|May 22nd, 2013||No Comments »|
NIGHTLIGHT BangkokSummer 2013 Update
In Bangkok this summer, we are working hard on developing new jewelry lines and buying supplies. Each year has its own challenges with purchasing the materials, agreeing on final designs, and solving the logistics of getting our new products to the customer. To gain a sense of direction for new lines and to better understand our customers, we decided to create a survey. Included in the survey is a description of our business entities in Thailand. It explains how the money from jewelry sales directly pays for the salaries of the women coming out of prostitution. As a thank-you for giving us five minutes of your time we will be registering all respondents in a drawing to win either (2) $50 gift cards or (2) $25 gift cards. The more we know the more we will be able to respond to your needs. And the more money we have to pay the salaries, the more women we can accept through our doors! Please click on the link below and read a short background before completing the survey.
|April 7th, 2013||No Comments »|
Spring 2013 Newsletter
Director of NightLight Atlanta
As you may know, we have been in prayer for a new Director of Prevention for a little over a year now. Our God has been faithful and has provided the perfect answer to our prayers–we now know why it took so long! Marie Tingle is a wonderful addition to our team. She has an amazing heart for our children and we wanted to give her an opportunity to share that heart with you. We are certain you will love her as much as we do!
Sowing Seeds of Transformation
Director of Prevention
I am elated to join the NightLight Atlanta team as Director of Prevention! What an honor it is to be a part of ushering in the Kingdom to children, their families, and communities long oppressed. The Bible often refers to children as a divine blessing; and, yet, they are vulnerable. I wholeheartedly believe that fragile seeds of transformation for our
communities and for our world lie in each child, ready to blossom as they receive Father God’s love. And it is those seeds we must fight to protect and nurture!
In Mark 9:36-37, Jesus treasured and even identified with children. “He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’”
As such, I feel the Lord has specifically called me to guide children in their learning so they may come alive and grow in their God-given identities. Over the years, I have enjoyed working with children in various capacities, most recently as an elementary and middle school teacher in Atlanta. I have always known that the Lord had additional details to my calling as an educator. He specifically revealed more this past year – that I am to minister to those at-risk for commercial sexual exploitation. NightLight is the ideal community organization in which to live out this calling. I am truly blessed to enter into this new season in such a place, in collaboration with such bold, loving people and in service of such precious children of our God.
by Brooke Christian
Director of Restoration
Walking into the strip clubs here in Atlanta, in the midst of exploitation, despair and brokenness, I see the beauty the Lord intended for each person. Papa God’s heart is for ALL to know His love for them. So, we take it and begin to unravel its depths.
The first time we went to one of my favorite clubs, the security guard outside greeted us and, as we handed him a gift, he smiled and took it graciously. He asked why we were there; so we explained our heart for the girls. He told us to “Come anytime you want.” In this industry, those words are music to our ears.
Upon entering, we were greeted by the house mom with hugs as she escorted us to the dressing room. Just like many of the dressing rooms we go into, there are lockers, outfits hanging around, the smell of perfume and body spray, and, of course, beautiful daughters of the King waiting to share their stories with us. On this day, the smell of a home cooked meal filled the air and it was divine. The smell of food is not the norm in this industry and it was nice to see that, for this woman, “House Mom” is more than a title. She really does “mother” them. She takes care of her girls and loves them as well as she knows how. For that, we are grateful and we honor her.
We exchanged smiles with the women and started passing out the gifts we brought for them. The conversations quickly went from small talk to talking about their families and the dreams they had as little girls. They wept as they learned Father God’s heart for them. The looks that once screamed “overwhelmed” transformed into countenances of peace.
The next time we went to this club, we experienced the same hunger for God and the things we prayed for the first time were beginning to transpire. The women were encountering the True Lord God and He was pursuing them relentlessly. As we were leaving, a bartender and a waitress pulled us into the bathroom to pray with them. The Holy Spirit fell in that place. I was reminded that a bathroom is a place to release waste from our physical bodies and, on this day, it doubled as a place to release spiritual and emotional waste through forgiveness and repentance that had been with these women their whole lives. In place of the junk that they released, the women received a great filling of joy and truth that they had never known.
We prayed for their children and families, provision, and healing. We got to see Heaven come down as, for the first time, they heard the Voice of the Lord for themselves. Other girls we’d prayed with in the dressing room came back and lined up for more prayer. They felt the goodness of Papa God and wanted to stay in His Presence a while longer. One of the girls even came to church with us that night and she loved it! She is taking steps in moving forward in her destiny and is excited for what is coming next in her life.
