98 days. Only 98 days now. Some days, it feels impossibly far away. And then at other times, I don't know if 198 days, let alone just 98 are enough, are a big enough amount of time for me to be...ready for this.
Two nights ago, I Skyped (don't you just love technology?) with the lady, Mrs. Chrissy, whom I will be living with while in Thailand. And for two hours, she painted a brief glimpse of what I will see, experience, hear, and feel in Chiang Rai, Thailand. She told me about the weather (it will be, on average, 110 degrees during the day while I'm there, not a big deal), products that are very essential for living that they apparently don't sell in Thailand (they don't sell shaving cream?! Wha-aaa?), and the many sub-ministries N.T.I.M. supports that I will be involved with while there. Since I'm most excited about working at the two Children's Homes they run, I asked a lot of questions about them and discovered a few things.
One of them, Baan Oon Raak (<--they like to double their vowels), only currently houses fourteen children: one boy, and thirteen girls. I also discovered that a few of the thirteen girls had actually been rescued from the sex trade and brothels. None of the children are any older than twelve or fourteen. Twelve...or fourteen? When I was twelve, the most important thing on my mind were boys...and, well, not much else. I also played softball and clogged. When I was fourteen, well, that was only five months ago. When I was fourteen, I babysat, went on mission trips, and thought about...boys. (Ah, so ashamed.) Mostly everything I do was so...shallow, and exterior. And pointless. These girls, however, spent their twelfth and fourteenth year losing something so precious underneath the brute, crushing weight of demanding complete strangers. Their dignity, their self-respect, their homes, their families, their life.
Me and my naivety believed that we would be deep enough into the sheltered mountains to miss the very worst Thailand had to offer. In the big cities sex was sold like candy, but surely in the smaller villages and towns, even if it existed, it was a very hush-hush business. In smaller villages and towns where everyone knows each other, surely people would be too ashamed to participate in such a shaming act. So I thought I might go for two whole months living there without once having to face the hideous, rearing heads of Sex Slavery and Child Prostitution. I thought I might be luck enough to avoid witnessing those monsters firsthand. Not that I want to try to ignore something just because it's heartbreaking and ugly, but my heart is already broken for the women and children enslaved by the chains of inhumane lust...and I couldn't possibly be spiritually mature or mature PERIOD enough to see that yet, I'm sure. I'm not presumptuous or arrogant in my abilities.
Obviously, I was wrong to assume so much. I will witness the aftermath of the sex trade. I will see its victims. I'll hang out with them, and maybe, if I'm lucky, eventually call them my friends. The "hideous, and rearing heads of Sex Slavery and Child Prostitution" will take on the sorrowful, beautiful faces of girls with names, with personalities and likes and dislikes. Girls not much younger than myself. Girls, that I will soon meet face-to-face.
P.S. Please be praying for these precious girls, and if you feel called to help them (because they do need help, all of Baan Oon Raak does), please contact me.
“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” -Mother Teresa