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.