Last night I went to a slave market. Perhaps they were not selling young ladies for a
It was a big building- a warehouse type of space- decorated and air conditioned, but still a warehouse. In stark contrast to the noise and the busyness of life on the streets, this place felt quiet and peaceful. The lighting was dim and the only bright lights were focused on the merchandise.
In a large window display was the most unusual and degrading thing I have ever seen in my life: About 100 young ladies in bikinis, each with a number pinned at their shoulder, sitting there with very fake smiles trying to catch the eye of anyone sitting outside the glass.
In this place of degradation and humiliation of the human race, other humans- men of all shapes, nations, and tribes sat quietly as they selected their slave for the hour. I wondered if some of the American men sitting in that room had previously fought for the freedom of people in other countries only to find themselves now in this place of human trafficking and slavery.
The sadness of the moment was intense. There were no thoughts other than a deep realization that human life is cheap and expendable for too many of us as I watched the grotesque pantomime of money and exploitation play out in front of me.
It is hard to have compassion for those sitting on this side of the glass; those with the bills in their hands and their minds set on themselves.
And yet, last night God called me to compassion and mercy.
I always try to put myself in other people’s positions- in their shoes, if you will- and it has been hard. To feel like one of the girls, being taken by a man that is definitely old enough to be her grandfather. To be in the ugliness of the situation where pressing economic needs and pressures of family make a girl think, “It’s only for the money.”
It is harder for me to put myself in the position of the men- many of them old, unattractive, and all of them losers. The sad reality is that they are prisoners of a glass box as well. They don’t see it, but still, they are prisoners of low self-esteem, sexual addiction, and egocentrism.
It is easy for me to be compassionate for who I perceive as the weak, the neglected, and the victim. But, I acknowledge with my head and with Scripture that in both cases, Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost, to love them both and to give His life for their sake.
I wrote, “with my head” above because I have to confess I am not really there with my heart. I am praying about that, but not there yet.
I want to grab these guys by the shirt and say to them, “Do you know how ridiculous you are making the entire male race look? Don’t you know that you’re old enough to be her grandpa? Do you really . . .”?
I walked the streets of this city in Thailand, ashamed of what we have become, disgusted by what poverty and sin does to people, and how money seems as if it can buy everything except real acceptance and love.
As I walked the streets last night and saw thousands (literally- this is not a literary hyperbole) of girls selling themselves I finally got sick to my stomach. And I don’t want to cure that. I want to be sick for many days to come- to fight, to pray, and to keep seeking what the enemy of our souls has taken away from those on both sides of the glass.
A tee shirt sold by a street vendor summed it up clearly:
That it said all, Yes, this is hell.
Global Mission Pastor
Reporting about human trafficking in Southeast Asia