Tonight as I got in the shower to cool off and get ready for my comfy bed (currently a mattress on the floor, moving blows), I realized how quickly June 1st is approaching.
It’s been 3 years.
3 years since the morning I frantically packed my gigantic suitcase – the worst kind of luggage for a 2 month mission – and headed to the airport. 3 years since the day I met my best friend in the Atlanta airport as we waited to be picked up for training camp. 3 years since we were bussed to the middle of nowhere for 4 days just to head back to that airport and begin our 3 day journey to Phuket, Thailand. 3 years since I began the summer that would open my eyes to the darkest evils that one human can bring on another.
It’s been easy to forget sometimes. It’s far more simple to just go about my own problem-enriched life and not think about all the women and children we left behind in that place. But sometimes, on nights like tonight, all that fear, anger and absolute devastation comes flooding back. The faces of the Russian girls locked in glass boxes, dancing with empty eyes and broke dreams suspended above the bars hit me the way you would feel a subway train slam into your body. The beauty of Gee, the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes on, she comes racing to my thoughts. And then I remember with so much anguish, the nights I spent looking for her after she had moved bars. Every night I would try to sift through the more than 1500 women working to hopefully catch a glimpse of her smile. There are so many comforts I would gladly give up just to have one more opportunity to convince her to leave this lifestyle.
I think of the magician who claimed that his magic was the stuff of dark spirits and how I would beg God to make his tricks fail. Or when I was first told that American Military men were the most violent and brutal to the prostitutes they came to purchase.
Some photos borrowed from the darling Shelby Nelson, congratulations on your beautiful wedding and new marriage.
My life has been forever changed by the work we did on that island. But there was one agonizing truth I had to come to terms with as we prepared to leave. I couldn’t save them all. That truth turned to deep bitterness as we returned to Atlanta and heard the stories all the other teams had experienced around the world that summer. I filled with anger toward God as I listened to miracles of rain in times of drought and healing among the crippled.
My team sat silent. We hadn’t experienced one woman walk away from the very real chains of sex trafficking. Not one lady boy had come to know the truth about their identity. Not one child was rescued during our time.
And for a long time, I was angry at the lack of physical evidence that our trip had been a success. Perhaps I still am.
“I couldn’t save them all.” It turned out that I wasn’t this super human, Jesus preaching, slave deliverer that I had created in my day dreams in the time leading up to the trip. I struggled through language barriers and often was at a loss when trying to understand Thai culture.
But there is a saving grace. There is something that worked throughout the entire summer. Something that remains there still. And it’s prayer.
It’s funny – the entire time I’ve been writing this post, I thought this was heading in a different direction. But the truth is that the summer of 2012 I discovered my gift of prayer. And to be candid, that’s the last time I feel that I used it to its full capacity.
It’s easy for me to remember all the things that went wrong that summer, all the victims that I couldn’t bring back with me. What’s harder to recall are all the nights I spent in an empty room screaming to God to free them. The words I spoke over the red light district or the prayers I constantly spoke over my team members for direction and protection.
Alone, I will never be enough to end social injustice. The most intangible weapon I have is without a doubt the most powerful one. Maybe that’s a lesson 3 years in the making.
So don’t let any of your enemies allow you to think that you can’t accomplish what you set out to achieve. That’s a thought so often said but rarely understood. I want to see the end of human greed, social injustice, unnecessary victimization, but I have to constantly remind myself that I only have this passion because of the one who created me to be this way. The very same one who gave me the gift and the power of prayer.
For you, Thailand.