Breaking silence, silently breaking

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:
http://www.dtonnaam.org/
http://www.nightlightinternational.com/about/

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apologies

Apologies dear readers for my silence as of late.  The weeks continue to slip by, I still can’t believe it’s AUGUST!  Not only that, but the 18th of August.  Time surely does fly by, that’s for sure.  Schools back in the states are starting up and summer back home is quickly fading.  It’s also weird to think that weather back home will turn to fall in about a months time, and here it may only cool down to the 80’s during November and December.

School, and everything related to school is as busy as ever.  My current project will be the first annual GES Talent Show!  This will be September 5th, and right now I’m in the process of auditioning groups, and working with students on putting some acts together.  I’m nervous about it… I’m just hoping everything will come together for the big day.  

I’m getting more involved with my church, CCC (http://www.cccthailand.org). I’m helping with the youth group, and have enjoyed getting the youth pastors, Paul and Joni.  Yesterday, we had our big youth kick of night, and I along with my friend Jonathan lead worship for the kids.  There were about 60 kids that showed up, and overall the night was a big success.  Most of the students are apart of the International school: ISB (International School of Bangkok) which is one of the top schools in all of Bangkok.  It just so happens to be located right in Nichada, the International community (the church is also located in Nichada).  So, it’s a very interesting mix of students that come to the youth events.  Some aren’t really even Christians, or interested in Christianity, they just like hanging out and having a good time. The families in this community are EXTREMELY wealthy and work for companies like Chevron, Nike, and some work at various Embassies here in Thailand.  And when they say “international” it really is international!  There are people from EVERYWHERE!  Anyway, I’ll be helping out with the Jr. High girls house group beginning next month, so that will be a great way to invest in some of their lives.  I will also be leading worship pretty often now for the main services at CCC.  I’m excited to get to do some teaching about what worship really is.. through action.  The church, as I have described, has an interesting mix of people, and every year there is a huge turn over rate with the dynamic of the church, so starting a fresh new year will be good.

Haaaa.  Another week ahead of us.  Like I said, time has been passing so quickly, and the weekends even quicker!  I’m enjoying my time here still, like I’ve said many of times, to many of you, I’m so blessed to be apart of what God is doing in Thailand now.  It’s a great place to live, seriously!  I’ve been a little homesick, but it’s quite funny to me, because I only get homesick during the weekends (usually) and it’s almost always when we are on our way out to Nichada for church.  I don’t know why… the place only reminds me of Southern California!  Maybe it’s just the west coast I miss, and not really anything in particular.. I don’t know!

Physically I’m doing great.  I’ve had few issues at all with my stomach, and I’m just feeling great!  I’ve been training to run a half-marathon, which I’m not sure I will actually be ready for, or able to run since it’s not here in Bangkok. Either way, I’ll be running a race at some point during my time in Thailand, I just don’t know when yet!  I joined a gym not too far from here in one of the bigger malls.  It’s nice to get away several evenings each week to work up a good sweat… My friend Heidi and I take a class called “Body Jam” and it’s the highlight of my week!  Learning dances.. and all they speak is Thai, so you kind of stand in the back and try to follow what they are doing.  It’s great.. good music, and the moves are so “sexeeey” -as they say!  (Everything that ends in an “i” or “y” is automatically pronounced “eeee”.. FYI).  

Spiritually, the LORD has been doing so much in my heart, it’s hard to even put it into words.  I know this experience will go with me whatever comes after my time here, and I feel so blessed to be experiencing everything I’ve been able to so far.  I’m still learning to trust him fully.  I’m still learning to follow in faith.

On a closing note, in about two months we have our long awaited “October Break” which marks the end of our first semester.  I’ve already purchased a plane ticket to Cambodia, and I will be traveling with several other teachers around Cambodia and Vietnam for about 8 days, then returning to Bangkok and heading down south (not too far) to a few beaches here in Thailand.  All of us are looking forward to the break.. even if it is two months away!  Should be exciting.. another group is headed to Nepal to hike some of the trails beneath Everest!  CRAZY!

Hope you all are doing well, please do email me when you get the chance!  I love hearing from you all.  And of course you can phone me anytime as well (local 541 number!).

Blessings and His Grace to you all,
Meridith Rae 

meridith.johnson@gmail.com
541.255.2159 

Here are a few pictures from our holiday last week (the Queen’s Birthday/Mother’s Day).  We went shopping downtown at MBK, then to a small, quaint French place for dinner; “Le Cafe Siam”.