“I will pay, mai bpen rai ka” I said, as to confirm that I would be more than content to cover the cost to take our friend to see a movie with us that night…
As a dancer myself and being blessed with teaching dance here in Thailand, I love the ideology of taking something that others can twist to have a negative connotation for those trafficked and turning it into a healthy release or coping mechanism. Therefore, when our team had heard that the new Step Up movie was actually being shown here in Pattaya, there was not a question of what our family night would entail.
We began our venture by heading down one of the dirt roads that would lead us to our destination. Lined with bars and brothels, we heard faintly, that one of our names was being called out as we passed a specific establishment. A familiar voice, we turned to be greeted with the sweetest smile. For protection purposes, we will call her Hope. Due to unfortunate past events that are only hers to tell, Hope was stuck working within these walls, day and night. As it was still early and costumers were scarce, she asked us to come in. So excited to catch up with our friend, we bought her a sprite and began to paint some of the girls’ nails as they painted memories in our hearts. As the conversation and laughs continued, Hope began to move to one of the songs playing in the background, exclaiming how much she loved to dance. Seeing my happy heart, my friend Pu explained to her that I was a dance teacher and that we were going to see a dance movie, in which her eyes immediately lit up. We all looked at each other with butterflies, waited for the okay, and asked Hope is she could join us.
Working within the bars, brothels or strip clubs is obviously, unique. Two days off of a month is what the individuals get and if they dare get sick or need personal time off, they must pay. This is on top of compensation needed for their food and rent, which is also usually just above their own work place (Very normal for trafficked or exploited victims). Knowing this, we had two options- to allow her to continue to work for the night or…to buy her…so she could innocently hang out with her friends and see a movie.
(Now, I first want to caution that with all the stories being told, we have been trained and competently educated on how to handle and respond to these situations. It is so important that through this work, we are able to showcase to these people that we do not believe they have a price tag, that they know we do not agree with the barcode of their bodies and that with us, they do not need to be in work mode. That we are not there to take their stories and pictures so that we can unintentionally exploit them more in the hopes of bringing “awareness”. This coincides with making sure they understand that although we have built these friendships which can include hugs and cliché things like skipping while linking arms, that they never and I mean never…have to hold our hand or hug us if they do not want to. We will never…buy their friendship.)
Proverbs 3:15 “She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”
After bringing this to her attention once again, I instantaneously told Pu that I was more than happy to cover the brothel cost (as my other friends happily agreed to help with the other costs as well). A breath later, I had a diminutive worldly panic, hoping that I would have enough bhat in my wallet as I started to argue within my mind at what the price could be… “Obviously she is priceless but what was the dollar sign that they nefariously branded her with? Maybe a couple hundred…hmmm well I mean they say Pattaya is known for cheap prostitution (stomach turning)…okay maybe like one hundred…if I need to borrow from some people I can its fine…okay..okay…”
I smiled and nodded at Hope to ask her mama-san (in charge of all the girls for the pimp) how much I owed her. She looked at me and stated calmly with normalcy, “Sam Roi baht ka”
Sam Roi Baht…Sam Roi…
three hundred baht…nine…
Nine dollars for this beautiful precious ruby in which other individuals pay to do whatever they would like with her…..
The mama-san basically told me that my sweet Hope was worth less than a movie ticket back home…
Matthew 10:30-31″But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. “So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
I swallowed my judgment immediately and handed her the money. We then bowed, said our goodbyes and journeyed to the theater. My heart fluttered to watch as she giddily engaged in the whole experience, slowly but surely figuring out that she could be herself and turn off the individual she had prepared herself to be that night. As we headed in the theater, I casually asked her if she would like something from the snack bar. She shyly nodded, smiled and as I upgraded her orange fanta to a large, she did a little shoulder dance of excitement. We continued, proceeding carefully but happily through the night and as she grabbed my hand to squeeze in approval of a difficult dance move completed on the screen, my heart began to hurt…literally…
Mark 4:24 “And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.”
I tried to focus but I was immediately drawn to my hand in which my sweet friend hand hers in its grasp. As if the Lord’s whisper traveled from my heart to my finger tips… I once again was struck by the reality that dinner and a movie may be something she is use to…just with a very different ending. That it truly was necessary to remind her every so often that she owed us nothing…no hand holding…no pretending to act like a girlfriend or piece of meat…that the only thing expected from her was to hopefully enjoy the company and movie and get to go home after without any obligation or bargaining (or lack of) for sex.
