Tuesday, March 15, 2016

5 Things I Took Away From Our SE Asia Trip

Last month Brian and I went on a two-week long anti-trafficking trip to Thailand and Cambodia. That's not new news to most of you (and I shared quite a bit during the trip), but as I've had time to reflect I wanted to share some of the things that I've taken away from our time there.

I saw time and time again how God is in the business of redemption—whether that was redeeming people or places. It was amazing to see former child brothels teeming with happy, safe, protected children. Or people worshiping God in a building meant to be a hotel for the sex industry. Or women receiving a fair wage and good conditions for honest work in a factory that was once a place used to enslave them. What the enemy has meant for evil, God has meant for good.

I learned that in Thai culture it is the son's responsibility to be the spiritual leader of the family and the daughter's responsibility to be the financial provider for her parents and siblings. This cultural role is one of the biggest factors that leads to Thai women working in the bars as prostitutes. The majority of them come from the Northeastern part of Thailand that is a very poor, rural farming area. Women feel pressure from their families to work in the bars since it brings in better money than other jobs they could get, especially since they are often uneducated. The pressure and shame that these women feel is intense, and so it seems her only choice is to work in the bars and send money home to honor her family.

I gained confidence in my independence and traveling skills. One afternoon I stayed behind to rest while the rest of the team visited a school. We were going to meet up that evening for an appointment and the rush hour traffic was worse than expected so instead of being able to come pick me up like planned, the team asked if I would be willing to meet them there. I was a little nervous, but I walked a few blocks to a busy street where I hailed my own taxi (it took me three tries as the first two turned me down when they saw the address), communicated with the Thai-speaking driver where I wanted to go, and paid him in a foreign currency. I was super proud of myself because if you know me well, you know that was way outside my comfort zone!

I was faced with the depravity of man. The sinfulness of humans was constantly on display as we learned about the sexual exploitation of women and children, and even saw these men who travel across the globe to satisfy their sinful cravings. As we walked through the mall and saw couple after couple of old western men with young beautiful Thai women. As we walked down the dark alleyway lined with women waiting to be chosen by a man, waiting to make the money she will send back to her family. As we walked past the bars with the young girls dancing on tables. As we walked through the buildings that were once child brothels and looked into the tiny "rooms" where unspeakable evil occurred. The absolute wickedness of sexual exploitation was on full display for us.

I saw hope in the darkest places. I saw smiles on faces that have seen and experienced more horrors than I can even imagine. I heard stories about God lighting a passion to help others in those that have been exploited. I experienced the joy of Christ in people that should have no reason to be joyful. His love heals. His love restores. His love brings hope.

You can read more about our trip here, here, here, & here!


  1. Thanks for this review. I'm proud of you, Heather, for getting a taxi on your own in an unfamiliar area. I lose my direction so easy, I even get lost in department stores!!!! (no kidding!)

    We loved having dinner at your house last week! Yesterday Kirsten and I went to a thrift store and I found the "perfect" open weave basket for the twinkle lights. Now I have to find a string of lights! :)

    Sending love and prayers,

    1. Yeah, I'm normally not very good at directions and doing things like that on my own, so it was a neat experience.

      It was fun to see you (even for a little bit) last week! I'm glad you found a basket! I actually got my lights at a thrift store too... since they are usually pretty hard to find in stores in the warmer months. ;)

  2. Funny...that's what made me feel independent and victorious in Mongolia...being able to do that taxi thing. God uses little things like that to give us practice sessions on trusting Him, I think! I love your take-aways!


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