This happened on the plane ride between Narita and Bangkok and it honestly set the stage of my trip into one of the world’s most infamous red light districts. Young women are treated as a commodity where they are numbered and their names are seldom used. Many have argued with me that it is a mutually consented act between adults, “a fair barter.” Yes, someone seriously said that to me. I don’t recommend saying that to me and expecting me to just sit back and take it. There is nothing fair about a situation where there is an uneven balance of power, where poor women are preyed upon. Many women are severely beaten during these “mutual exchanges.” They are victimized again and again with no way out. I have sat across from women who are so ashamed, beaten and broken, and heard them share their story. Inside I am horrified, but I stare them in the eyes. They need to know that I value what they have to say, I believe them, and I am sorry they have been so hurt.
As we land and are grabbing our things to exit the plane, I hear this older guy turn to the younger woman and ask her, “Do you have a ride to the hotel?” That’s it! I turn around and just stare at him until he looks at me. He stops. Of course he does, that would be more of a fair verbal exchange. As we get off the plane, she follows me to the bathroom and as we wash our hands, she smiles at me in the mirror. Am I ready to experience all of this up close and personal here in Thailand? Is anyone every ready? One thing I realize is that God often shatters my heart by what I see and hear but then He does something amazing. He rebuilds my heart back better than ever. While this trip will have celebrations it will also be riddled with despair. What I know is that if I lean into God, He will take care of the pain, give me a new level of compassion, and allow me to share their story with greater passion.