So now we've been here 2 weeks and I'm finally getting down to writing about what's going on here. My team has started ministry in a raw area, and so far we've only been in the bars there 5-6 nights, but the relationships being built with these girls is unbelievable! We went in thinking it was going to be hard talking to the girls, but really they WANT to talk, most all of them hating their jobs and what they have to do for money. My ministry squad of 3 teammates includes Allysha from Canada, Gulya from Tajikistan, and myself from the USA - and so far we have only been into a handful of the bars (of about 80 in the 5 streets/alleys) but have made a few friendships that are very promising!
Going in some nights I’ve found myself begging God for a heart for these people because I just didn't want to be in a truck on my way to such a place. I hate that such a ministry is needed, am saddened by the hopelessness we see in these women's eyes, and am filled with a righteous anger with the offense of God's Holy Name on this island. I have cried out and in His faithfulness to answer has been encouraging me with when one of our bars we were revisiting welcomed us in, thrilled to see us - it was so Apparent, the difference in how they treated us from the first night. They knew we weren't there for anything but to talk and hang out with them, and they knew that we had something different.
Last night as we were leaving that bar, a young Norwegian guy made a scene about us leaving and not sticking around to meet his friends. The bar owner laughed at him and explained how we were good girls; we came had a drink without alcohol and just hung out with them. They see us as "good girls" and that's exactly what we’d been praying for. It was also great hearing this coming from the bar owner as the ministry can be completely shut down by an owner who gets uncomfortable and ugly about us not buying alcohol and keeping the girls from entertaining, so praise the Lord that their is a positive response to our presence! Another group had the bar girls mentioning that they had seen them and "liked them" because they weren't dressed like tourists, indicating the short shorts and revealing shirts - but rather that we dressed like Thai, nicely put together, comfortable, and not too revealing. This was another encouragement to dress modestly - even in the scorching 90* weather with 80% humidity.
Matt 10:38 is still hanging over us. In praying before leaving last night God put it on my heart to really pray that my team, all girls, not be a stumbling block or distraction to feed the lust in these men we’d be meeting. By the end of the night I truly felt how much that prayer was needed, my night’s conversations were mostly men looking for something unattainable where they were at. It was hard to stay and talk to a few of them, knowing i was just entertaining, but necessary so that the other girls on my squad could hold a conversation with the bar girls. Praise God for His grace and protection that even when in those situations there is something that will be seen differently, that those men will come to terms with their unsatisfied souls, and for their hearts to be tender to those God will put in their paths. He loves each of them and my heart is broken for their empty hearts in the search for love, worth, and purpose. May the Lord bring them all to a place of encountering His love and may each heart be transformed to run after Him - a satisfying race indeed!