The Exodus Road

sitting with her

I was in a brothel

In front of me, girls danced on the stage. They swayed back and forth on their high heels, and watched themselves in the mirror as they gripped the poles.

Their faces said it all. 

Flat affect. Emotionless. Vacant. Eyes far off. 

Occasionally one would make eye contact with me. I'd say hello with a slight wai bow and a smile, and usually she would smile back before quickly looking away.

This one girl, though—marked on her armband as #37—kept my gaze. We smiled at each other until our smiles erupted into laughter. She looked away, but kept looking back over, a smile plastered on her face.

We asked the waiter to have her join us for a drink. 

This is how it works, I learned. The patrons of these brothels request a girl by number, offering to buy her a drink. In exchange, she spends time with them... and, depending on the amount of money exchanged, provides certain "services". 

Around the room, men were fondling girls' breasts. They were gripping their faces, keeping them from turning away as they forcefully kissed them. Men were thrusting their... parts... in women's faces, touching them in all manner of inappropriate ways, and often interacting with more than one girl at a time. 

The men's faces also said it all. 

Blank stares. Lifeless. Empty. Hollow. 

These had to be some of the saddest people on the planet. Right? I mean, they're engaging in absolutely appalling and nauseating acts. What situations, what circumstances, could possibly have driven them to this point? What do their lives look like that this is where they turn for attention and affection and intimacy (a mere mirage which they are grasping for, but never quite lay hold of)? 

So much heartache in that room, on both sides: victims and perpetrators alike. 

That's a hard pill for me to swallow.

It's not easy to view these men with the same eyes of compassion that wants to wrap my arms around these girls and steal them away. It makes me uncomfortable to acknowledge that brokenness sometimes looks like a stripper, and other times it looks like a john. 

But despite the tension, the discomfort, and the fact that I may not even like to admit it, I know this to be true:

If I say I love Christ, I have to love the johns as well as the girls.

My girl—#37—came and sat with me. Though she didn't know much English, we Forrest Gumped our way through a conversation, asking questions back and forth, sharing little bits of our lives with each other. 

Her name is Ang. 
She came to Pattaya 3 years ago. 
She misses her family.
She does not like dancing in this club.

Sprinkled throughout our 30-minute conversation, she said the words "thank you" over a dozen times. It struck me as so remarkable that I kept count. 

"Thank you for letting me sit with you." 

I squeezed her hand (which had been holding mine). I smiled, and I told her I was so glad she was sitting with me. 

At the end of the night, my mind wandered back to Ang—the very first girl I'd met hours prior. I knew I'd walked away from that brothel without making a life-altering impact on her. I didn't save her from the (possibly) abusive and awful position she finds herself in. Nothing about her circumstances changed because I had been there. 

But I'd sat with her in the darkness. 

I sat with her in her darkness. 

And simply by doing that, she had a half-hour of being treated like a human rather than a commodity. For 30 minutes, she wasn't groped or fondled or sexualized. Instead, she was treated with the respect, dignity, kindness, and love she deserves. 

Maybe that is Gospel work after all.

I went to sleep with Ang on my heart, with whispered prayers of grace for her...

...and for the johns.

Please take some time to read about The Exodus Road, and continue to follow along as I learn more about their radical work of empowering rescue for trafficking victims.

:: :: ::

$35/month funds one full day of investigative work in India (called BRAVO Team). BRAVO needs 50 more monthly donors in order to hire additional covert operatives, investigators, and social workers to maximize their impact.

Together, you and I can join the BRAVO Team as the brothers and sisters who show up to find and free the ones in desperate need of rescue and restoration. 

ways unexpected

It happens every year. 

My One Word 365 unfolds in ways unexpected.

As usual, I started the year with an idea of what I hoped my word would accomplish in me. And, par for the course, I've already been surprised to discover how much more it holds. 

Inevitably, there are layers to it that I don't even know to anticipate. 

When 2016 began, I had no clue that badassery would lead me to buy a second home, wear things I swore I'd never wear, say yes to uncomfortable situations and say no to things that aren't life-giving, feel my own confidence growing, or share publicly about my chronic illnesses

And I certainly didn't imagine that badassery would take me to Southeast Asia. 

Back in January, I sent off my passport to be renewed. Ten years and thirty countries worth of stamps later, it was time for my fourth passport. With my current one expiring this summer, I figured I'd just go ahead and start the renewal process early.

When I mailed it off at the post office, the postal worker asked me if I had an adventure planned for which I would need my passport. "Sadly not," I told her. "But I want to be ready in case one comes my way!"

Three days later I received an invitation to Southeast Asia.   

On April 1, I'll be boarding a plane with my passport, carry-on, and badassery in hand. I'm traveling there to experience The Exodus Road's work in action, as they help search for and rescue victims of sexual slavery and human trafficking. 

I still feel pretty stunned by the humbling and overwhelming opportunity I've been presented with: To see, experience, and partner with true badasses, risking their lives to help end modern day slavery... I just keep shaking my head in disbelief. 

I know I will witness and learn all manner of intense, heartwrenching things, and that the emotional heaviness will likely be tangible for this deep-feeler. But I will also get to experience a new and beautiful culture and see hope at work, piercing through the profound darkness. 

I want to be able to clearly see, feel, embrace, and then share both sides of that bittersweet paradox. 

Walk with me?

Walk with me into these stories of oppression and liberation, of darkness and light, of despair and hope? 

Do me a favor and follow The Exodus Road wherever you typically hang out online. This way you'll get all the updates along the way, even when I may be unable to post.

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I'm eager to share this whole journey with you as it unfolds. Even the uncomfortable bits and the parts that I can't reconcile and the answerless questions. (Maybe especially those things...) 

Yet again... Ways unexpected.

Walk with me?