By Amanda Petersen
Amanda used to edit for Wrecked and was recently sent to Thailand to work with young prostitutes who wanted to get out of the sex trade industry. Here is one of her reflections…
I sit on the corner of the Nana district, with no other feeling to describe myself than hopeless, realizing that if we somehow “bought” 3,000 of these girls and gave them a different life, there’d be 3,000 more here to work the next day. The problem that forces these girls here is as deep as the problem that brings the men here to buy them. There is not quick fix, there is no band-aid, and there are no easy answers.
It is a system that forces its young girls into prostitution. It is based on years and years and years of cultural oppression, as well as the intrusive integration of big business. This is the place where the sweatshops that completely break my heart thrive, because it is a tough decision between selling one’s sex for thousands of dollars a month, and working twenty-nine days a month for something that doesn’t even resemble a living wage. It is a day worth mourning when we allow ourselves to settle on either of these options for our fellow human beings.
The girls are led into believing that the more money they make, the more secure they will be. They will have more money to send home to their families, and more money to secure the kind of lifestyle they want for themselves in Bangkok. They see the western man as the best option for marriage – their families will be taken care of, fine jewelry and nice vacations ensue, and they receive a chance to allegedly break free from the vicious cycle they have known their whole lives.
I sit and wrestle with the idea that the new system that they are moving into is just as broken as what they have known. They move from being the oppressed, to being the oppressor. I ask myself a million questions
Does a place even exist in life where we do not have to fit either one of these roles? If I have to choose, is it not better to be oppressed than to be the oppressor? What does the Kingdom of God even look like in the midst of this? How can I even reconcile being Christ while enjoying the pleasures of a system that oppresses? How can I even say, “You are free!” while helping to create captivity? Who is living life like this Christ that I read about and feel calling me deep within my heart? Where are they and can they please give me a few freakin’ words of wisdom?
I am drowning.
If God has spoken one thing to me during this time in Thailand (which he hasn’t – he has spoken way more than that), it is that before I can believe a new Kingdom is coming, I have to believe that this system will end.
And in the meantime, I have to live as though another world is possible. (Which, I’m still trying to chew onbecause a system that doesn’t oppress probably resembles buying a little plot of land in the south where we farm and let travelers stay. We take what we need and share all that we have. But living with “enough” only takes care of half of the equation. There are still babies dying of hunger, old men dying of AIDS, and women being bought and sold.)
I pray daily that God would give me eyes to see this system die, and a new Kingdom be born. This all comes into perspective as we meditate on the cross, and I pray that those moments of revelation become engrained rather than fleeting. In the midst of this, I get to come to terms with my own materialism and my own role as the oppressor, which is always completely hellish and discomforting, but so worth it.
We get to see that new life truly does come from death, and that all these things must die. We get to see the truth of resurrection actually penetrate our lives.
There are at least two different ways to be a prophet. The first is the way that Moses took. His task was to tell enslaved men and women: “You can be free!” The second way is the way of Jesus. To men and women who consider themselves free he says that they are actually enslaved. The second way is much rarer and much harder. -Richard Rohr
Amanda Petersen is from Portland OR and used to edit for Wrecked. She is finished up her time in Thailand where for two months she has been ministering to victims of the sex industry. If you like Amanda’s writing, be sure to read Broken at a Beer Bar and Grace for Sale.