I am so blessed that Hope had become a close friend and we are continually and prayerfully working on showing her, her true worth and getting her out of the brothel.
Sadly though…her situation is not a rare one…..
“no no no too much,” he sternly stated to the two girls.
We were bringing food to a girl on beach road (a strip of the beach less than a mile long, where more than 400 girls are watched by pimps and stand, waiting for a costumer to approach), when I noticed a man pointing to his watch and bargaining with two Thai girls. They had rebutted his price and he was not having it.
“I will not pay that, my watch is worth more than you two”
I could not believe my ears but also knew that it was not just these Thai girls that were being belittled daily.
In my earlier blogs I had explicated that many Russian and Indian girls were now being introduced in the bars and strip clubs as “available” and new “talents.” That each girl in this city whether a tourist or a worker, are looked at as if the individual viewing, had already done the deed in his mind 50 times and 50 ways without their consent. I myself as well as my friends, have been approached, grabbed, and tried to be bargained for. I have been told where I apparently stand in this world…what I am “good for”, and have been whistled and hollered after with prices ranging from $10 to $100 in which I kindly…declined.
“why are you wearing a one piece sexy lady” he asked
“ Because I like to and I feel more comfortable covered,” I responded nonchalantly
“ Oh well, you are pretty but how are you going to get a husband in a one piece?”
2 Corinthians 12:10 “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
And we have only gotten a taste of what these women, men and children whom are for grabs, go through every…single..day…
I have had many days here where I was told what my worldly worth was and I have witnessed as many men have stripped a women or boy of all worth and dignity with a single sentence, even before the purchasing and physical stripping could occur.
People have asked me if I have questioned my worth here. I can say that the Lord has definitely protected our minds and hearts in this manner but that we are not desensitized to the reality that these jewels go through daily and even more so, have had conversations about how we so many times, in different forms, had let others define and price us, even back at home.
I so badly want those enslaved, both men and women, both pimp and prostitute, to see their true value but in order to do that, I must know and believe in mine.
Ezekiel 33:11 “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live”
You see, someone wise once told me that…free people…free people.
Ephesians 5:29 “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,”
How many times have I let a guy lead me on, only to blame myself and let my perception of my worth be damaged when I find out I am one of a hundred that this is occurring with. How many times in my past have I then continued to talk with this person, hoping I would one day be good enough for them to change. How many times have I accepted, been silent or even have apologized for being cheated on or treated incorrectly…figuring that I must have done something wrong…that I was not good enough or that I was not worth being respected and protected. How many times have I verbally or non-verbally showed these individuals that what they were doing was not only okay but a distorted true definition of my very being? How many times have I belittled myself?
It is easy to blame the abuser, the user, the manipulator but there comes a point where we ourselves become the problem because we set ourselves and now them (because we do not correct their behavior or walk away) up for failure. We deprive ourselves and them of a necessary reality check which could help ourselves and save others from enduring the same… and on a more vital note…how many times have we ourselves been the person to belittle somebody’s worth and try to justify it?
How many times have we believed this lie but then loudly preached to others not to…
Telling others that they do not need make up to make them beautiful
That you do not have to show skin, have abs, a tiny waste, big boobs, etc…to find a companion
That choosing at any point no matter your past, to now wait till marriage to have sex, is not weird or something to be silent about in fear of judgment.
That you are not for sale physically…mentally..or emotionally…
While us ourselves then cover our blemishes so that they will think we are pretty…While we fear summer because we do not have the ideal bikini body…While not getting another purity ring because of your past.
While allowing cheap compliments leaving the lips of a manipulator to put a metaphorical price tag on you that states your worth and dignity can be shaped by their false depiction of love and the need for affirmation….
I have had barcodes pressed upon my flesh in too many ways and I will no longer allow that temporary tattoo to stay there when the Lord has already washed it white as snow. I will no longer let myself see that a guy asking to pursue me and not holding my hand out of protection for my heart and respect, as rejection…due to the world telling me physical touch and compliments of outward beauty means love and acceptance. I will no longer let someone state that flesh is worth nine dollars…
I want to be free so that I can free others and allow them to know that my words to them are true.
The day I was told my worth was the day it was written “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”
The day you see your true worth is the day you take off the lenses of societal defined yet disfigured regulations and look upon the one whom states you are priceless…
Jesus already paid the price so why are we allowing the world to bargain for flesh…
1 Corinthians 7:23 “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.”
Revelation 5:9 “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,”