By Amanda Petersen
In July, you helped us send one of our editors to Thailand to bring hope to prostitutes in the sex industry. Amanda spent a few months there, befriending the young girls and has since returned. We asked her to share a little from her experiences and how it has impacted her heart. This is what she sent us:
As I sit in a dimly lit room, housed in the apartment of some friends in New York, I can’t help but roll thoughts of Thailand over and over again in my mind. It shouldn’t surprise me that a day doesn’t go by that I don’t dwell on the memories of my few short months in Bangkok.
Two months have passed since I collected email addresses, gave my hugs, said my good-byes, and boarded an airplane to fly away from the people and places that I have grown to love. It’s so hard for me to look back and try to experience the person that I was before Thailand – the information that I had, the perspectives I held, the situations that I expected, and the uncertainty that I went with.
I remember fearing the unknown streets and allies of which I only had images recorded in documentaries and websites, the relationships which I hoped would not be cold and fruitless, and the inevitable moments of questioning my faith and my life choices.
Now that all of these fears have been met, I am only left to reflect upon the ways in which they have shaped me and molded my views of the Kingdom of God and the reality that we have created for ourselves.
It’s hard to believe that I once was uncertain about how I would ever even begin to form a friendship with a Thai prostitute. I had my fair share of awkward and emotional nights sitting in the establishments that sold sex, many times wondering what good was even being done by me being there. I wish I could go back and do it all over again with the knowledge that I have now. I would have gone knowing that friendship was all I could look for, and that it would come in many forms.
I now get several emails a week from the girls that I love in Bangkok. Some are still working, some are now with Western boyfriends, some are headed back to their villages. It is not abnormal for me to sign out of my email account with glassy eyes, wishing these conversations would be in person over a round of bowling or a round of coffee.
I feel like a written update should include touching stories or fancy written lessons, but I don’t feel like I call tell any of it. Several of these girls are my sisters now. I don’t publish personal details of conversations and interactions with my American friends, and I guess it feels wrong to do it with my Thai friends now as well. In fact, I have to look back on my writing from my time away and roll my eyes at myself for what I wrote, but I suppose it is a reminder that all growth is a journey.
That being said, I am finding myself at a loss of what else I should say. The struggles of my mind and heart seem as unfit to write about as my friendships with the girls. But since I have the pen (or the keyboard), I will go ahead and take the opportunity to mention something that I’ve learned: These women have become one of the many reasons why I am believing a lot less in ministry and a lot more in living. In fact, I think it is safe to say that I don’t really believe in ministry at all anymore.
I am finding (as many people who have come before me have found) that it is when our heart is likened to that of Christ that a true lifestyle of love, joy, and peace flows. Traveling around the world on short term trips feeds something within us and something in the people that we go to, and can definitely be a reaction to the heart of Christ in us, but it is not the means within itself. It’s ministry does not make us like Christ. I have been faced with the large reality that the only thing I can control is how much I let the Kingdom of God into my own being, to let it transform and renew me, and then to live a lifestyle that this new heart demands. I want to look at the choices I make and say, “In light of how I know, understand, and love the man and God of Jesus Christ, I do not know how else to live. It is all that I have come to know.”
I knew going to Thailand would alter my journey, but of course, the shifts never come as we’d expect. While there, I read “The Prophetic Imagination” by Walter Brueggemann at least three times. In it, he says, “We will not have a politics of justice and compassion unless we have a religion of God’s freedom. We are indeed made in the image of some God. And perhaps we have no more important theological investigation that to discern in whose image we have been made.” So, now what? I am left in a vulnerable place. I have many decisions to make. I have decisions to make about the paths I will now go down – the ones that dictate how I will make money, how I will spend the money that I do make, where I will live, how I will live, and the day to day activities in my life.
And to discern in whose image I have been made, and live that way.
I want to say a huge “thank you” to the community of Wrecked that prayed for and support me while I was away. I was blown away by the emails and messages from people who I came to know through this process. I am impressed by what Wrecked is becoming. continue to let this be a place to share stories and spur one another one, and not simply another means of entertainment.
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Amanda Petersen of Portland, OR used to be an editor for Wrecked . She has a passion for photography, writing, reading, and love. She recently returned from two months in Thailand, sharing love and hope with girls in the sex trade industry.