I fully believe that I live in the saddest place I know. There is so much brokenness, so much oppression and spiritual darkness that at times it gets hard to handle. For a place that is known as the “land of smiles” and with a name that is literally translated as “the free land”, it seems as though there is more slavery and sadness than freedom and joy.It seems like every time I close my eyes, I can see the faces of all the girls I pass by every night on my way home. They attempt to plaster a smile on their freshly painted faces and give my driver a cat call to have him stop so I can pick one of them up for the night. I watch as he nearly gives himself whiplash in his attempts to get long looks at the many girls we pass by.The only thing I have the strength for is to pray for their safety as we pass by and hope for their needs to be met so they can take care of their families in the only way they know how.I finally get home and pass by several women on their way out to meet with “clients” or to start their shift at the bars just outside of our building. Others enter to entertain other occupants of our building. This is a common reality when you live in Thailand– especially when you live as close to the Red-Light District as I do.

Although I see this night after night, a few nights ago I witnessed the most heart-breaking encounter yet as I got home from a long day at the Cafe. I had just gotten into my building and up to my floor when I see a mother and her daughter, no more than five or six years old.

I hear the little girl nearly screaming in Thai, “Mai Yak Bai”(I don’t want to go) over and over again as she is dragged down the hall to the man’s room at the end of the hall. I can’t make out everything the mother was saying, but it sounded something like, “You just have to go.”

I walked into my room, shut the door softly behind me, and sat on the edge of my bed for the longest time– just thinking and trying to rationalize what just happened in my own mind. I finally began to pray, asking God where he was in the situation and what was happening.

I don’t know what happened to the girl and her mom as I have not seen them since. However, my heart goes out to them both and to the man down the hall.

I know all of this seems pretty bleak and hopeless– to be honest, for some it is. However, our ministry has never been busier with girls wanting to leave the bars.

We have seen four girls leave already and one that is desperate to leave. We are starting to make plans to start a safe house and after care program for these girls and we are trying to find a way to raise funds so that we can hire these girls to work with us.

This is the hope that I choose to cling to: that although there is darkness all around and although it seems so sad, “the joy of The Lord is my strength.” Getting to see others experience that Joy for the first time is what drives me on into the unknown of tomorrow.

God has been tearing through the dark places of Thailand. In a land where the knowledge of him is almost non-existent, his presence is being felt more and more with each passing day.