By Julie Lortz
The past several days have been hard. The weight of this place is beginning to catch up with me. I find myself walking down the street holding back tears. Maybe everything I see is starting to break me down; maybe as I begin to hear more of each girl’s story, I am seeing the enormity of the pain in their hearts; or maybe living with seven other people day in and day out is taking its toll. I think it is all of the above. The good news -I have nowhere to fall but in the arms of Christ. I am at the end of myself.
I want to share some of what we learn as we build relationships with the women. The majority of the women are from a very poor, farming village in Northeast Thailand, called Esarn. The daughters are responsible for rescuing the family from the hopeless poverty, while the young men are usually free to live as they wish. The young girls find out that they can make good money at the bars in Bangkok. Sometimes a friend tells them; sometimes people come to the villages to recruit the woman; sometimes the girls are sold by their families; other times their parents or their devastating situations force them to seek money and a different life in the city. Little do they know that this new life will bring pain that changes them, cuts deep and lasts a lifetime.
One woman went to the bars after her second husband died. Her first husband left her. Her second husband who was a good man died in his sleep from working day and night to support her entire family. With 2 small children she chose to come to make a living at the bars. She had little other option, as her parents had a broken marriage and so many problems of their own.
A young girl comes to find a way out of the poverty she is destined for in her home village. In the villages, there is no chance for education past sixth grade, especially for women. The cost is just too much for a family that has nothing. Thailand lacks free education. It is a struggle for many families to pay the fees that come with attending school.
The girls, often teenagers, come to Bangkok, scared, unsure, and desperate. If they are a little older, the women usually have young children. Their husbands have left them, have died or they are just worthless. Many of the women we meet have children back home that are taken care of by their parents. They rarely get to see their children, if at all. If they are lucky they talk on the phone with them once a week.
One of the women I know is not allowed to see her eight-year old son. Her father says that she will not see her son, since she cannot provide for him and pay his school fees. She misses her son desperately, but she has chosen not to work in the bars and thus her father restricts her from any contact with her son.
The women are expected to send the majority of the money they earn having sex with customers home to support their families. Some women have the burden of providing for their parents, 1-2 of their own children, their brother and his family and the school fees of younger siblings. They are also pressured to send money for anything the parents want. It is important for the family to “save face,” and let the community know that they have money. Money drives everything.
The women are expected to go with a certain number of customers each month. After they meet that quota, they make more money. Naturally they want to go with more customers to make more money. The women do not have a say in what men they go with; if a customer wants to pay their bar fine, the girl must go.
When with the customer the girls must do whatever the customer wants.Sometimes they are treated horribly. And after being treated horribly and being degraded, the men sometimes refuse to pay.The men think they can control the women, since they have paid for their services.The accounts of how the women are treated horrible.
There are so many stories – girls whose fathers have tried to kill them; girls who have been raped multiple times; women who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, some of them get drunk before/at work so they can forget what they are doing and the men that they are with; women who have low self esteem because they think they are fat or can’t speak English well. I can’t imagine them having much self-worth considering the way they are degraded night after night. They feel dirty and ashamed. Their worth is utterly destroyed by the men. They are reduced to objects used for a man’s pleasure. Most times they won’t let you know that; they try to save face.
If the women, let you in, they may tell you how they dislike the work of the bar. They are bored, they don’t like the men, they feel bad about themselves, they never have a night off, the gossip is horrible.But most see little other option.
All the woman dream of one thing – to be rescued. With every man that comes to the bar, they have a new hope of being rescued. They want a farang (foreigner, usually from US, Europe, or Australia) man that will sweep them off their feet, take care of them, love them, be their prince, provide for them, marry them and take them out of the bars. It is unlikely they will find that kind of man at the bars.And if they do,there is another problem: a man cannot fulfill the deepest longings of any woman, a man cannot heal them on the inside, a man cannot offer the perfect and unconditional love that they need. Only Christ can rescue them in the way they need to be rescued. Only Christ can bring redemption and healing to these women.
Please continue to pray for the women to be rescued. Pray for truth, freedom, release, healing – so much healing.
“And now, I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Heartbreak into Acres of Hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did when she was young, when I freed her from captivity.” -Hosea 2:14-15
If you liked this article, check out: $1-2 Women
Julie is from Greenville, SC. After graduating college, she’s traveling around the world – learning to fully trust and seek God while living in community. Her hope for the trip is wake up to her identity and destiny in Christ. She loves being immersed in different cultures and getting to know people from around the world.