Over the last month I have become a familiar face amongst the hundreds of tourists who come for pleasure here in the bars Phuket, Thailand. Greeted by name by the women working my favorite bars, my drink is prepared as I make my rounds, making sure to say hello to everyone in the bar. Something as outrageous as this on amissions trip would have me sent home during the Outreach phase of my DTS, however this particular trip has it seen as a huge accomplishment and reason to praise God!
To the back of a side street alley we go to our last bar of this series. Looking down the street you see a metal warehouse which you can enter on the other side to witness an array of vendors, mostly from Nepal or Burma. The other side of the street back here is lined with about 7 sports bar type with 5-8 girls working at each. Our first night here and the music was more overwhelming than anything else, causeing one to practically put mouth to ear in order to hear. At this bar the girls were shy and their limited english proved an extra block in communication. The Lord made a way and my teammate, Gulya, has connected with a young girl named Hope, who has been working the bar for a few months.
As Gulya and Hope spend their time together talking or playing table tennis (definitely their favorite activity), I talk with the men there. Now I will say that in all honesty, this has been hard, it wasn't my goal, but has proven a blessing to Gulya as I in a since keep the men distracted and entertained long enough to give Hope time to talk. Some nights I enjoy the conversations, like the night we met Rojer. A German contractor who's skill has taken him around the world and given him opportunity to spend several months a year in Thailand where he has a condo in the mountains with the monkeys. After his wife died a few years back, he is a man trying to do right by his own understanding. Though misguided and lonely, Rojer has a compassionate heart only missing what the Lord can provide. Talking with him was comfortable and enjoyable, spending half the time praying in the spirit for him I can say that it was a great conversation and I won't mind running into him again.
Other nights are not so welcomed, the worst of these when all the bar owner's friends were in. A loud and sketchy crowd of Italians, rolled in as we were waiting for Hope to be dropped off by a customer she'd left with earlier that night.
We were going to see Hope, making her our first stop as we'd called earlier and she'd wanted to see us at 9:30. However we walked up just in time to see her and a few of the girls, jumping on the back of a motor bike with a customer. She saw us to and the look of sadness that came across her eyes, immediately followed by a visible facade of bubbly joy, was enough to stir anyone's heart. Telling us to come back later as the man drove off, we stood in the alley for a good minute processing what to do next, deciding to move on and hopefully catch her later. Returning a while later Hope still wasn't back so we sat down at the bar and ordered drinks, hoping and quietly praying she'd return soon. A few minutes later the bikes rolled in and the bar came to life. All the seats filled and beside me an older Italian man named Marco sat; as introductions went around the cashier, a beautiful Thai woman with long straight black hair made a fuss about him being to old to talk with me. In good spirits he laughed and called over his younger friend who was down a ways to take his seat, appeasing all in the bar. Marcelo, a man in his early 30s, had been in the area for several weeks looking for a condo to buy into with a friend. Hope and Gulya were at the end of the bar, faced away and leaning in with conversation going well; Allysha to my other side, now talking with Marco who had no other place to sit with the bar packed; I sat and tried my best to keep conversation going the way I wanted it to go. However, as the conversation played out he made a point to tell how interested he was in taking me out for the night, and more than a few times. Between the awkward conversation, the loud music that required us to be so intentional in staying completely engaged, and the frustration of the language barrier I faced surrounded by Thai and Italian, I was more than ready to leave when Hope was called on by another customer.
Every night is it's own and there is no telling what it will look like going in, but no matter the events that happen we always leave with a somber hopefulness for these girls. The excitement and hope in these girls' eyes as we spend time together, and the promise that God will give them opportunity and reveal Himself to each of their hearts, has ministered to our hearts each time. My prayers will always include each of these young women I have become friends with here in Phuket.
Even though we may never see the fruit of our work in Phuket, I know that not a moment went to waste for it was through His power, Spirit, strength, and His glory that we went out each night. Praise the Lord, for He is good, He is just, and He is mighty to save!
"I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of [those over you], and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens... I am the Lord." Ephesians 6:6-7