The Lord said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). I believe with all of my heart that Papa God is Life and breaths life. He is our Source, their Source, and the Source of Life for everyone around us. The dead and dry bones will live. They will rise as an exceedingly great army. These amazing sisters will lead us into the great awakening of this generation. We no longer call them “the least of these.” They are great. They are mighty in the Lord. Restoration is their name.
Top: sorting nail polish and candy
Bottom: completed Easter gift bags
“When our men are a walking representation of Papa God’s heart, it changes the way we, as women, minister.“
-Leigh Ann Williams
It’s Raining Men!
When I started with NightLight Atlanta, there were significantly more women on the outreach team than men. The few men who were ministering with the outreach team were fully committed. They were present every week, without fail. These guys built successful relationships with men in the sex industry and they were faithful in maintaining those friendships with which the Lord blessed them. But we always knew that we needed more men so that NightLight could continue building new relationships with men and allow the women to minister in the capacity to which we knew we were being called.
We began praying for God to provide men. Just as we believe God provides the finances and resources we need for our women, we knew He would be faithful in providing men for our outreach team, as well. Our team began to pray, and, in prayer, heard the Lord confirm that the men were on their way: “There will be men coming from North, South, East, and West.” In January, we finally began to see the Lord’s answer to our prayers. Our average ratio of men to women has since gone from one-to-eight to one-to-one in a matter of just a few months!
The role of men in the ministry of NightLight is to serve as protectors; but it is so much more than that. When our men are a walking representation of Papa God’s heart, it speaks volumes to those to whom we minister and even changes the way we, as women, minister and lead. The authority that men are designed to carry has manifested in such a way that, as a leader, I have been pushed and supported in more ways than I ever imagined. As the number of men on our outreach team has grown, so has the number of men we have encountered on the streets and outside the strip clubs. With more men on the team, we have been able to divide up and cover more ground, allowing us to start expanding our territory to new places.
With so many great men serving at our side, the hearts of pimps, johns, and drug dealers in these areas are already transforming!
Thank you, George, for laying this foundation. We love and miss you very much!
The NightLight Atlanta Team
|February 12th, 2013||No Comments »|
One day at lunch the staff here in Bangkok were sitting around discussing Facebook activity. It turns out we had over 10,000 visits to our NightLight International page in January alone. This is good news! The word is getting out; people are interested in the cause. In addition to our Facebook page, we receive dozens of e-mails a month asking how people can help – can they bring a team, can they come and visit? Managing teams and visitors is a full time job around here, and we are overjoyed by how many people are interested in the complex issues surrounding the industry in Thailand. Unfortunately, the one thing that needs the most support is the one this we cannot get enough people to do. Interest in NightLight is going up, but jewelry sales have steadily been going down.
I moved to Bangkok over three years ago because, like so many others I know, my heart was breaking for women who were being exploited in the sex industry. I chose NightLight because I love the holistic vision. NightLight wants to care for not only the spiritual and emotional needs of these women, but also their physical needs in a very practical way. The vision is simple. Once the women get out of the industry, yes they will need healing, but they are also going to need a job. So NightLight is a place of healing, but it is also a place of business where they can work and grow as a whole person. It works together; the strength of the one depends on the strength of the other. Without funds coming in though the jewelry business, we are simply unable to hire more women into this healing atmosphere.
Over the years I have had the privilege of seeing more and more the great power of using business as mission. I get to see these women blossom in their roles, feel proud of what they do, and accomplish great things. The beauty and quality of the jewelry they make is a reflection of the beauty and quality in each and every one of them. But the business is hard work. And we keep it a business instead of a charity because we do not want our women to be charity cases for the rest of their lives. They work hard, they create beautiful jewelry, and they should earn a good wage for what they do, not a hand-out.
This is why it pains us to see so many people interested in our cause; however, very few are interested in supporting our business. So while it is encouraging to have so many individuals excited about our cause, it is at the same time discouraging that there are not enough individuals interested in supporting the business – our greatest need. We receive thousands of people who visit our social media sites and “like” our posts and we receive dozens of e-mails from people telling us how passionate they are about combating the sex trade. But we have a great need for many more to take the very tangible step of purchasing a piece of jewelry, committing to throwing a jewelry party, or very simply sharing our jewelry ads.
