Did you ever have a job you really loved, I mean REALLY loved? One that, although the work was not easy, there was a lot of personal satisfaction in doing what God has provided as a gift to you? We fit this description of people loving the work we do to help girls know Jesus and discover their self-worth despite difficulties.
Through prayer and observation, we are starting to learn more about those we serve, the culture and the language in an effort to better meet their needs. No two people are alike, but we are starting to discover three themes of people groups that are in different places and require different levels of understanding and response.
1) The first group I’ll call the “Comfortably Uncomfortable”. These are those who want to make a change, but have little to no actionable willpower to do so. There is a woman we see often that has very low self-esteem and is mired in the daily grind of a desperate alcoholic. Often, she is noticeably drunk by 10:00 AM. She will do almost anything for alcohol, and although she wants to change, the known commodity of the comfortably numb is easier than facing the issues that haunt her. Until the pain of staying the same eclipses the pain of change, it is unlikely we will see progress. All we can do is love her where she is and ask questions like, “What do you want to be? Who are you?” (knowing that she is loved by God despite little love for herself). About 10% - 15% of those we meet are in this group. Our hearts cry out for the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts to see the need for something better, something more.
2) The second group I’ll call “Pondering the Present”. This is where the majority of those we meet fit, accounting for maybe 75% of the girls. Almost 100% of these girls want a change, they want something different, but seldom have the skills needed to seek out a new job OR cannot find a job that will be able to meet the financial needs of family, sometimes including extended family of parents who often care for their kids while the girls work.
We have a sweet girl who comes to at least one class per week and is such a joy to work with. With her broken English, she describes how proud she is of what she is learning and her sense of accomplishment. She’ll often tell Ashley, “I got this teacher, you teach me well, you just watch me do it all.” She drinks but does not seem to have an alcohol problem and we would both describe her as reasonably self-confident. Despite this, she sees little opportunity elsewhere.
Many girls in this group have an older foreigner living in Thailand who will pay some amount of money monthly, weekly or otherwise as a means of support in return for a “relationship”. We often call these men “farang key noke” which loosely translated means “bird poop foreigner”. They are men buying the services of these girls, but the “relationship” can come with lots of risks and expectations. We know MANY girls in this group and our hearts ache for them because many of these men are not the best of what our countries have to offer. We desire to work with these men too, but often they are VERY against Christianity, feeling like WE are the predators who lure these girls out of their desired professions. Our prayer for these girls is that the Holy Spirit would move in their hearts to see that God created them for something better, they are loved and they have more to offer the world. We will walk with them if they desire something new and are willing to take a risk with us.
3) The third group is “People of Peace”, which is a reference to Luke 10 as Jesus sent out the 72 prior to His arrival at these locations. These are people who adamantly desire to leave the bars and although not directly correlated, are usually very eager to learn about this new life with Jesus. We don’t lose focus on the other girls, but we do spend a higher percentage of our time with this group.
After graduating from high school and studying 2 years of accounting in college, one of our girls suffered a miscarriage of justice. With no money and no degree, she was forced (economically) to a job that doesn’t suit her. Like many others, she doesn’t like it, and wants to leave in a moment's notice IF she can find anything to continue her college degree in accounting. She is soft spoken, has a shy heart and just doesn’t seem to fit amongst other girls who loudly catcall for potential passing patrons.
Let me take a moment and say whether any girl wants to pursue Christianity, discipleship or not, she is valuable and we desperately want a way towards the better life she desires. However, this beautiful woman is not alone. Ashley (specific to the girls) has identified others and is passionate about building the friendship that becomes the cornerstone for discipleship.
Please continue to pray as we seek out people of peace and look for individual ways in which we can help to transition them out of the bars AND teach them discipleship if they are willing.
God says the workers are few and the harvest is plentiful and we definitely see that here. 5 girls came (plus a translator) yesterday to a baking class PICTURE INLCUDED and listened as Ashley walked them through an example of the 2 kingdoms we have been taught by our discipleship mentors (as the brownies cooled). PICTURE INCLUDED The picture-based story quickly describes creation, the fall, Jesus, our path to redemption and the costly choice of being a Christian disciple in about 10 minutes. After the presentation from Ashley yesterday, 4 girls took home a Bible and 1 was interested to know more about being a disciple even though she is not yet a Christian. I don't imagine we could replicate those results in the sometimes post-Christian US demographic group. This is a major part of what we have learned about discipleship and are eager to share more. Ashley has 2 persons of peace she has identified and 2 more that she is growing relationships with and could be people of peace. I have 1 newly married man and another Thai man who is 70 and seems a little lonely and eager to talk more.