We’re here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and I’ve fallen in love yet again with Thai food, culture, and people. It’s the 20th of the month and I can’t believe that I haven’t blogged yet! I think I’m still trying to process everything that’s happened these past nine months – but today I’ll tell you a little bit about the three types of ministry we are doing here with LightHouse In Action:
1. Bar Ministry
You might be thinking “bar” and “ministry” – aren’t these oxymorons? How do these two seemingly different concepts fit together? On the surface, the bars here look similar to the bars in America – bright lights, crowded rooms, and lots of drinks. But when you really start to watch, you’ll start to notice that most of the men come in with a mission. They flirt with a woman for awhile, money is exchanged, and then they walk off together to one of the brothels nearby. It breaks my heart… in Thailand, prostitution is legal.
Many people are ok with prostitution because they believe that the women have chosen this lifestyle. But when you really sit down and talk to the women, you understand that this is far from the truth. “Choice” is a strong word; “coerced” might be more accurate of many of the stories I have heard. Most of the girls are from villages far away and are approached with promises of money and a glamorous life.
After arriving, reality begins to set in and most will admit that they aren’t happy here, but they stay in the bars to make money for their families. What has been striking for me is how selfless these women are – rather than trying to make money so they can buy more things or live extravagently, most are sacrificing their time, energy, and even their bodies for the good of another. One woman I met does it for her two daughters. She knows that by working in the bars she can be home more with her children because she makes more money faster. Some men undergo a large number of surgeries to become ladyboys and work to earn money for their families. Here I am with Som Pa, a ladyboy that I’ve been getting to know these past few weeks.
Our role is to go into this area and speak life into that place. We build relationships with the women, men, and ladyboys who work there. Our hope is that they will see Jesus in us, and we can offer them an alternative to the life they are now living.
Here’s a video about the Love Acts ministry:
Here’s some video footage from a prayer walk in the Red Light District in Phuket, Thailand that Adam put together:
And here’s Meghan’s video:
*Be advised – some of the images on these two videos can be quite graphic*
2. Ministry in the slums
A few times a week, we go into the slums and play games with the children, do a bible lesson and just love on these kids that don’t normally get a lot of attention. It’s a lot of fun. Here are Katie and Diane reading a story to a young Thai girl:
3. Relocating a coffee shop
I want to introduce you to an amazing woman named Emmi. God has given her a dream of how to combat sex trafficking – not only must you minister to people in the bars, you must also fight it firsthand by educating people on trafficking in the university and villages. When I grow up, I want to be just like Emmi But at least I can do my hair like her.
One of the three components of the Lighthouse ministry is the Wongen Café, which is is a place where students, missionaries, bar workers, and families can eat delicious food and hang out in a safe, loving, and Godly environment. Emmi has been looking for a new building closer to the red light district to be more accessible to the bar workers. Last week, a man met with her and offered her a space only three blocks from the bars! And get this – he gave it to her for free! Now, the English classes, meetings and open mic nights can happen right next door to the red light district, the population she is hoping to reach. She named this new café Zion, which is significant because in the Old Testament Zion was a territory of the enemy that was redeemed for the Lord.
So the past few days, we have been cleaning, moving, and spiffing up the new building. We’re hoping to open by the end of the month! Here I am with Jillian and Katie, cleaning the kitchen.
About a month ago when I began praying about my future team, before I knew anything about what we would be doing, God gave me the name “Jubilee.” Jubilee doesn’t just mean joy – it was something that occurred every 50th year in the Old Testament in which slaves and prisoners were freed, debts were forgiven, and the mercy of God was particularly present (Leviticus 25:10). To my surprise, when Emmi was talking about this year, she mentioned that this was a year of Jubilee for her ministry. Praise God His favor and provision for the work Emmi is doing!