So I am going to throw out a challenge: Put your money where your “like” is.
We love that you care, but we also would love for you to buy! Often times, it is so easy to feel overwhelmed by all the need in the world that we do not know what to do, so we do nothing at all. But here is one very simple way to make a difference: buy a piece of jewelry.
Today, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I am sending someone I love a piece of NightLight Jewelry because she is worth it. Then I will ask her one thing, if she would be willing to do the same; to pay it forward by also buying someone she loves a piece of NightLight jewelry and sending the same challenge. Might you be willing to do the same?
We are calling this the “Like-to-Love Challenge“ and here is how you can participate:
1. Go to the NightLight Design online store and pick out a piece of NightLight jewelry for a loved one (if you can’t decide on a piece of jewelry, consider a gift voucher!)
2. Click on the “show gift options” box and fill in a message for your friend, sending along the same challenge. Here is a suggestion: “I am sending you a beautiful piece of jewelry because you are beautiful! I have one request: please pass this blessing forward by sending a piece of NightLight jewelry to someone you love. Send joy to one while supporting the freedom of another! Love, …”
3. Type in the shipping info for your loved one and send the love! She will receive the lovely gift in 3-5 days and hopefully send the blessing forward!
Let’s start a love chain and see how far it can go!
We recognize that many of you have indeed been taking these practical steps to support our organization for years, and for that we are truly grateful. Every success story here at NightLight belongs also to you, for every piece of jewelry you have purchased and every party you have thrown. Thank you for your continued support!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
NightLight Bangkok Staff Member
|December 27th, 2012||No Comments »|
Prostitution and Christ’s Advent
By Courtney Dow
Director, NightLight USA
Note: I originally wrote this piece in 2006 and updated it for the Good Men Project in December 2012. The Good Men project took it upon themselves to edit out parts referring to God and Jesus Christ and publish the piece without my permission. This is how I originally intended for the piece to read.
The smell of garbage mixed with cheap perfume and incense from idol worship invade my nostrils as beads of perspiration run down my back. We dodge people, cars, and motorcycles, avoid a puddle of sewage, and enter the red light district. The sites, sounds, and smells are all familiar. Florescent lights blink and music blares as a group of children run up to talk to us. We all “wai” (the customary greeting in Thailand) and we ask them how their night’s going, how well their flowers or shoe shines are selling, etc. As one little girl slaps away a mosquito, she points to her foot that she caught in a drain. I bend over to look at her bleeding toe just as a rat runs through the drain beneath my feet. These children, some as young as three years old, were trafficked to Bangkok from Cambodia and sell various sundry items in the red light districts until someone is interested in purchasing them for sex. Looking back into her eyes, I realize that I forgot to bring band aides; so I give her a hug and tell her to be careful next time.
We move farther in and the “touts” pick up their “Welcome, sir! Come in, sir!” They hand us a laminated piece of paper that reads like a menu of sex acts: ping pong balls, bananas, darts, razor blades, cigarettes, girl and boy, girl and girl, boy and boy, transsexuals, young children… Some even provide pictures. We attempt to avoid the “touts” and arrive at our destination. The girls’ bored expressions turn to smiles as they wai, give us hugs, and talk about the latest news. One girl in this particular bar is excited to be going back to Northeast Thailand next week for a month to see her two year old daughter and help with the rice harvest. Poverty and a lack of education have driven her to sell her body in the bars of Bangkok. Another girl tells us that she’s figured out a way to pay off her family’s debts within a month and that she hopes to leave the bar as soon as she’s paid those debts. For all of these girls, abuse from their childhoods makes them vulnerable to further exploitation as adults. They believe that this is all they are worth—what someone would pay for them and what they can provide for their families.
