Archive for the tag “Thailand”

In Thailand’s red light districts

redlight

Kate Weatherly is a multimedia producer living in Asia. The following story is the first of three installments of Kate’s personal account of what she felt, heard and witnessed as she traveled to one of the largest cities in Thailand to photograph women lured into the sex industry. Click here to see AsiaStories’ Part 2 and Part 3.


Day One


My midday flight landed in the city of nearly 7 million people. After settling into my hotel room, I met with friends who were attending a small retreat for Christian women. The city was bustling in the afternoon heat as vendors sold their wares to hundreds of tourists. My friends and I ventured out for Thai massages and dinner.

Several months had passed since we last saw each other so we talked, laughed and caught up with each other’s lives. One friend teaches in a neighboring country and the other was a teacher at a local university in a different part of the city. I shared with them my assignment: capture scenes of the sex industry. The real work would begin tomorrow, but I needed to get a feel for the area so they decided to accompany me on my search for nightlife.

Our taxi driver had some difficulty getting us to our destination — trying to navigate four lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic based on directions three foreigners who had never visited the city.

We finally exited the taxi close to where we thought we wanted to go. One friend ran inside a convenience store to put credit on her phone, I double-checked my camera’s settings and cleaned the lens. As I waited, an Asian woman in a tan and black dress downed an energy drink near the store. Her dress was tight enough to see every curve, and upon observing her posture and mid-section, I wondered if she was in the early stages of pregnancy. We were getting closer.

My friends exited the store. I didn’t know which direction to go, so I followed the woman as she walked carefully down the step in her platform shoes. She was beautiful, but her face seemed lifeless as her hair swished around to hit her mid back. 

It was a short walk. We kept our eyes focused down so we didn’t trip on the uneven sidewalk. Then the darkness was suddenly invaded by the bright neon lights coming from a side-street off the main road, advertising numerous bars and dance halls. Dumbstruck, we hesitated at the entrance of one of the bars.

My friends looked at me. Apparently, I was in charge. Right-oh. I took a few pictures of the entrance and we timidly walked through. Granted it was warm for us foreigners but not for these Asians who were costumed in what appeared to be swimwear.

We walked slowly through the bar; I awkwardly raised the camera, taking a photo of my friends, carefully capturing images behind them. We didn’t belong and we knew it. We could feel that everyone else in the bar knew it, too. With all this pressure, could I gather enough information to help others understand this lifestyle? I only had three nights to capture images. Now it was two.


Day Two


The women at the conference had hoped for a retreat — a place to get away from their noisy lives and find rest. But the spiritual warfare they were encountering made them regret their convenient hotel booking. Several of the women told me of their vivid nightmares, which they were not prone to having, and others said they had hardly slept because of the noises coming from their neighbors.

“Oh it was awful! It was like they were right in our rooms—we could hear everything. It was so nasty,” one of my friends shared.

I tried to work from my hotel room that morning, but I couldn’t accomplish a thing. There seemed to be a heaviness clouding my thoughts, plus I like to be around people. I packed up my gear to check out my surroundings and find a coffee shop. Sweat made my bangs stringy after just a few minutes of walking in the humidity. Gross. The street kitchens I passed were sending signals to my body—time to eat. I passed several promising establishments serving western food that I’d been craving but hadn’t eaten in a while. Each filled with hungry-looking men with Asian cocktail waitresses sitting temptingly close.

Seriously? It’s lunchtime! Frustrated, I bartered for some mini mangos and hopped on a motorcycle taxi headed for the nearest mall. The air felt refreshing as my driver sped past the remaining scenes of the daytime hustle. So sad — and odd — how the sex industry never stops, day or night.


Evening Two


At the beginning, Lynn Andolini* and I stood outside the bars on the sidewalk, observing people. It was overwhelming. What do I shoot? Andolini had worked with Heartweavers, a Christian ministry focused on sex workers, and was used to this atmosphere.

