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April 2006

Viewing posts from April , 2006

Is There Hope for Her, Even Her? – April ’06

I’ve got a very different story to tell. This one’s far different from the funny stories of my bowel problems or elephants roaming the highways as you may have read previously here. This story is not one that’s easy to hear – but it’s one that I cannot not tell. I am compelled by Christ to tell you. And it’s a story that begs for a response.

A few of us here, myself and some of our old friends from church, and some of the Thai national CCC staff who I have been living with and working with, have come to know a young woman named Ae. She is a beautiful young lady of 30 years who looks to be not a day older than twenty-two. She is extremely bright and intelligent, with a inviting disposition than cannot be refused by anyone – young or old – arguing the finer points of the current Thailand political crisis with middle-aged professionals one-minute, leading a barrage of jokes to keep the college-aged kids rolling with laughter the next, before turning to bring a smile to another face as she snuggles with a tiny baby before going on her way.  She walks with a confident head held high and brings those who cross her path to say “”Wow, she has got it all together.”” Sounds great right? So, where does the difficult part come in?

Ae also happens to be a prostitute.

The picture that I have been painting in your mind suddenly changed, didn’t it?

But this story goes much deeper than simple outward appearances. Ae comes from a small village outside of Korat, one of the poorest parts of Thailand. Her parents have no education whatsoever – her father looks after a few cows that belong to someone else, not able to do any strenuous work because of heart problems, and her mother much the same – excluded from work because of diabetes that often goes unmedicated. She is the second child in a family of five girls, with her older sister just a year in advance. Ae and her older sister were forced to leave school after the sixth grade because in Thailand, studying throughout middle school and high school is not free. Ae’s family simply didn’t have the money to send the older girls to study any further. Her father got paid about 50 cents a day during during the years of Ae’s childhood, and has only now, in the last few years, reached the level of $2.50 a day. Growing up, they didn’t even have enough money for everyone in the family to eat every day. Ae has told of not knowing what it felt like to be full until her teen years. And, if you can bear to hear it, people in this part of Thailand have even been forced to eat the worms that live in buffalo dung just to stay alive. Ae’s family is no exception.

As soon as Ae and her sister left school at the age of 12, they went to work – struggling to carry heavy tools, rocks, and such at construction sites for 50 cents a day each. (Yes, the stories of child labor in Asia are very true). With the extra money, they were able to help the growing family eat, as by that time, three more daughters had come along. As often happens in this part of the country, the older kids began working as soon as possible to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their families, and to try to help the younger siblings to have the money to study further. After a few years of odd jobs making pennies a day, Ae and her sister, at the ages of 14 and 15 respectively, moved out on their own to Bangkok to look for work, finding work in a factory earning just enough money to send some back home and to use to survive herself.

As the years progressed, Ae was able to start making a little extra money as she grew into a beautiful young woman with an outstanding voice – and began singing at night after working the factory during the day and began to start paying to build a house for her parents. (The home that Ae grew up in is still standing today, adjacent to the soon to be finished new home, and is not even worthy to be compared to the treehouses that we often have as kids in America. Yes, some of my Thai friends have been there and seen it, its that bad). Ae thus began building a new home for her parents, to fulfill her childhood dream – a real home, with real walls made from more than scraps of 2 x 4’s pieced together, a roof that does not leak every time it rains, a home that actually has more than one room, a house with electricity and running water – a safe place of rest for her aging and ailing parents.

But after almost 10 years of building little by little, Ae began to see that she would soon run out of time, as the house was only halfway finished, and the time came for her youngest sister to enter high school. Ae’s older sister was already paying for one younger sister to go to school, but could not pay for both. Ae was already paying to build her parents a real home, and knew that there was no way she could continue to build the home, and send her youngest sister to study, and began to save the money that her younger sister would need to go to college too. What was she to sacrifice? The home for her parents that had been in works for 10 years, or the future of her youngest sister? Was she to sacrifice the dreams of her entire family for a new home, or was she to sacrifice the chance of a better life for her youngest sister?

Neither. She chose to sacrifice herself instead. For the last ten months or so, Ae has been working in a “”high class massage parlour”” here in Bangkok. Its a high-rise mega-complex that offers massages and “”extra services”” to a very exclusive clientele. Only the “”high-rollers”” are allowed. Here, Ae makes more money in one week than most Thai college graduates make in one month. And for a woman with only a sixth-grade education, it’s more than she would make in 4 months. But still, she lives in a tiny dormitory-style one room apartment, only keeping enough money to pay her essential bills, while sending the rest back home for her parent’s home and paying her sister’s school fees.

