***WARNING: This post deals with the very real issue of sex trade around the world. The content is rated more PG-13 than G.***
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On my last day of my Envision Thailand mission, I was able to serve Rahab Ministries in Bangkok.
“Over 4000 women work each night in the sex tourism area of Bangkok. Rahab Ministries is situated in the middle of this red light area and for over 20 years we have been showing God’s love to these precious women.
Rahab Ministries takes these girls from the life of prostitution and employs them in either jewelry making, nail art or hairdressing while also teaching them English. Retraining them in a safe Christian environment where they can learn about Jesus, allows a change to happen inside out.”
The time I spent with Rahab in the red light district was sobering. I photographed new pieces of jewelry for their online shop, which “provides both an immediate income and time to pursue educational training for a long term trade” for the women who decide to join Rahab’s program. I also hit the hot rain soaked streets to take stock photos of the area. The area doubles as a night market, so it was unsettling to see tourist families wandering through the busy street, looking at trinkets and clothing, not fully understanding the area they were walking through (unless they took in the neon signs or were solicited for live sex shows). Every part of me wanted to run to the parents with children and urge them to get out as fast as they could – everything felt tainted with darkness.
“In the tourist bars women are employed on a monthly retainer with 2 nights off per month. Each customer who chooses a girl will pay the bar to release her for the night. It is up to her to then negotiate with the customer what she will be paid. She will also be paid a percentage of each drink that is bought for her. The Rahab Outreach team buys Cola for the woman we visit enabling us to enter the bars.”
The ladies of the Rahab ministry take the time to visit and build relationships with the women in the bars. On the night I went they talked with two women who traveled to Bangkok together and had been working in the bars for a short time, and both had children at home. While I can’t speak specifically into why they were working in the bar, it is very common for women to leave their homes in the East, go to the city, and make money to send back to their families. It broke my heart that for these beautiful, smiling women they felt as if this was their best or only option. While it’s not news that this happens around the world, even here in the States, it was jarring to put faces to these tragic stories I’ve only ever heard about.
During my time in Thailand, it was very revealing to see the full spectrum of the fight against the sex trade, from Remember Nhu who helps prevent children being sold into the industry around the world, to Rahab Ministries in a red light district that helps women get out and on a different career path. There is light shining into the dark places, and slowly but surely, giving freedom to those stuck or oppressed one by one.
(Note: I will have a BIG update on Remember Nhu soon, but you can read a bit of my time with them at the bottom of this post here.)
All quotes and facts were taken from www.rahabministriesthailand.com. Please visit their site to learn more.