Last Friday evening I returned to Seoul after a long, hot week in Bangkok partnering with and learning from ministries deep in the trenches of the Red Light districts. I’ve never been more thankful to flop in my own bed and simply be in silence (8 high school girls and 3 leaders all staying in one room is an experience too much for anyone – especially an introvert). I have also never been more touched experiencing God at work in some of the darkest places on the planet.
Many stories and books lie unwritten (for now) after this intense trip, but today I write just one of them.
Jill* attends our school and is a Junior this year. An extremely intelligent, sheltered 16-year-old with kind eyes and a compassionate smile holds a bright future in front of her. This bright future, surely pushed on her by her ever-achieving Korean parents, consists of ivy league schools, some lucrative career she probably doesn’t want, and high academics along the way… this girl is now friends with a prostitute.
Jill confided in our team earlier during the trip that she doesn’t like to cry,
especially with people.
She only cries alone.
When told that this trip “makes you cry” she questioned, “What if I don’t cry? Does that mean I don’t care?”
I assured her everyone’s response to injustices like trafficking and prostitution is different. Some people respond with tears, others respond with anger and even some respond with silent breaking.
As we cleaned up the nail polish, put away the chairs and swept the room that evening, I noticed Jill was not with the rest of the team. Our team threw a party – a party for prostitutes! A prostitute party. The blue hairs at church would change the subject at hearing about this kind of a party. No one talks about prostitutes at church. (Yet the Bible seems to be brimming with prostitutes – and what a horror to see that one of them, Rahab, even makes it into the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew’s Gospel! This, my dear readers is for another blog.)
During the prostitute party, we laughed, oh how we laughed. Laughter always seems to extend beyond language and cultural barriers.
The gift of laughter breaks down walls.
Laughter reminds us we are all the same, we are all human.
We played games, we worshiped together, we experienced the Spirit of God at work in the lives of these precious women. The only difference between “us” and “them” is just perhaps that life experiences somehow forced them to make a living in this way. To be exploited and sell their bodies to survive.
Jill became friends with a prostitute. A bleached-blonde, 40-year-old beautiful Thai woman. This woman waited patiently to talk to Jill. She waited patiently to have Jill, and only Jill, paint her nails. They laughed together trying to bridge the language gap and made a strong connection that night. The 16-year-old Korean girl and the 40-something-year-old prostitute.
After the women left and we continued cleaning, I discovered Jill in the corner, alone, with crocodile tears streaming down her eyes. She looked away from me as I approached her, embarrassed. This young girl who doesn’t like to cry in front of anyone; so I simply wrapped my arms around her.
“Yesterday when we saw the women standing in front of the bars and on the streets I was numb. I didn’t feel anything.”
“But tonight, I realized these women are people.”
* Names changed to protect identities, of course
There are many ministries who work to provide jobs with dignity to men and women who are in vulnerable situations, especially in Bangkok. For more information, or if you’d like to donate any amount please visit: