Thursday, June 22, 2006

NightLight in Bangkok

Last year at exactly this time, we were in Europe with my daughter's public school group on a memorable, exhilerating trip. We hopped from England to France to Switzerland to Germany to Amsterdam. Somewhere in Germany, word got around to the parents on the bus that the teachers and a couple of their accompanying friends wanted to form a group to go out on the town in Amsterdam. Specifically, they wanted to attend an XXX show and were fielding interest in order to organize it. Yes, teachers, ahem (post-curfew, the 32 students would be chaperoned by one left-behind parent).

My fellow parent traveler friend, a liberal Jewish widow, and I discussed, on a fountain ledge in Mannheim, Germany, town center, whether we would attend or not. He was leaning towards going as an intellectual observer, to experience the culture in order to know the culture. He would not be titillated, he said, (he had already experienced such a place in Thailand six months earlier) but the experience would just be "interesting" as Amsterdam culture is known for such things. If you go to Vegas, you experience gambling, etc. In real American life, my trustworthy friend practices compassion, justice, responsibility, and dedication to his family and girlfriend. Throughout the trip, we had been discussing democratic and religious ideals, and I, of course, was a Christian representative who had been trying to convince him that we weren't all Pat Robertson-ites (a common misconception outside the fold).

Anyway, he said that he thought he would go to the show, and I gulped, always susceptible to approval and social needs (which has increased as I've aged strangely enough!). Ever since hearing about it, though, my Grandma Cora of the Ozarks kept appearing in my mind as a model of behavior. My sweet grandmother would never darken the doorway of such a place. I could hear her loving example deep inside of me. If that wasn't enough, I've always been deeply disturbed by sexual abuse and violence against women. There was never really a question in my mind.

To go would be to support exploitation, I told him, which we discussed, and he agreed that he probably wouldn't feel good about going. It was kind of weird, though, to be faced with this moral filtering there and to realize that in the name of tourism, even the more moderate American can contribute casually to a harmful, evil, oppressive industry. I was dismayed that the teachers even would consider this. As it turned out, more parents vetoed it, and the secret late night outing was cancelled. However, one of the parent travelers and I did go on a secret outing from our hotel in Harleem in Amsterdam. We walked over to Corrie ten Boom's house about 10 blocks away! Wow! Hero of the faith, for sure, a much better substitute!

All of this to lead, dear reader, to a website, I discovered tonight, of a ministry to help girls and women who find themselves in the sex trade/prostitution circles in Bangkok. It has some sad statistics of this horrible problem, as well as some hopeful stories on how God can work to remedy deep scars. There's also a link to jewelry which these 'recovered' women make to support their life away from prostitution. I'm never going to buy jewelry from department stores again! This is the hope-inspiring link:

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