We decide to move on down the street after a few minutes of visiting with the bar girls. We pass the beggars with drugged babies and stop to talk with some streetwalkers. More children run by and I run to catch up with them. We notice an American man watching the kids and trying to get their attention. “How much do you cost?” he asks as he pokes one of the boys in the stomach. I warn the children in Thai not to go with him, even if he gives them money. I tell them that he is not a good man and that he will do bad things to them. They nod their understanding and wave goodbye as they run to another street to sell flowers. Our group moves on down the street and runs into a handful of Eastern European girls who have been trafficked into Bangkok for prostitution. We shake hands, kiss each other on the cheek, and make small talk. One girl tells us that she was asked to become a mama san (a female version of a pimp) and I encourage her not to take the job. But I can understand why she’d consider it. It’s better to be the exploiter than the exploited. Women in prostitution suffer from many things, including rapes, beatings, sexually transmitted illnesses (as well as other related illnesses), mental breakdowns, acute anxiety, depression, insomnia, flashbacks, emotional numbing, dissociative disorders, and even murder. These women often employ alcohol, drugs, self-mutilation, abortion, and suicide to cope with the horrors of selling their bodies every night. We wrap up the conversation with the Eastern European women and blend back into the crowd as we continue our outreach.
This is a normal night of outreach for NightLight. We walk the streets of the red light districts multiple times a week, building relationships, learning about the issues and patterns, and assisting in any way that we can.
One night, we ran into our friend, Ying*, who is a 29 year old who street walks. She told us that she was not feeling well when, suddenly, she collapsed, unconscious, in the street. We picked her up and took her to a hospital where doctors couldn’t diagnose her. So she came home with me and I kept vigil to make sure she didn’t lose consciousness again. The next day she began falling in and out of consciousness, having trouble breathing, and hallucinating. We called an ambulance and the hospital said that she had a terrible infection in her uterus. Since she is HIV positive, her tiny, 80 lb. body couldn’t fight the infection. She was in the hospital for five days and then had to return for a blood transfusion the day after she was released. Her family refused to visit her in the hospital; so we became her family. We loved on her and visited her in the hospital. We paid the hospital bill, gave her a free place to live where we could take care of her, and offered her a job in our alternative employment program, NightLight Design, where others who have left prostitution make beautiful jewelry while they learn more about who they are in Christ. We sent out emergency bulletins for prayer for her healing and asked for financial assistance; and people responded. We were in awe of how God knew the exact timing of when she would fall and how He strategically placed us on that corner to catch His daughter, Ying, and to offer her a new life. And as beautiful as this story is and as amazing as His Love and Grace is for us, Ying chose to return to the street.
She said, I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink… She has not acknowledged that [God] was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold—which they used for Baal. ~Hosea 2:5b, 8
You may be wondering why I chose to share this story. We have many more success stories. But working with women in prostitution has made me more and more aware of my own sin. How many times have I chosen to prostitute myself to idols and find my identity in things other than God? The reasons for girls entering prostitution are much more justified than my lame excuses for not following Christ. There is a hotel in Bangkok that goes by the name of “Grace” and it is well-known for tolerating prostitution. It is an evil place and I hate it. It doesn’t deserve to have “Grace” associated with it. But, then, I realized that I never deserved to be associated with Grace either. Jesus died so that He could be in relationship with all of us. He pursues us with a wild love stronger than we could ever imagine. He stepped into our darkness, took our place, and redeemed us.
Therefore, I am now going to allure [you]; I will lead [you] into the desert and speak tenderly to [you]… I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord. ~Hosea 2:14, 19-20
God longs to restore women. He created woman as a “helper,” an “ezer kenegdo,” a “life saver.” But Satan has a special hatred for women. Not only is woman the crown of creation, the beauty of God made flesh, but she also brings life, while Satan longs to bring death and destruction. But before the woman can be fully restored, the man must be restored. Man reflects the image of God through adventure and battle. Man was created to have dominion over all things. But man has fallen victim to addictions, fear, anger, and passivity, among other things. Let me be clear: Men are not the problem–men are the SOLUTION. It would be too easy to hate the men that we see exploiting the women and children in Bangkok. Jesus died for them too. How could we show the love of Christ to the women without offering it to the men? They are broken and searching to experience the love of God, even if they don’t know it. Sexual sin is not just on the streets of Bangkok, though; it is in our churches. “More Christian marriages and ministries are destroyed through sexual misconduct than for any other reason” (Finding Freedom in a Sex-Obsessed World, Neil T. Anderson). Church, it’s time to come out of the darkness, to stop hiding by the computer screen, to address the issues, and bring it all to the foot of the cross. We, the church, are the bride of Christ and He longs to restore His bride.
I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ ~Hosea 2:23
Fortunately, Ying’s story did not end with her return to the streets. After many painful years, two more run-ins with death, and God’s relentless pursuit, today, Ying is working at NightLight Design, healthier than ever, restored to her family, and a devoted follower of Christ. He is so faithful, even when we are not.
