Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Haunted




No, no, no, I'm not talking about 'haunted' as in ghosts and haunted houses. :0) I just thought it was a cool picture of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland and having worked there for so many years, it brings back good memories.

But, I would say that I am feeling a bit haunted. I've tried to come up with another word to use because I feel like 'haunted' sounds a bit melodramatic, but that's the best descriptor I can think of with regards to how I've been feeling. I haven't posted since returning, not because I didn't have the time, but because I couldn't even formulate words to describe what I was thinking or feeling. I couldn't eat, sleep and I just felt like screaming (and I think that I may have done that in the confines of my own room :-) I felt so hopeless and angry and fearful. I was (and am) 'haunted' by the faces of the people who I met in Thailand. The faces of the bar girls, child prostitutes, lady-boys, the homeless, even all of the uncared for animals roaming the streets with injuries and diseases. How could I go back to my 'normal' life? How could I get up, get gas in my car, go to work for 8 hours, come home, hang out with friends, watch tv... how could I go about those daily activities knowing that, at the sametime, halfway around the world (and, really, in our own backyard)someone else's work involved having their bodies sold to complete strangers; or, it involved sitting on a filthy street corner holding out your hand, depending on the kindness of others to feed you, when, in reality, 99% of the people who pass you by, avert their eyes, turn up the volume on their iPods and the only way you know that they notice you is because they either maneuver around you or step over you. When did these things become acceptable? They're not. It just breaks my heart and what strikes fear in me is the understanding that I could be them. I certainly didn't do anything to deserve the life that I have. I could have just as easily been born into that situation. Then how would I feel? Would I be okay with people looking the other way? I mean, I cannot even imagine living that way for 24 hours, much less years on end.

I haven't completely re-read through my blog, but I'm pretty certain that I didn't share a couple of stories about my trip.

This first one isn't so much a story as it's just another thing that shocked me. In Bangkok, we did quite a bit of walking and, like in any big city, there are homeless people. I wouldn't say that there was an abundance of homeless on the street, but those who were on the street were very noticeable. Noticeable because they were all either mothers rocking their small sleeping children or they were horribly disfigured- missing or twisted limbs, or both. Some were sitting, one or two were in wheelchairs others were face down on the street, literally, with their arm outstretched, holding a tin pan for money collections. I began to wonder, especially about those who could obviously not walk and didn't have wheelchairs... how on earth did they get around? Or did they spend their days/nights in that same spot the entire time? I asked our team lead, who had been to Thailand several times, what those people would do. What she told me has made me physically sick. There are Cambodian and Thai Mafia in Bangkok. They specifically pick out people who are noticeably disfigured in some way. They then cart them around and strategically place them in different, heavily trafficked, areas of the city. Then, at night, they come back and take most of the money that person received from passerbys. They do this day after day. And, those mothers with sleeping children? 99% of the time, those children aren't even theirs. They are children whose parents sold them out of need for money and the mafia uses them to play on people's emotions. Why are they always sleeping? Because they are drugged is why. They don't want any problems from an undisciplined child and they solve that by drugging them so they sleep the day away. ?????? How can one person do that to another? I'm completely sick over it.

ugh... okay... I need to move onto a couple of happier stories...

