Palma was one of those girls marching out of the bar, and it was the beginning of her own personal freedom story.
A second chance at life
At the party, Palma felt herself begin to dream again. She realized she wasn’t as alone as she had felt. There were other girls like her, and there were other ways she could earn a living besides selling her body every night.
That evening, Palma decided she wanted to leave her life on the streets and begin again somewhere safe. And on Jan. 1 — the beginning of a new year and a new start — Palma moved into the Freedom Home.
Palma began a vocational training where she learned how to bake delicious sweets. But most importantly, she learned about Christ.
Now Palma is a follower of Christ and a small business owner. After completing her training, she went back home where she opened a successful baking business. This Christmas, she returned to the Christmas parties to share her story with other women living the lonely life she once knew all too well.
Listening to her testimony was truly inspiring:
“If we don’t open our hearts to something new, it will never happen,” she said, “so I encourage you when you go home tonight to think about ‘Do you want to stay in this same place or do you want to begin again? I want everybody here to have joy like I have joy. My life is beautiful now.”
Today, you can give that same joy to another girl like Palma. Your $50 gift will help introduce a girl to freedom by providing her with essentials like a place to stay, education, medical care, counseling, and more.
Will you help give one girl back her right to dream of a better life? You’ll be giving her the best Christmas present you could ever give this year.