Last year I wrote 31 posts in December, and thought I’d try again this year. I knew it was probably a dumb idea: Jaimie and fiancé Bryce are here doing video production, and we had an intense month planned with several large community outreach events. But my personality that combines both idealism and stubbornness gets me in over my head more often than not. Indeed, shortly after Jaimie and Bryce arrived and I realized how silly it would be for me to hide away writing rather than spending every possible minute with them, I dropped the whole thing. Meanwhile here’s what I finished so far. I’ll write a few more posts after they leave early tomorrow. It’s been an amazing month–lots of stories to tell, as always.
I'm kind of freaking out about a 12-year-old who is actively selling herself, with the help of a 17-year-old. Not only is this girl young, but she looks it to the extreme–baby face, tiny, not yet fully grown.
This girl is not being coerced. She wants love and money. "I hope that if I have sex with someone he will love me," she told Mook. Recently she needed $10 to buy fake braces for her teeth–a fashion thing here. Her older friend sold her for $33 and gave her $10.
In cases like this my mind is a jumble. The men who think that the fact alone that someone is willing to sell gives them the right to buy. I've heard guys like that talk: some tell themselves they are doing her a favor.
Then there are the young men here do group rape for fun. Sorry to have to mention that.
I think about my experience with teens over the years. Once this behavior pattern hits, it has to run its course. Having experienced the hormone-cocktail high that comes with their behavior, however brief in each instance, teen ... Read More
I find myself weeping during the worship time when I visit visit most churches, especially larger ones in the U.S. I cannot help it. It's only sadness, not anger or resentment. Everything is so nice: a beautifully decorated hall filled with good-looking people happily singing praise to God along with a tight band, a sweet sound system and mood lighting. But my mind flashes to pictures of women dancing exposed to gawking sex addicts, or waiting on the streets; to men sitting on the ground sharing a bottle, or to children wondering if they are about to get hit or go hungry. Most people in the room look so healthy and capable. I think about how much they could help work like ours. Or I imagine how excited some folks I know would be to visit such a pleasant environment.
These churches are doing great things. They are not being hypocritical. They care for hurting people. But this model of church does not resemble Jesus' life in the slightest. And as a result, people are left out.
According to John, the New Testament gives us only get a tiny snippet of what Jesus ... Read More
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 ... Read More
I just got back from spending some time with Su and Jom in Su's small storefront home in their building. I wrote about Su's transformation in this post the other day.
I went to visit because this morning I got a message from Ann, our social service worker, that a twelve-year-old girl had just confessed to Su that she had prostituted herself the night before, and that Daeng, an older teen, had been her agent. This agency system, a common practice among lower-class young women, is called "sending kids". Ann is knowledge and experienced, and will provide the best possible help for the girl. But I went to visit out of concern for Su.
I had two concerns: First, Daeng got started "sending kids" because Su used to send her. But now Su has clearly shown repentance. How will she handle the guilt of knowing that her misdeeds are causing a ripple effect? Even at her worst, Su wasn't trying to sell girls that young. My second concern was positive. We had prayed for a breakthrough in this issue for years, and God had handed it to us with Su's joyful transformation. But ... Read More
I mentioned the other day in this post that a few years ago I started thinking more about the feeling side of Jesus. We can only get at it by inference, but the more I have read and reread the Gospel accounts, the more I see subtextual clues that there was a lot more going on than the static, flat-affect Jesus of most movie portrayals. And in looking at these clues I’ve been finding some pretty cool and helpful insights.
The reason I’ve looked at this so much is that having decided to live as close as I can to the way Jesus lived, I find it extremely helpful to try to get inside his head as much as possible. What did he think about? What was his motivation in each situation?
John’s account in particular is fascinating, because it has all the elements of story, including an arc with reversals and a protagonist with a single desire. John points out that he has chosen a tiny fraction of events in constructing his plot. It isn‘t the perfect movie script, but close, just needing a few visual tweaks. For example, my movie of John ... Read More
We just began opening our Connect Center during the evenings, and announced free help with English. We're not offering classes, just informal and flexible help for people who want to learn.
