Get an inside look at what it’s like to travel with Freedom 4/24. Martha Heinlein was a member of our trip to Pattaya, Thailand this past November. Read Martha’s reflection after working with women and girls in the red light districts of Pattaya.
…and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.- Romans 5:5
As I began to prepare for my Freedom 4/24 trip to Pattaya, Thailand in 2018, the word “hope” rang in my heart. I had traveled to Thailand three times before, so I knew exactly what I would be facing—a city that in peak season, fuels human trafficking to the tune of 50,000 women being bought and sold for profit. I knew I couldn’t be a savior—but I believed that I was called back to be an agent of hope—a voice of kindness and compassion that broke through the immense darkness—a reminder that even the ones who felt the most forgotten and unloved were in fact, deeply loved by us, and most importantly, by Jesus.
It’s been almost six months since I returned, and I’ve still struggled to put into words what I experienced during the 10 days I spent in Pattaya. I came face-to-face with a city that is arguably more depraved than any place on earth—every corner we turned seemed to be a little worse than the one before. Our mission was simple: go into the bars, build relationships with the women working there, and invite them to a Christmas Party where they would be honored, celebrated, and shown a pathway to freedom.
In the days leading up to the party, we wrapped presents, we prayed, and we spent our evenings in the bars, making friends with women who often remained faceless in a country that turns a blind eye to their exploitation. In the middle of hopelessness, a dim light was beginning to shine.
The day of the Christmas party, our team gathered to set up a banquet hall, prepared for 80 guests. We hung twinkle lights, decorated Christmas trees, set out gifts, and set up games. We covered the room in prayer, and we went out in the evening heat to meet our friends at the bars, and to bring them back en masse for an evening of celebration. The tables filled quickly, and our friends kept coming in droves. The banquet staff added more seats and more tables—volunteers left in a tizzy to purchase more gifts, while dozens of party guests did the limbo, played musical chairs, and made handcrafted earrings. The party was in full swing, and women from all over the city were still arriving. We crowded around tables, partook in a banquet fit for the King himself, and heard a message of—you guessed it—hope. Our speaker for the evening, a woman who pastors a church in Pattaya, shared the message of the Gospel in their native tongue, and our hearts were overflowing with joy as many heard of the love that Christ had for them for the very first time, and were introduced to the hope of a life of freedom that could come through moving into The Home of New Beginnings, Freedom 4/24’s partner organization. The 80 guests we were prepared for? That number nearly doubled, and 153 women were able to taste hope and freedom that evening.
I’ve been asked many times “why would you use your hard-earned vacation time to go and do this work in Thailand?”. My best answer is this—I am reminded of the story in scripture of the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine to go after the one. At the Christmas party, we are graced with a room full of “ones.” Women who are passed over, devalued, broken and afraid—but Jesus pursues each of them in the same way He pursues me. His heart is for them to know and walk in freedom that only He can give, and I am grateful to get to play even the smallest part.
-Martha Heinlein, Freedom 4/24 volunteer