“For 24,” is a year-long campaign telling the story of Freedom 4/24—from the survivors, world-changers, and volunteers to fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and enrich your understanding of Freedom 4/24 and the work we do together.
It has been an incredibly busy two months. Three-quarters of our staff spent 10 days co-hosting a camp for teenage trafficking survivors in India, then returned to hold two successful Run 4 Their Lives races in Virginia. We are grateful for the many wins YOU helped us accomplish during this time. While we catch our breath and collect our thoughts, we want to take you back to December 2015 to give you an update on what is happening with our Freedom 4/24 partner in Bangkok, Thailand, Home of New Beginnings. Here is a look at the exciting expansion on the horizon for them, and the heartbreaking reality of WHY this expansion is needed, through the eyes of Freedom 4/24's team trip leader, Megan MacDougall.
#13. Megan MacDougall, Thailand Trip Leader
“God delights in our impossible prayers.” –Bob Goff, author of the New York Times best-seller “Love Does”
Pattaya, Thailand: A scene that brought a fresh perspective to what Jesus knew to be true, “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
At first glance, it masquerades as a breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively, from the streets of Bangkok, where we had just spent a week in its red light districts. Instead of hot smog with putrid stench and not much in the way of a view, Pattaya greets you with palm trees swaying in a cool breeze, beaches as far as the eye can see, and sunsets that cast bold colors of orange and pink across an expansive ocean. It is initially inviting, as though this is a place you can let your guard down and relax. But our team knew not to trust its invitation. As Bonita, the founder of Home of New Beginnings (HONB), cautioned us, “Pattaya makes Bangkok look like Sunday school.” Her warning proved all too accurate.
After a 2.5-hour van ride, we pulled up to the newest location of HONB, a safe house in Pattaya. As we walked through the house, I found myself picturing the many broken souls that will come through its doors and the healing and transformation these walls will see. As we made our way into downtown Pattaya later that evening, we witnessed streets lined with bar after bar busting at the seams with girls for sale. In Pattaya customers here can “buy” whatever they seek —any age, race, or gender. The streets we walked were filled with men, women, and children whose identities were reduced to a price tag.
As we drove through several red light districts, we learned staggering statistics about Pattaya, including that it is home to approximately 1,843 bars, some 30,000 “above ground” prostitutes (there are many more underground) during what they call “dry season,” and during peak season that number rises to approximately 50,000. After walking through what is known as “Walking Street,” the infamous “unrivaled epicenter of Pattaya’s bustling nightlife” as one article referred to it, these statistics felt undeniably possible. It also felt impossible that any of it could change. That’s when I decided to start praying impossible prayers.
Walking Street is so busy, so claustrophobically full of people buying other people like they are pieces of meat. Rubbing shoulders with those who shamelessly purchase other human beings out in the open feels like a form of hell on Earth. Watching adults forcing little girls to dance in the street before the ogling eyes of men is enough to turn even the toughest stomach. Many bars there have bouncers standing outside of their doors, not to protect the women and girls inside, but instead to ensure their merchandise is paid for and brought back. We learned these bars are owned by the Russian mafia and the girls within them are mostly trafficked.
On Walking Street alone, there are women and girls from all over the world. The one thing connecting us all—the girl from Asia and the girl from Africa, the girls being sold, and the women whose hearts broke at the sight of them being purchased—is a God whose undeniable love for us is real, who desperately wants us to know Him. I believe God brought us to Pattaya to see the 5-year-old girl heavily made up and barely dressed, dancing and seductively winking at her admirers. Where did she learn that? I cried inside. My attention was also drawn to a girl with bruises running down her leg, dancing in the window above a bar. How did she learn to smile through pain? I wondered.
At one point, a man grabbed one of my teammates’ arms and attempt to purchase her. Perhaps that was God revealing to us that this COULD be us. We could be the ones barely dressed, feigning happiness and enthusiasm to go with the next paying customer, not knowing what the following hours would bring but understanding fully that our worth had literally been quantified.
While in Pattaya, God allowed us to see the wounded and the maimed, the lost and the absolutely hopeless, the ones who have never known love and certainly don’t know the One who created it. But He did not just bring us here to see them but also to immerse us into their world, to hug them without reservation, to let our hearts break over them, to hold their hands, to place a bracelet on their wrist and tell them of their worth, to smile at them and to ceaselessly intercede for them. He brought us there to bring us back home changed. To return with stories in our mind and faces in our hearts. To share with those ready to hear about the travesties happening outside of our safe neighborhoods. And to comprehend fully why each one of us has the story we do—so we can better love others, speak out when they are unable, and recognize our Savior in another’s hurting eyes.
This is why He created you, me, the church—to be advocates that enter into the mess so we can be a part of the reconciliation. It is easy to believe that in Pattaya, in Bangkok, in any red light district or brothel in the world that it isn’t working. It’s easy to think, What’s the point? With thousands of bars and tens of thousands of people for sale, is it worth it? I am just one person.
But transformation is happening. I know this because I have seen the first-hand healing of the girls who live at New Beginnings. They have told me of their journeys and their hopes and dreams because they now have Christ. So, I continue in my impossible prayers. For the girls of Pattaya and Bangkok, and all over the world who are being sold every day. I pray that they not only be rescued but restored. The girls at New Beginnings know it is possible. Who am I to say otherwise?
As for me, I choose to use my one life and one voice to help make the impossible possible.
The question is: Will you join me?
Freedom 4/24 exists to raise awareness and support for our partner organizations like Home of New Beginnings, who do the difficult work on the ground of rescuing and restoring girls who have been sexually exploited or trafficked. Beginnings offers safe shelter, counseling, food, medical care, and an education through college for the girls who call it home. YOU help make this possible. Please consider partnering with us today. Click here to become a recurring giver so we can continue this important mission.