But you may be thinking, Matt are you trying to glorify her work? Are you trying to justify her very real sin? Not in the slightest. But I approach her story, constantly remembering that I am just as guilty before God as she is – if not for the work of Christ. I have sold myself spriitually to idols, prostituting myself to “”other gods”” who are not my precious Lord. My sin looks different here in this world, but it is still much the same sin. I am just as guilty as her, and so are you.

As i tell her story, I am relating to you a story that goes deeper than what you may read in a magazine or hear on the news. This is real life. Its not make-believe. And it cuts a lot deeper when you hear even a bit of it from the mouth of the one who lived it.

Before Ae reached the age of 17, she was the victim of regular rapes by a local police officer. In her small village, the police officers had the power to do whatever they wanted, and one particular officer repeatedly assaulted and raped her over the course of more than one year. She was the victim of physical abuse as a young child – receiving beatings at the hands of relatives. She has never had a normal relationship with a man, the victim of abuse once again in one relationship, and each and every one of her four boyfriends in her past revealing to her that they were already married, and leaving her alone. Almost everything in Ae’s life has been a disappointment. No, that word is not strong enough. Nearly everything in her life has crushed her hope. She has told some of the women at church of these things, continuing that she does not want to hope any more, that there is no real love available for her, that her heart has nowhere to find rest, that she is determined to help her family, but there is nothing in this world that will bring any good, any hope, any love, any peace to her life individually. In moments of desperation, she has attempted suicide three times without success. She has taken enough pills that should have easily killed her, but she survived. She has confessed that she has completely given up on anything good in this life for herself. She is now simply waiting to die.

Is her picture clear in your mind now? Can you see her yet? Is there anything that can be offered to her? Is there anything that can rescue her? What can give her hope? What can give her real love in her heart? What can wipe away her past? What can cleanse her conscience from all her sin? Where is she to turn? Where can she go?

Jesus.

Jesus.

Jesus.

He alone can cleanse her, can wipe away her tears, can give her real hope, real love, a new hope, a new spirit, a cleansed conscience, a new past, a new present, a new future. He alone can take her old life and crucify it, and crucifing her, putting the old her to death, burying her, and raising her to new life in Him.

Can He really do this for Ae? It is amazing to me that this woman is still tempted to hope, but somehow, Ae thinks He can. She wants to believe. But yes, I said thinks He can, she hasn’t yet believed. She knows the story of Christ. She sort of understands the basics of the gospel. She believes in God. She understands that Christ came to earth and died in her place. She understands that Christ died to accept God’s punishment for her sin. She knows that Buddhism has no way to cleanse her from her sin or to cure her heart. She knows that when she dies, she will go to hell. She knows that Christ is the only possible way out, and that if He is not true, she is doomed to hell. She knows that He is the only possible way for her heart to be renewed, to be made new, to receive hope. She knows that true faith in Christ requires her to cast aside every other dependence. But in a life that has only brought disappointment and heartache at every turn, in a life that has destroyed her hope, she is desperately afraid to trust anyone or anything again. She wants to believe, but also still wonders if Jesus will be any different. She confesses that she has never met any people in her life that are like us, the Christians that she now knows. But, is Jesus truly all that we say He is? Can He really do all that we say He can? Or will her heart only be crushed even further, if she does what she promised not to do – if she attempts to truly hope in something again? Will she only be plunged deeper into despair if she does what she promised herself never to do again – if she risks hoping again and casts herself in dependence upon another?

This is where she is – at a crossroads. After a life of heartache that most of us will never know, will she be bold enough to cast herself onto Christ, trusting in Him as all she longs for? We don’t know just yet. But we know that God has brought us all to cross her path for a purpose – and God’s heart is for her to receive salvation in Christ. We do know that we can, we must do everything in our power to show her that Christ is real, that His promises are real, and that He able to do in her life what can be found nowhere else.

How can we do that in a real tangible way? We will buy her for Christ.

We feel led to show her that Christ can redeem her completely, rescuing her from her prison of sin, of self, of an awful past, of everything. As Christians, we know that Christ has bought us with Himself, He has purchased us with His own blood, He has paid for us completely – bringing us out of prison through the payment that He made on our behalf. We intend to do the same for Ae, purchasing her out of prostitution, releasing her from her prison in this world, by paying her debts for her. Before she does anything good for us, before she commends herself to us in any way, we intend to pay her remaining debts for her house, so that she may be freed from this prison of prostitution that she was forced to enter.

You may be thinking, shouldn’t she leave prostitution first – then we can help her? No, we won’t wait. We will pursue her and purchase her freedom.

Why?

Romans 5:8

“”But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.””