On Monday a few women in their 30's came. One said she had walked past our door many times, but was afraid to come in. "I was afraid you would make me change my religion." We laughed, thanked her for coming, and reassured her that wouldn't happen.
Don't we want her to trust in Jesus? Of course we do. But we have found it much better to wait for God to draw people to himself than for us to try to drag them into the Kingdom. It's way more fun and nobody gets hurt by misplaced zeal. I wrote about it in this post a year ago. Then I was referring to the process I went through of learning how to not fix people struggling in life. But it also applies to this new visitor.
We're obviously just getting to know her, but it appears that she's doing just fine: a married housewife with two children in a nearby private school ... Read More
One thing we really appreciate about the West is the strong tradition of activism. People really want to get involved; they really want to help.
Of course there can be mixed motives in anything. Our desire to do good can be easily mixed with a need for significance or a thirst for adventure. Mission trip organizers usually build in at least one sightseeing day. But the fact that Western people care so much and want to help others is a wonderful thing.
Another challenge: there is a tendency in activism to become focused more on principles and action than the actual people we want to help. And in our focus on solving problems we naturally move to trying to fix people. But when we work with broken people we begin to discover that trying to fix them is sometimes the worst, most hurtful thing we can do, and the biggest and most difficult lesson to learn is how to stop.
The focus on fixing or solving also leaves many paralyzed. They want to help but don't see themselves with the necessary ability or know-how. They are afraid to reach out to ... Read More
For most of my life I missed a key part of Jesus' "Upper Room Discourse" in John 13-16. The scene take place shortly before Jesus is arrested and, the next day, crucified. The writer, whom we can reasonably guess is indeed John, Jesus' disciple, has let us know that Jesus clearly knew what was about to happen.
Looking back now it seems silly, but for years it never really occurred to me to think about how one might feel looking ahead to an excruciatingly torturous death the next day. It would kind of weigh on the mood. John's portrayal also suggests that for all the injury that Jesus knew he would endure, the insult would hurt even worse.
As I write this at 8:30pm, Mook and her older cousin Sai are trying to visit a young teen in an apartment complex we know well. The teen and her friend came to church on Sunday, and connected with Mook. Then that night she was in a fight with "Daeng", a seventeen-year-old that we have tried to work with for a few years, an abandoned girl who has learned the toughness of the streets ... Read More
The Christmas story is just as much about going as about giving. We all know why giving gets the spotlight. In God's way of working, the two are twins–you don't have one without the other. So to try to balance things a bit, I like to focus on going.
I've been getting to know "K", 26, our newest member of The Well. K has identified male as a reaction to years of repeated abuse by men since childhood. God gave her model-quality facial features; often a major liability in a culture with rampant male sex addiction.
K is a veteran sex worker, following her mother's footsteps. When K was 21 her mother brought her to Chinatown, where women working the streets lead men into dingy, smelly buildings.
Four years ago, a trusted friend told K that she could make way more money for the same effort in Bahrain. All she needed was a passport, and to show up at the airport. K didn't even ask how much was the plane ticket.
It was the typical debt-bondage trafficking scheme that preys on ignorance and powerlessness. Three years later ... Read More
After writing 31 blog posts last December I fell silent for 334 days. I find it hard to balance writing with day-to-day work. We have so many stories to tell that it's hard to pick. I start on one, don't quite finish, and then another happens. Then there is my big-picture wiring that constantly sees connections. Cori Wittman calls it my popcorn brain. I try to be careful not to ramble when I talk, but often fail and have to apologize. This same tendency makes it difficult to keep focus when writing.
I wasn't really thinking to write daily posts again this December. There is a lot going on. The Well in a major ramp-up phase, with our team launching new outreaches and partnerships. One initiative is social media, where we hope to release dozens of short video clips aimed at Thai audiences over the next year. Our daughter Jaimie and fiancé, Bryce, will be spending 12 days here working on initial projects this month.
But something just happened that made me change my mind. Last Thursday and Friday I interviewed 6 women that we are in the process of bringing into The Well ... Read More