You see, there is a reason God chose a prostitute in Hosea to represent His relationship with His people, Israel. Praise Him for never wavering in His pursuit of us! When I look into the many faces I encounter around the red light districts, I see a God who is not afraid to wrap our injured flesh around Him, a God who is not afraid to stand against false gods, a God who is not afraid to enter the darkness of a brothel, and a God who does not avert His eyes from evil. In the midst of the darkness, His Light has come.
*Name has been changed.
|December 27th, 2012||No Comments »|
Fall 2012 Newsletter
by Brooke Christian
Coordinator of Interventions
“The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.” Matthew 10:8
While praying in a strip club dressing room, a woman came in with a swollen knee and ankle looking as though she carried the weight of the world. She was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. I was surprised by how quickly she opened up and told us about her life and her feelings of worthlessness and uselessness. However, looking at her, I saw an amazing woman, mother, caregiver, and a lover of people. The brokenness of her past and the lies that she has believed have caused a lot of pain and deep wounding. God provided an opportunity; so I asked about her leg and if I could pray for the Lord to heal her. Her face lit up and she replied, “Yes, I would like that very much.” As we were about to pray, one of her coworkers walked in and told her a massage therapist would be coming and could “heal” her leg. She replied, “No, God is going to heal me right now.” Amazed at her conviction, we began to pray and God healed more than just her leg.
When we began praying, the Lord revealed to me that she had a depth of pain from her childhood that only He could take away and that He wanted to completely heal her, inside and out. She spoke of the horrible things that happened to her and forgave those who had hurt her so badly. At the moment of speaking out forgiveness and allowing Papa to bring healing to her damaged heart, her leg and ankle were instantly healed. We rejoiced, continuing to speak into her destiny and asked the Lord how he saw her. He told her she was full of strength and that, just as she has always taken care of everyone else, the Lord desired to take care of her. What a beautiful example of Jesus’ love for his bride.
We have continued to see more light in her each time we visited. When she came to church with us, she loved it and was amazed by the freedom in the room since it wasn’t like that in the church she went to as a child. The Lord has much for her and she is even inviting the women she works with to come to church with her! Papa is in constant pursuit of us. He won’t relent until he has all of us.
“As a team, we continued to press through and ask the Lord for favor in this club, believing He wouldn’t disappoint.”
-Leigh Ann Williams
Oppression to Favor
Coordinator of Interventions
After this experience, I continued to feel burdened for this club. The times I went back during the Spring and Summer, I felt the same heaviness, but still felt hopeful. As a team, we continued to press through and ask the Lord for favor in this club believing He wouldn’t disappoint.
On Halloween outreach, the Lord told me to go back to this club. I was hesitant but He made it very clear; so we obeyed. We were asked to wait inside so that the House Mom could talk to us and decide if we could come in. Needless to say, we were nervous. Rejection happens and we know that but that doesn’t make it pleasant. When the House Mom arrived, she was a different lady than the one I met before and it was as if we were instant friends. She escorted us to the back and thanked us several times for coming to pray for “her girls.” She and I sat and talked about her family, her walk with The Lord, and the dreams she and her husband share to open their own business. We exchanged phone numbers that night and, now, text often. I hope to have her join me for church soon.
Still, unknown to me, much more was stirring in the club that night. While this conversation was taking place, other team members were making amazing connections as well. One team member reconnected with a girl she had prayed with consistently a couple years ago. Another ministered to a lady who was mourning the loss of her son. Another prayed for healing. While, yet, another presented the gospel. It was beautiful!
Since then, we have been welcomed by the House Mom to come into that club anytime we want to pray for her girls. She also took a stack of our cards with our contact information to hand out to girls. I know the Lord is going to bring an amazing harvest through these women and we continue to stand in awe of Him. It is so humbling to know that Papa has entrusted us with the ones He cares so much about!
“…we choose to speak life into their destinies and affirm who the Lord has created them to be.“
God Is Moving
by Lisa Anderson
NightLight Atlanta Intern
Two kids in particular stole my heart this season. They are brothers, and I’ll refer to them as Joe and Shaw. Joe plays the sweet, protective older brother role and Shaw loves to be held, play on the swing, and has a very open crush on a girl at kids club. While the boys are only 4 and 6 years old, they act as if they are tough and hard street kids. Both kids could be described as “ruckuses”, “trouble kids”, or children with “anger problems” by the world’s standards. However, we choose to speak life into their destinies and affirm who the Lord has created them to be.
