September 17 2013
Human Trafficking Prevention Starts By Entering Others’ Stories
Today in Thailand there is a teenage boy who is one step away from entering the sex industry. Right now in the Philippines, there is a woman who is one choice away from being prostituted. They may be sitting on the street, begging for change, driven to desperation but hanging on by one last thread. If we saw them, if we knew they were just one choice away, would we be able to prevent it?
Many of us choose to avert our eyes when we see someone helpless or begging on the streets. Because something happens when we look. When we make eye contact with someone, we experience a connection. Looking (really looking) at the person in need causes us to enter into their situation. It forces us to feel something for them. It compels us to act because we become part of their story.
I wrote a newsletter a year ago talking about the Zulu tribe of South Africa. They understand this concept of seeing people. In their native greetings, they say “Sawubona,“ meaning “I see you,” and the other person responds “Ngihkona,” literally, “I am here to be seen.”
The inherent meaning in the Zulu response is “by recognizing me, you brought me into existence.” When they see a person and greet them, they are looking deep into them and acknowledging their humanity, their personality, their dignity.
Everyone has a story. In Acts 3, Peter and John encountered a beggar and chose to enter his situation. Verse 4 says, “Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then, Peter said, ‘Look at us!’” They saw him. Not only that, they made sure the man saw them also. They entered his story, and invited him to enter theirs. In that moment, the kingdom of heaven invaded earth. A man who couldn’t take a step could now leap and run!
He’d expected to receive silver and gold. But he received something more priceless than that. He was seen, he was healed, and because he looked at Peter and John, he entered the Story of Jesus.
We can’t prevent people from being trafficked and exploited unless we are willing to enter into their stories. We can’t bring physical and spiritual healing unless we are willing to enter into their stories. And we aren’t really setting them free unless we also invite them to enter into the greatest Story of all.
--Bethany Ury, OMS missionary, funding to serve with HOPE61 in Thailand
We are currently looking for more people to expand this ministry overseas. If you or someone you know may be interested in this ministry, contact Brent in our Mobilization Department at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 13 2013
Breaking the Cycle of Human Trafficking
From August 2011 - June 2012, I had the privilege of working at a coffee shop ministry in Bangkok, Thailand, reaching out to ladyboys (transvestites) in the sex industry. Along with doing outreach in the bars to encourage ladyboys to leave the sex industry, I also did some prevention work. Part of this was through my relationship with Dom, a boy living in the slums. Dom demonstrated feminine traits, and because of this, he was often ridiculed and labeled a ladyboy by the kids in his village. It was clear that he was insecure and confused about his identity. Our purpose in spending time with Dom was to mentor him and encourage him to look to God for his identity, rather than to his peers.
Almost every week, another volunteer and I would meet Dom in a park nearby his home. We would practice English with him, play badminton and read the Bible. Dom was ecstatic when we bought him his own children’s Bible, full of fun pictures. One of my favorite memories with Dom is celebrating his 12th birthday at an amusement park near the mall. He said he had never celebrated his birthday before. It was so rewarding to see the big smile on his face as he ate a slice of chocolate cake and opened a few gifts.
I wanted to have deeper conversations with Dom, to figure out what was really going on inside him and offer some advice and encouragement. But Dom didn’t always understand my choppy Thai, and he spoke little English. A Thai guy from the ministry was able to do what I couldn’t and have some significant conversations with Dom. Dom didn’t have a lot of guidance from the men in his family, so this was really pivotal for him.
When it came time for me to leave Thailand, I wondered what would happen to Dom. I was worried that without much spiritual guidance, he would lose sight of his identity. However, since being back in the U.S., I’ve heard that Dom has been very involved with a ministry for youth not far from his home. He’s been going weekly to learn more about the Bible and to spend time with the Christian guys there. I was so pleased to hear this! I believe that God has an amazing plan for Dom’s life, and will continue to place mentors around him to help him through his adolescence.
There are many “Doms” in Thailand. In a city like Bangkok, soaked in immorality, there are more young boys struggling with their sexuality and identity than ever before. With the prevalence of prostitution comes great temptation for young men and women, whether by working in the industry themselves or being a customer. Even if every red-light district was shut down overnight, prostitution would still creep its way back into existence simply because of the fact that hearts have yet to be changed. If we want to change the fruit we see, we have to change the roots. We have to look at what is causing the problem, and take action to prevent it before it happens. Our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood, it’s against spiritual forces. Instilling godly values and purity in young men like Dom is one of the first steps we can take in setting the next generation of Thais on fire for God.
Note: Bethany is currently raising funds to return to Thailand as on OMS missionary to serve with HOPE61, our ministry to train and empower the Church to prevent human trafficking.
January 21 2013
HOPE61 in Thailand
When Bethany Ury interned with HOPE61 the ministry was brand new, and Bethany’s future was unclear. Years later came October 2012 – and an acceptance letter to work with OMS as a HOPE61 trainer. What happened in between was God’s glorious hand at work.
In 2010 Bethany spent four months in Thailand. Later she spent a year in Thailand with a ministry sharing the love of Jesus Christ with Thailand’s "ladyboys," a group vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. In Thailand God gave Bethany a scripture that spoke to her heart.
I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You... To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house. - Isaiah 42:6-7
This scripture continues to motivate Bethany as she looks forward to returning to Thailand. Bethany is eager to be a part of expanding OMS’ work in Thailand and to work with a church she previously attended in Bangkok. Currently, Bethany is on staff at the OMS student center of Asbury College and will soon begin fundraising. Bethany also considers her experiences as a HOPE61 intern to be preparation for what God has called her to now. As an intern Bethany helped to write training materials that have been used in various African countries and also gained experience in publicly sharing the HOPE61 vision.
"I’ve known for a while that I was called to be in ministry overseas." she said.
While visiting OMS headquarters this summer Bethany "Saw that HOPE61 had grown since I’d been an intern; the vision expanded,"
If every red light district was shut down today, another would exist tomorrow. The Bible’s truth is that man is sinful, depraved – and Jesus Christ is our only hope. Among so many anti-human trafficking groups, HOPE61 is unique for its mission to use the Gospel as the chief tool for human trafficking prevention.
"Ultimately that’s going to be what changes the face of modern day slavery."
As Bethany prepares to serve in Thailand, she considers justice to be "the love and righteousness of God expressed through our efforts to heal and restore brokenness." And for her, living in freedom "means living to the full expression of who God made us to be...not held back by anything,"
Will you pray that God continues to prepare Bethany to share His freedom in Thailand?