Last year when I was in Thailand with Hannah, we worked with a ministry named Lighthouse in Action. Their primary calling is to show the love of God to those in the red light district in Chang Mai. They do this by building relationships with those who work in the sex trade by helping those who are interested in getting out by offering jobs at Zion Café. It is an organization who rescues those who want an escape out of the industry.
Minnie was one of those who was thinking about leaving life in the bars. She was trying to gather her courage. A message came across my newsfeed that Minnie was murdered this week. She was found in a hotel room, killed at the hands of a customer. She was young and beautiful, and worth oh so much more than the treatment she received. My heart is broken…and angry. Who decides whose life can be thrown away as if it doesn’t even matter? How does this world we live in not see the worth of every person?
Minnie mattered. Maybe not to the john who killed her. Maybe not to her handler. Maybe not to her family (many families sell their daughters into the sex trade). But she mattered to God. She mattered to those who have been befriending her and laying the ground work for her to leave. She mattered to her bar-sisters that worked alongside her. They were her family of circumstance, and this must have shaken them all as they realized it could have been any one of them.
I may not know the specific details of Minnie’s life, but I know her story because it is one that is repeating itself over and over all over the world. Families live in poverty; they sell their children for money to survive. The girls are taken to bars or brothels to be sold over and over and over again. They live in the small rooms above the bar with very little. The bar mom takes “care” of them, making sure they eat and that no one interrupts their work at night.
They begin getting ready for work at around 3:00 p.m. As you walk from open air bar to open air bar they are sitting putting on make up to make them look much older than their young ages. The bar moms are giving them food and watching them like a hawk when you go in to talk to them. The question they hear most is “How much are you?” Which is why, when the people working with Lighthouse in Action, ask “How are you?” it makes such an impression. No one ever asks them that. No one ever just buys them a coke and plays a game of pool for the sake of having conversation.
There are some prayer walk guidelines…always buy a soft drink, never stay more than about 10 or 15 minutes, always ask them how they are, play a game of pool, cards or connect 4, never interrupt them when they are working or with the bar mom. If they discuss their job with you or express interest in a different kind of work, you refer them to Zion Café. The staff there regularly visits the bars to check on the girls to see how they are. They learn their stories. Over time, some of them work up the courage to leave. They find that there is life beyond the streets and that God loves to rescue his children. Minnie did not make it out, but that does not change the fact that, she was one of the ones he died to rescue. She was worth the blood he spilled. Her life mattered.
My heart is broken. There is grief and sorrow on the surface that I do not know how to handle. There is anger too. This girl, this beautiful Minnie, represents so many who are slaves…who are used and abused. Girls who need to know that you find them beautiful of heart and soul. Father, I ask that you would use this death to bring your life to the girls left behind. That those who have been hesitating in fear to leave would find courage through this tragedy. That they would turn to those who have befriended them as they grieve. That they would feel your love poured out for them. That the purity of your love would overwhelm their hearts, and that you would wash them clean from the lives they have been forced to live. That in their sorrow, they would seek your face and find healing for their pain. That they would find the joy that you offer them. I pray for the team at Lighthouse in Action. Give them wisdom, and compassion to dry the tears. Give them peace. Place them in the right places at the right times to minister to the girls. I ask you to rescue them Lord. Please, hear the cries for help and answer them by your spirit. Amen.
Prayers for Emmi and the other staff at Zion Cafe as they minister to the girls after this tragedy. http://lighthouseinaction.org/