This is where our greatest challenge begins: a tough and unstable home life threatens to destroy God’s destinies for the kids. Hostile reactions to small triggers often open our unassuming eyes. For example, Shaw will flirt with his girlfriend only to trigger intense anger in Joe. Shaw then begins hitting his girlfriend and Joe begins to threaten to run back home out of the simple emotion that “the other kids pick on him.” All this happens in 3.5 seconds and we are left disciplining two very upset brothers and one very confused three-year-old girlfriend. We find ourselves asking, “Lord, what do you say about these sweet kids?”
In one activity, our 40 children were able to ask God directly “What do you think about me?” When Joe speaks up and tells us, “God told me I was a good kid,” we know the Lord is moving. When our teenagers lead worship out of a genuine love for God and stir the Spirit to move, we know God is moving. Thanksgiving week, through generous donations, we were able to bless 35 of our kids’ club families with a meal. When we are able to tell moms and dads that we love their children and see faces light up with a pumpkin pie in hand, we know God is moving. Our celebrations always outweigh our challenges and Spring season for Kids’ Club couldn’t come soon enough.
The NightLight Atlanta Team
|December 27th, 2012||No Comments »|
Dear Friends of NightLight,
We hope that you will enjoy reading not only a reflection of what an idyllic Christmas looks like compared to the First Christmas, but that you will also take time to read and cherish the stories of NL women, staff, and families and friends sharing hope around Bangkok to a world in need. We cherish your support and it’s our desire that this Christmas season, you will also be filled with the hope of glory, our Savior Jesus.
Picture Perfect Christmas?
Arriving in Bethlehem was only a temporary relief to the weary travelers, as the inns were full. Since in those days people didn’t hide out in their hotel rooms watching TV and ordering pizza to eat in seclusion, they would have been gathering around fires to cook their food in community. Children would have been running around and parents would have been yelling after the children to behave. In the midst of this chaos, Joseph was under pressure to find a place immediately for his wife to give birth. Joseph is usually portrayed as calm through it all, but from my own experience and stories of others, few men are actually that calm when their wife is about to deliver their first child. Sure they were given a stable but that’s kind of like finally getting a hotel room only to find the bed uncomfortable, the carpet stained, mold on the walls, and the odor of the previous tenant still lingering – not even a 2 star hotel. Somehow we have spiritualized everything to look so idyllic. I can’t think of anything idyllic about going through labor in a stable surrounded by animals. Mary and Joseph’s moment for reflection and wonder probably only came after an intensive labor and after a visit by the Shepherds. There was little in this first Christmas that was quiet, beautiful, or private by worldly standards.
NightLight Sharing Hope
To the Neighborhood and Community
NightLight’s party took place all day on the 21st. Employees and staff went around the city doing random acts of kindness. They went into a hospital ward, a slum community, into malls and along the streets giving gifts, singing songs, and blessing those they encountered. Policemen, motorcycle taxi drivers, street vendors, children, beggars, the sick and elderly were given hope that day, that there is a light shining in Bangkok that the darkness cannot put out. The women and staff came back together sharing, their stories and delighting in the hope they saw on people’s faces.
Following that, we shared in a dinner, a few skits, and special music written by one of our women. Two of the African trafficked women that we have been assisting were able to join us for the dinner. One of them will celebrate her birthday on Christmas day at the home of NightLight partners. They were also given a gift of hope. Hope that they are going home soon and that Jesus still rescues and sets captives free.
To 200 in a Thai Neighborhood
On the 22nd, NightLight’s church plant, Song Sawang sponsored a Christmas outreach in a Thai neighborhood where a few of our employees live. It was their desire to host and share with their neighborhood the joy they have experienced in knowing Jesus. The women started cooking early in the day in preparation for a large crowd. Gifts were donated for a raffle and a Korean Hip hop band was invited to put on a performance. Over 200 people came to share in the celebration. Jeff, the church pastor shared the gospel and at least 10 kids raised their hands to accept Jesus. The Korean hip hop team told the story of Jesus’ life through dance and when Jesus rose from the grave he did a pretty impressive hip hop. Later Jesus did balloon art for the kids while the adults enjoyed the food and waited expectantly to have their name drawn in the raffle. Again, hope was the gift given to that community. Hope that life has meaning; hope that God remembers them, hope that there is something more precious and eternal beyond this life.