Before we ever did the slightest thing that we even thought might have a hint of inclination towards God, He died for us. While we were still His enemies, He died for us. Before we did any good, or attempted to clean up our act, He bought us. His sacrifice of love came first, our response to His sacrificial love came after. We intend to sacrifice our money for Ae, to pay her remaining debts to purchase her freedom, with the confident expectation that with our prayers of faith, God will bring her the final step of the way, from knowing the story and wanting what is found only in Christ, to actually trustfully depending, making Christ her own, receiving Him in glad, dependent faith – that God will open the eyes of her heart to see Christ’s payment for her in the spiritual realms, through seeing the payment that Christ’s followers make for her here in the physical. After all, how can we can expect her to cast her eternal debts on One who can’t provide a few dollars for her temporal debts?

We will help her. We will show her the truth of Christ. But we can’t do it alone. Ae needs about $5,000 to finish her home and to provide for her sister to study for the next year. Ae already has big plans for life after prostitution. She has already met with the people at Rahab ministries, a Christian group that provides free housing for those who leave prostitution. Rahab also pays for these young women to go to beauty school for six months – to graduate with a degree – so that they may have an occupation that they may be proud of. Ae has wanted to be a beautician for years, but has never used any of her money for herself – always sending the money to her family. Ae wants desperately to leave prostitution and to take Rahab up on their offer of a new occupation, but she simply can’t do it without help. She needs your help. I’m not writing to ask you simply to say a passing prayer for her. I’m writing you to reach out and display the pursuing love of Christ in a tangible way. I’m asking you to send whatever amount you can, not simply if you have money left over, but I’m asking you to consider that Christ sacrificed everything for you, and to sacrifice for another that needs you, and more importantly, for another who needs hope, who needs to see the truth of Christ through transformed lives, compelling even those who don’t know her, who will never meet her in this world, to love her, and to sacrifice themselves for her.

Will you respond?

**Edited financial support details – June ’06**

As you send what God leads, also pray for her considering the work of Christ as prophecied in Isaiah and later fulfilled in Him:

Isa 61:1-3

“”The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion–
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.””

I Have Just Seen Jesus – March ’06

Imagine with me for a moment: you are a married man, with a wife and two very young children to care for, working with an organization that doesn’t give you paycheck, you simply trust God to provide for you through the giving of other Christians in a country in which only about 1% of the population believes in Christ , and you live year after year, with never an extra penny, never ever having extra money to call “”your own”” for more than 10 years, often checking your account to find that there is no money at all, even that you are in debt to your organization, you’re in the negative, and you’re wondering how your family will eat, or how you will pay the rent, “”forced”” into absolute dependence on Christ to provide everything, month after month, year after year.Then suddenly one day, after years of constant praying and calling upon God’s faithfulness to provide for your family, you check your account to find that someone has heard about your ministry, and has felt lead to give you the equivalent of more than 1o months worth of financial support for your entire family! The money is there – in your account – it’s ALL YOURS! God has answered! For the next 10 months, all your expenses for you and your family are completely taken care of! Praise God! Praise God!

But in the midst of your praise, you think of the other Thai people whom you work with – they are in the same position you have been in for years, they depend on God for their support too – and almost 90% of them have negative accounts like you have had for years and years. You know them, their love for God, their faith in Him, their prayers of dependence for Him to provide for them as well, and yet the money to cover you and your family for almost one year has come to you! Not them. What do you do?

This is the story of a staff person here in Thailand recently – Ohm. Ohm recently discovered that a supporter gave him enough money to take care of his family for almost one year, to completely cover all of his expenses for his family, but at the same time, Ohm considered the situation of his brothers and sisters in Christ. Do you know what Ohm did? Regarding them above himself, he took every penny of that huge sum of money and gave it all away – every bit – to the others who needed it – not more than he did, most of the others don’t even have families to take care of, but he gave it to them anyway, regarding their needs as more important than his own.

And now, his bank account is negative again. But, his trust is not in his bank account or in any person who gives him anything. His trust is in God Himself, and God is the One who is faithful to provide for all His needs. His bank account his negative, but his bank of joy inside is full with the joy that is only Christ’s, and that comes from glad surrender, obedience, and dependence on Christ. Ohm has been able to freely rejoice with many other staff over God’s provision for them as well – as most of them don’t have a clue where the money came from. He didn’t let hardly anyone know, he quietly transfered the money into many accounts, and sat back and enjoyed hearing staff after staff praise God saying, “”Thank God for His provision for me! I don’t know what person this money came from, but I praise God that it truly came from Him!””

I was rocked by this story of God’s working through Ohm. I am light-years away from this kind of faith and love for others, and have just had to sit back and praise God for what He has done through Ohm and ask that He may grow me up to follow after Ohm’s example.