We don’t talk about Jesus enough, specifically about the intensity of how he lived among us; “God With Us” was also “God Was (Just Like) Us”.
I have been writing about Su’s transformation from a lost woman leading others into lostness, to a found woman leading others to Jesus. Only now she has to face the damage that she caused, including Daeng, 17, who has been following in Su’s footsteps, helping young girls get into prostitution.
I have known Daeng for 2 1/2 years. Her story is pitiful: her mom left after she was born. Her dad hired a neighbor family to care for her, but eventually he left too. At 13 Daeng was raped, and had a baby.
With the pregnancy Daeng had lost a year of school. We got her re-enrolled, but she started skipping school and lying. Unfortunately public schools generally don’t follow up absences, and with Judy and I in the U.S. at the time there was no one available to could check on Daeng daily. We had no choice but to let her drop out.
Since then I and others have reached out to Daeng, including trying to bring her into The Well. We contacted her father hoping he could get involved. He came to visit but showed no commitment and finally abandoned Daeng again. So we have had no option but to allow Daeng to live without direction.
It is common for young teens from broken homes here to drop out of school shortly after puberty, often in eighth or ninth grade. Their new hormones bring so much good feeling from peer connection and sexual attraction that these kids become addicted to them. They form social groups that survive on drugs and prostitution.
Substance abuse freezes emotional development, making trying to find a connection with these teens difficult. The natural craving for adult attention is replaced by mistrust of adults who now, they believe, oppose their happiness. Daeng says The Well is boring.
I knew it was likely that Daeng was involving younger girls in prostitution but I didn’t want to think about it. But it was pretty upsetting to find out that she had pimped a 12-year-old. I had just met the girl last Sunday when Su brought her to church. She’s a baby, not even fully developed. “Daeng will need to be arrested,” I had said to a co-worker the day before.
I was thinking this way while riding my motorbike to church, when I heard Jesus’ famous sentence, spoken from the cross: “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” It was obviously Jesus telling me to forgive Daeng.
Su showed up about three minutes after I arrived with four girls in tow, including both Daeng and the little girl who had just sold herself. Daeng ran up, looking genuinely happy to see me. This was unusual–she normally smiles, gives me a hug and immediately turns away. Today was different. She held eye contact, didn’t turn away to her friends or her phone. I found myself grateful to Jesus‘ reminder to me a few minutes earlier. Seizing the opportunity, I launched into my love-you-so-much-if-you’ll-only-let-us speech, still expecting her eyes to glaze and look away. They held. I kept going. She listened all the way through my no-pain-no-gain speech. Hmmm.
The reason we need to talk about Jesus more is that otherwise we judge people. We all have enough natural fear in us that we will tend towards mistrust. We who claim to follow Jesus, who know good and well that we are saved sinners, no better than any other, still find ways to get down on other sinners. We easily overlook the factors that drove them into their sin.
We cross the street to avoid them. Jesus crossed time and space to find them.
Throughout the teaching time I watched Su sitting next to Daeng, arm around her shoulder, occasionally stroking her hair, glancing at her and smiling like a mother in love with her firstborn. Afterwards, Su reiterated how badly she wants to lead all these girls to Jesus, starting with getting Daeng to join The Well, getting the same opportunity that Su had. We’ll be firm with Daeng about pimping, as we were with Su. “Do that again and we will be happy to involve the police.” But at this point I don’t think it will come to that.