Here’s a glimpse of my time on the field in Thailand, leading a group of 20 women on a trip for Adventures in Missions.
The reality of what we’re doing here hit me today.
Not that I’d been flippantly in Thailand, naïve of our mission, but today as we walked the Red Light District and felt the eerie heaviness and the dominion of darkness, my heart was reminded of a harsh reality: the men who buy these women and men are themselves slaves.
As we walked in prayer, I asked my team to greet the men they saw on the street as if they were a friend’s uncle. No dirty looks, no condemnation. Just an unexpected kindness. So we greeted any white men as they passed by us in the morning, “Good Morning!” and saw as they either didn’t say anything back or simply didn’t look us in the face. Too much shame to reply to girls who remind them of home, of reality.
I’ve seen that look of shame in the face of a man before, when he couldn’t look me in the face. I’ve seen it. It’s a grief in the soul, knowing that sins committed are the very sins Jesus suffered for, the sins that used to separate us from the heart of God. They may not realize that’s where their shame comes from, or that our Savior has done away with shame. They don’t understand the emptiness of the wells they’re drawing from, how that water doesn’t satisfy like the Living Water. They don’t realize that they’re trying to fill a void that God Himself put in their hearts, for Himself, that the emptiness is their very core CRAVING the Lord.
Instead they try to fill it up with sex, with a counterfeit love, with a high, with an ecstasy of the flesh. It lasts but a moment, and then more shame comes. “What have I done?” “Why do I do this?” “Why have I come here?” “Who am I?” “What am I worth now?” These questions flood in.
I can’t imagine that these men know how to truly love another person. I can’t imagine that they go home and treat their wives well, or honestly converse with their friends, or open up to their families. I don’t think they love themselves, even as they try to satiate their flesh, and end up instead disgusted with their flesh.
There’s only so much someone else can know, before the walls of shame are reached. Because if someone else could see the reality of the sin inside, who could love them? Jesus. But they don’t know that. In their heart of hearts, they are not aware of the reality of the cross. They are unsaved, shackled, and bound. They are slaves to shame, using men and women, in a cycle that only adds more chains, confusion, depression, and isolation.
Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. -Ephesians 3:20-21
So we walk by these people who can’t look us in the face. Our greetings hang in the air, awkwardly ignored. People who can’t look into our eyes, because they’d see the radiant fire of God looking back at them. Men desperately aware of their sin, and desperately afraid of being found out.
Afraid of the very thing that would save them: the exposure of Love.