We have loved living and working in Thailand for over 14 years, and are very grateful to God for moving us here. But one of our biggest disappointments, that has required the most adjustments, is the time factor. In our reach-teach-send mission of The Well, the teach-send part has taken far longer than we had hoped.
One of the hardest lessons for anyone working with hurting people is dealing with the self-destructiveness, in the form or addictions, that can result from multiple traumas. This was especially hard for me early on here, seeing how hurt and vulnerable were the women we were meeting. Their stories of being terribly mistreated only lit a fire in me to save them from such horrible unfairness.
And indeed they need salvation. But it if only it were so simple as leading them to safety. As someone working with trafficking rescue in Cambodia told me, “When you open the door of a closed brothel, the girls don’t come running out.”
The heavily traumatized mind has been taught to think wrong. It knows nothing of living for meaning and connection with others. Getting through another day is success enough, and if that requires a few stiff drinks to handle the stress, so be it. Trust no one. Lie often.
The way out of this trap takes time. And for the caregiver wanting to help, it requires patient waiting and praying. Well-intended attempts to speed up the process instead become stumbling blocks to the shame-riddled mind of a childhood trauma survivor.
I now hang on to three go-to statements of Jesus, that are my paradigm as a caregiver (I credit Henry Blackaby for pointing them out):
- “My Father is always working, and I am working.” John 5:17
- “The Son can only do what He sees the Father doing.” John 5:19
- “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” John 6:44
These statements are immensely helpful. I can’t change anyone, but I can trust that a) the Father brought her to us and b) therefore the Father is working in her, drawing her. It’s ok if it takes many years.
Indeed, over the last decade many have left and come back, some multiple times. It is still a cycle of hope and disappointment, but now with more optimism. The seeds God has planted are growing.
Last month a woman I hadn’t heard from in about 9 years got in touch, promising to visit. Another wayward alum contacted me yesterday–she just moved and wanted me to help her find a church. Another asked for prayer. Another told me recently that she is part of a small group of alumni from The Well from about 8 years ago that keep in touch regularly.
“We talk about The Well all the time,” she told me.