The day we went to the Nightlight Ministries to have an orientation and tour, we were given the opportunity to purchase jewelry that the girls had made. Aside from the jewelry,they had also just started making little velvet gift bags for the jewelry. Each bag was completely handsewn and had some sort of design on the front. I bought a couple pieces of jewelry, but I had decided that I didn't need to buy the bags because, well, I just didn't feel that I needed them. We left that building to go to another and almost the entire time, I kept having this nagging feeling that I should have purchased a couple of those bags. I couldn't logically think why I would need those bags or what I would even use them for, but then I remembered that I was purchasing a couple of things for a friend and she makes jewelry and gives it out as gifts, so maybe she could use a couple of the bags. The group was ready to head back to the hotel and I couldn't fight the nagging feeling anymore, so I asked if it would be okay to run back to the other building and buy a couple of things. They said it was fine, so off I went. I ran upstairs and asked one of the supervisors if I could buy a couple of the bags. She just gave me this look and then got this huge smile on her face. She told me that they had just got done praying that someone from our group would come back and purchase more of the bags. (the reason being that this was, essentially, a new product and they really wanted to offer the girls encouragment and show that their work was valuable) She then told the girls, in Thai, why I was there and they all started laughing and clapping. Rebecca (the supervisor) told me that this encouragement was so important because most of the girls are either brand new Christians or not Christians, so showing them that God answers prayers is a huge determining factor as to their beliefs. Isn't that amazing? Who would have thought that conceding to the 'nagging voice' in my head would have actually been God answering a prayer? I really hope that is an encouragement to all of you... when you feel like you are supposed to do something, but it doesn't make sense and you don't know why, just do it (if it's safe of course :-) I would have missed out on such a blessing had I not obeyed. Not only was I able to purchase a couple of really cute bags, but I also met one of the girls who made the bag I was purchasing and she was so happy that someone liked her hard work.

The night we were working with the Nightlight Ministries in Bangkok, as I previously mentioned, we went out to the bars to talk to the girls. Our team lead ended up buying one girl out of the bar for the evening for 100 Baht (3 U.S. dollars). She did that because the girl was visibly upset and obviously not wanting to be there. As soon as she started talking to our team lead, she completely broke down crying, so she got her out of that situation. They ended up going to a coffee shop and talking and they got her phone number from her so they could follow up with her and see how she's doing. On our last day there, one of the girls spoke with her and she had made the decision to leave the bars and go back up north to live with her parents. One of the best parts of this story... I'm not sure how it's spelled in Thai, but the girl who left the bar, her name is pronounced "Prayer". When I heard that it was just one of those 'wow' moments and evidence of God working.

So, although Pattaya and Bangkok are very dark places, it's changing. And, anyway, light shines brightest in the darkness, right? Just reflecting back on these couple of stories, it fills me with hope and the despair is snuffed out. I know that things are changing all over the world. And, just because I'm not in the same city as those people anymore, that doesn't mean I can't pray everyday for them (and possibly visit them in the future- who knows - I certainly never thought I'd ever take this trip, so who knows what the future holds) and I will continue to pray for them because God answers prayers and our hearts break for these people because of God's heartbreak for these people. I cry over them because He cries over them. These perversions aren't of God. Everything that is good is from God and He loves us so much that He has given us the free will to make the choice if we are going to love Him back; and, isn't that what true love is? Unfortunately, some people have abused their free will and that's why we live in the world we live in. The Lord doesn't desire any of these horrible things that are happening around the world and because of that... because I know who I belong to... I am pushing aside the fear, anxiety and depression and I've been given a renewed hope. After all, the ending to the story has already been determined. God wins.

1 comments:

Marti said...

Julie - what a joy it is to read your stories and hear about your experiences. Having lived on the mission field for six years I know what you mean by not fitting in when you come home. God has been breaking your heart and is giving you his eyes for the world. No longer can you be content being comfortable. Your heart will never be the same. Your life will never be the same. You will begin to see opportunity everywhere. You will notice the hurting beneath the veneer. Your horizons are so much bigger than the OC, CA and the US. It's a painful growth process because you don't know where you belong. But now more than ever you are coming face to face with the reality that this earth is not our home. You can begin to see more clearly the need for the Kingdom of God to advance because people are so lost, needy, and lonely. As lost as you feel right now I say praise God. If you did not feel this way then your trip wouldn't have been worth it. Don't ever lose this feeling. When you start to feel it go away re-read your blog or look at your photos and start to pray for where GOd wants to use you. When the novelty wears off and you settle back into life pray more fervently for what God wants you to see with your new heart. I think its amazing to see God at work in you. You are living in his heartbeat for the world right now - feeling his pain for us. It's a scary wonderful place to be - cherish it!