She stood rigid by my side against the grimy bar wall as I dropped to one knee for a better camera angle on a group of young women — independent sex workers — who were applying makeup in front of a hotel sign across the street. 

Andolini let out an air of frustration. “That man is staring you down. Oh my word, he is not happy with you,” she said. “He is looking at you like you were some worm.”

I was now slightly alarmed, “Should we move?” I asked, snapping a few frames as the women smiled and mingled with a backpacker. Maybe he’s asking for directions. His eyes wandered.

“Oh, no, honey. I got your back,” Andolini said. “He is fat and old and I can outrun him anyway. No, keep on shooting.” 

I lifted my eyes above my camera to see who was giving me the stink-eye. An obese man with a red flannel shirt and blue jeans stood in front of me, hunched over from aging—or maybe it was the freshly grilled chicken kabob he was consuming from the street cart vendor.

Funny how righteousness is twisted in the darkness; I am the one frowned upon for being there, photographing, as if the shame was on me and not those men. The sidewalk was small, and shooting whatever images I could find lit by the neons and flashy signs was difficult. This was going to be a long night.

*Name changed

African-American missionaries enlarging the Just Kingdom

If Jesus’ followers are to fulfill our missions as ambassadors of reconciliation and enlarge the Kingdom of Justice, we must focus on breaking down walls of ethnic and racial hostility, in our communities and, even more importantly, among ourselves.

break down wallsOne group making remarkable strides in that area is an old-school missional network, the Southern Baptist Convention. Fred Luter‘s 2012 election as the first African American to lead the 167-year-old national association was a milestone on a journey of reconciliation that had seen the number of African-American congregations in the SBC grow by a whopping 82.7 percent between 1998 and 2011. Some 1 million African Americans in about 3,400 churches affiliate with the denomination.

That splash of reconciliation is rippling out into communities around the world, as a Black History Month package of features on CommissionStories.com illustrates. From W.W. Colley‘s 1875 service in Nigeria to Joseph Lyles‘ short-term work in Thailand, to Marie Edwards‘ work in the IMB‘s NAME region, to Isaac Adams‘ ministry in Brazil, God is using a rock-ribbed, historically Anglo denomination to help a lost world understand that, in Christ, the unity of God’s family is abolishing all the distinctions and oppressions people insist on erecting against each other — “no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female.”

View the “Celebrating African Americans on mission” package of stories, photos, and video by clicking here.

Learn more about the global and North America work of Southern Baptists.

Strangers in our midst: Welcoming refugees

Eric Metaxas writes on BreakPoint:

Since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth to escape religious persecution, America has been a haven for refugees. This year alone, the U.S. has welcomed more than 70,000 of them.

As a result of decades of political violence, hundreds of thousands of the Karen people, the largest ethnic minority in Myanmar (formerly Burma), have been forced to flee the country. In 2007, the U.S. began allowing approximately 15,000 of them to resettle in America every year.

To accommodate these numbers, the U.S. government has depended on non-profit groups — mainly religious organizations and churches — to help the Karen and other refugee populations assimilate into American culture. This has been an enormous opportunity for the church to extend Christ’s welcome to the outcast.

One church in Greensboro, N.C., has done just that. In response to the influx of 3,000 refugees in their community, Friendly Avenue Baptist Church decided to sponsor one Karen family by helping them with basic needs, such as transportation, apartment set-up and language assistance.

Soon the church had three refugee families coming every Sunday and decided it was time to plant a church for those who spoke Karen. Over the course of the next two years, the church plant grew to 200, as word spread that Friendly Avenue really was friendly, a place where outsiders felt welcome.

Bryan Presson, 20-year missionary in Thailand and pastor of the Karen church, noticed that language barriers often forced his congregants to take low-paying jobs in factories located hours from their homes. And cultural illiteracy made them vulnerable to phone or mail scams. And they frequently faced prejudice and scorn from neighbors who weren’t excited about sharing jobs and resources in a downturned economy.

To read more about how this church multiplied justice for refugees, click here.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: