Dec 14, 2021 All for 100 baht ($3)
$3 dollars. It’s not much nowadays and with inflation running rampant its value is diminishing more quickly than in the past. Back in high school (1993), I could get the all you can eat buffet at Cici’s pizza or a couple of items off a value menu for 3 bucks. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find you can buy more than 1 taco or hamburger for $3. It’s chump change; the money we use for a small tip, a thank you to the porter and maybe not even enough for our kid’s tooth fairy.
So what would you do for $3? I imagine most of us might say, “nothing at all”. I don’t need it and it’s not worth getting up. Maybe we might get a quick car wash from the kids or encourage them to run to the neighbor’s house to borrow some eggs? There just isn’t much that we can expect in return for $3. How about selling your virtue? Did that make you pause? Read that again. Would you sell your virtue for $3? Would you do it for $1,000 or $100 or maybe $20? How about $3? The idea seems so preposterous and arguably offensive for anyone to ask. I can hear the audience yelling through the screen, “I wouldn’t sell my virtue, my kids' virtue or anyone else's for any amount of money and certainly not without a fight”.
Many thoughts like these ran through our heads as Ashley saw the man give the girl 100 baht. Roughly $3. The bar kept $10 and the girl made $3. That’s right. For less than I can buy a Big Mac, she was willing to work maybe the world’s hardest job just to be able to eat and live. I do believe this is on the VERY lowest end of what a woman would accept, but it does paint a picture of what our eyes are challenged with as we walk daily with these girls.
Ask yourself, what level of desperation do you or I have to be at in order to accept such low compensation in exchange for your self respect, your value? I say this not to condemn the sweet girl we know by name, but on the contrary, to try and detail the level of hopelessness and desperation we sometimes see. We can provide some food, but we cannot provide enough and to all. We can love these girls, but we cannot “pay” them a salary if they want to leave the bars. We just don’t have enough. We can pray for them daily, we continue to hope, but until they see a way that is economically feasible outside the bars, they remain economic slaves to the men who buy them like shrimp in a barrel. Use and discard. Rinse and repeat. Day after day we witness; hoping and praying the girls don’t break. This isn't a sorrow appeal for funding; it's how Satan changes people's minds to think "this transaction doesn't hurt anyone as long as they are consenting adults".
By no means are all of the men mean or evil to these girls. Some of them we talk to and, outside of their economic transactions with the girls, we actually like them quite a lot. They’re sometimes quite affable, funny and often from the places we know well: the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Germany to name a few. To the girls however, the men are just a means to an end, men who render sexual power over them by means of economics. Men who tarnish the image of how a man should treat a woman.
We see these girls not as victims but as survivors, survivors who - we pray - may one day be the leaders of tomorrow. Our vision is that out of the fire of COVID and the economic distress, we’ll see women and men led to Christ not as an escape, but from a deep heartfelt desire to know their Father who loves them deeply.
As I write this, tourists are returning to Chiang Mai and the situation seems to be improving; albeit very slowly. As tourists return, so too do the many women who left the bars. Yesterday, Ashley and I were able to pass out food bags to 110 families. Some of these went to the local community young and old while many others were given to the girls we know working in the bars. One bar noted that since last month the number of working girls had increased from 15 to 34. The women are simply desiring to better meet the needs of their families, many of which are single mother led.
We pray for wisdom as we continue to develop deeper friendships. We pray for discernment as we look for 2-3 people of peace to disciple. We pray for wisdom of vision as we contemplate a business as mission’s platform from which we can employ many of the women who desire a change. We pray for the hearts and minds of these girls and the men who pay them. We thank everyone who walks with us in these efforts.
Pictures are from a class where Ashley is teaching a group of Mae Baan's (house helpers) how to bake. The illustration is from our DMM (Disciple Making Movement) training walking through the kingdom of light and darkness and the path Jesus shows through repentance, baptism and the Holy spirit. See if you can figure out the pictures. In a follow up, I'll video Ashley walking through the 2 kingdoms illustration.