The light keeps shining in the dark, and darkness has never put it out -John
To go on a mission trip has always been in my heart. Mainly because I want to experience life outside my normal life. And not knowing when or where God will be sending me always makes me want to trust Him even more. His timing is always perfect. I’ve always wondered, when the time is finally here, how would I feel? Or will I be ok? Will I be ready? What will I learn from it? All these random questions keep replaying in my mind. Still I don’t know when or where.
Fast forward ..
Recently, I was given the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Cambodia and Thailand. It was beyond my wildest dreams. I couldn't believe it and still can’t believe it. What once a dream to me, became a reality. A reality to remember.
How God surprised me was very unique. He literally gave me 2 weeks notice. And when I said 2 weeks notice, it meant that it was 2 weeks ‘til I have to leave the country haha. Looking back now, I can’t help but to be grateful. To me it was 2 weeks notice, but not to Him. God had planned this all along. There’s so many stories in my life that tied in to why I said God had planned this all along. Especially starting from the beginning of this year. And if I tell you now, it will take not only 1,2 or 3 pages of a blog, so I’ll save it for another time. Although I do want to share one thing about it, and that is .. from the very beginning of this year, God had already started giving me hints here and there, but at times I didn’t realize it. Even to the day I found out I had to go. Honestly, I’m completely blown away and in a good way kind of blown away I promise haha.
And so I left the country on Sept 7th with a group of amazing people from my church Crossroads Christian Church in Corona, CA. Representing our church is our Global Outreach ministry, we love to call it GO. GO is also partnering with organizations from other countries that best fit our vision. So through this ministry, anyone that would love to experience mission trips, whether it's local or international, can apply and will get the opportunity to serve in the area they think would best fit them.
For our trip to Cambodia, we partnered with AIM. And also with Shear Love when we’re in Thailand. Although they are 2 different organizations but they both focus on the same vision. And that is to give Freedom, Empowerment and Love to children, men and women that are in bondage to sex trafficking. Through these organizations, they give them education, train them for employment, and provide housing.
Our group spent 1 week in Cambodia and worked alongside AIM. I praise God for AIM for standing and defending what is right for the life of many young children. There, we mainly worked with children, averaging from 150 to 200 children daily. The reality is, these were children that were once being trafficked before or in danger of being trafficked. As a mother of 2 children, my heart broke and hurt, no children should have experienced what they experience. But despite their background, they are most joyful, fun, energetic and they brought the brightest smiles every time they entered the room. This kind of joy I’ve never felt before.
These children lived in poverty. To most of them, there’s no such thing of owning a pair of shoes or sandals, let alone having the luxury of taking a shower every day. But there’s one thing that these children longing to have the most, and that is to be loved. The kind of love that is appropriate for them.
And so, our everyday activities consisted of worshiping God through singing and dancing, reading them Bible stories, playing games, and doing crafts in 2 different sessions, in the morning and later in the afternoon. In between the sessions, we visited the surrounding community in the slums area. We prayed with families, gave out food and washed the kid’s hair. This is the part where I felt so uncomfortable at first, and I’m going to be very honest and real, the fact that I was going into the slum area without knowing what to expect has given me an extreme amount of anxiety. This is when I realized oh my, this is it. Going into the area I’ve never walked before, experiencing life that I’ve no clue about. This is completely not the life I normally live. And to find out that I had to wash the kid’s hair too? I had to pause for a moment. You might ask why it was uncomfortable for me, and here’s why, most of the kid’s hair was covered with lice, and the fact that I’ll be doing it without any protection whatsoever, raised so many questions in my mind. But but but .. what if this and this happens to me God? Can I just do something else? Right when I’m trying so hard to give myself excuses so that I didn’t have to do it, in a split second God reminded me that He didn’t call me to live a comfortable life but He called me to live a faithful life, to serve others better even when it’s uncomfortable for me. To be sincere in my love for others -Romans 12:9. He chose me and sent me out to produce fruit, the kind of fruit that will last -John 15:16. This life was never about me, but it’s always been about His story in me and through me. And just like that, all these reminders got me so pumped to wash the kid’s hair. If He can love me and will do anything for me over and over again, cleanse me, restore me .. then so will I. His love is for everyone to have. Who am I to stop these children from having His love? He simply wants to use me to be His hands and feet so that these children can experience the love He has for them. So yeah, now I can proudly say, I am so dang glad that I did it! And I would not change one thing or any of it! I’m forever grateful to be given this opportunity all those days we were in Cambodia.
After a week in Cambodia, we took off to Thailand for 4 days. There, we worked alongside Shear Love focusing more on men and women. I praise God for Shear Love. Through their ministry, men and women who's long to have a better life will have a chance because of their barber and salon beauty program. This program gave them education, training and employment once they're graduate and it's free.
We did the tour of their beauty school program, met with their students (men and women that were saved from sex bondage they’re once lived in) and had a team building with them. We also took a stroll through the infamous “Walking Street” and “Section Six”. I can honestly say, that this is not the kind of stroll I would love to enjoy. Sadly, the reality of it was that these were the streets where the sex transactions were happening every night. Brothels after brothels were proudly promoting their ‘office’, some even had a menu selection with vivid pictures of services to choose. It’s hard for me not to think that all these men and women selling themselves short because they simply just wanted to live and survive.
Is this the normality of life for them? Can they just find another job that don't have to be degrading their value? It's so easy sometimes to jump into conclusions. I wished it was that easy to fix and make it right. Some of these men and women are forced to live this way, and to some this is the only life they know how to live. I can feel the darkness coming from this world of sex trafficking that I just can't deny. At one point I witnessed a woman being surrounded by a group of men trying to bargain the price with her. It gave me sense of anger, upset, and disappointment. But as I walked through the street of Section Six, there's one building standing right in between of the brothels and this building was called the Tamar's House. This house is a missionary house. Just like AIM and Shear Love, this house held prayer, worship, and bible study on a daily basis. Missionaries after missionaries came from all over the world to minister to the men and women who's seeking for a better life through God and in God. Since Tamar House, the business of the brothels has gone down. Business usually closes down at 7am, now they close at 1am. Then I realized, there is hope. There is future. And God is at work. Once again He reminded me that in the midst of life's darkest moment, His light stands brighter than any other light. Seeing the victories through these men and women who's been saved from their old lives, I can't help but to think .. although our stories might be different, but we are all God's survivors. He saved, redeemed, and restored us. And He would do it again in a hundred billion times. He is the ONE who never leaves the one behind when we call on Him and give our life to Him.
Yes, sex trafficking is around us. Yes, it's not an easy task to fix and make it right. Yes, it hurts to see anyone let alone children had to go through life they are forced to live. But we can make a difference. Speak up. Stand up. Bring the awareness. Someone once said .. "You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know". -William Wilberforce