To NL women, families, friends, and neighbors
Sunday, Dec. 23rd, Song Sawang celebrated Christmas as a church. The church was packed with over 75 including NightLight women, families, friends, neighbors, and others who came to join in the celebration. Most were first generation believers, sharing testimonies, worshipping, and blessing one another with the gift of hope: Hope of a new generation of believers in Thailand who know the hope of glory and are passionate to make his name known in Thailand and beyond.
To the Sexually Exploited
The evening ended after another dinner, with a group going around the block singing Christmas carols and giving out tracts of the good news of Jesus. One group went into a bar where women are offered as commodities and another group went into a bar where men are offered for sale. They too were taking and sharing hope with the community, hope that one’s life is of great worth and already purchased at great cost by Jesus. Jesus, the hope of glory was spread around Bangkok this season.
To Families Back Home
And now as I write this on Christmas Eve, many of the women have returned to their villages till after New Years, where they will continue to share the stories of the hope Jesus has brought to their lives.
Hope of Glory Lives On Through Transformed Lives
As I reflect on these events I am amazed to realize that this little group of believers connected to NL, took hope to around 1000 people from around the world. Tukata who was hosting the community outreach out of her home said to me that night, “This is your and Jeff’s reward.” I looked at her puzzled and she said it again. I realized then that what God had begun in and through us here in Bangkok 18 years ago was bearing fruit. Tears came to my eyes with her words of affirmation.This is also the fruit of what you have sown through your prayers and support all these years. These precious ones who have received Jesus, the hope of glory into their chaotic lives have been transformed and now they are sharing that hope with a world in need. I doubt this will ever be adequately captured on a Christmas card or painted as the idyllic Christmas moment but for me it captures the heart of Christmas. Christ came into a world of chaos and he came to be in us and with us, Emmanuel, the hope of glory bringing light and life to those who once lived in the shadow of death.
CEO and Founder
|November 24th, 2012||No Comments »|
“Would anyone like to thank God this morning?” We had just finished 40 minutes of worship before starting work, when the Thai worship leader invited the women to share a testimony. Mindy was on the worship team that day, and with the microphone already in her hand, she stepped forward. I never know what the women will say during these times. Sometimes it’s a simple as praising God for a seat on the bus, sometimes it’s a long unrelated story, and sometimes it’s a tearful testimony of gratitude for God’s presence in a difficult situation. Mindy has had a hard life. She was orphaned at age 10 when her mother died of HIV. Raised by her grandmother, Mindy never felt liked she belonged, and by 15 she was pregnant and dropping out of school. It wasn’t long before her insecurity and family devotion lead her to prostitution on the streets of Bangkok. She drowned her insecurities in drugs, alcohol, and the comforts money received from prostitution could buy. God rescued her from all of that and Mindy is deeply grateful.
Mindy wants to do more though. She has a deep desire to serve God in ministry, and recently she started joining an outreach to children in a slum. It costs money to travel to the slum every Saturday, and Mindy was too often running out of the funds. She was feeling inadequate and therefore sorry for herself when she realized that Moses had felt terribly inadequate as well. When Moses argued with God that he was inadequate, God asked him, “What is in your hand?” “A staff,” Moses answered. The staff immediately turned into a snake. Mindy began to cry as she told us she realized that God didn’t want us to wait until we have enough money or we think we are good enough. God wants us as we are, and he will use what we have. Mindy said, “If all I have is my life, then I want to give my life to serve God. If God can use a staff, then God can use my life.”
I have often felt inadequate to make a difference in these women’s lives and the lives of so many exploited through human trafficking and prostitution. Mindy’s testimony was a good reminder that God takes the little that we have and uses it to perform miracles. What looks like a worthless stick to us can be turned into a snake (not my preference!) or even used to part the Red Sea. God uses me in spite of my inadequacies, and I have been so grateful to witness the miraculous transformation in these women’s lives. What’s in your hand? It may not look like much to us, but when we give it to God, it can be transformational.
This Thanksgiving, we are so grateful to all of you. So many of you have given even when you may have felt you had nothing worthwhile. I can testify that your gifts have made an impact in many lives. Mindy is one of those women. Your gifts have impacted her, and now she is using what she has to impact others.
This holiday season we invite you to share in the gift of transformation by visiting our website to purchase jewelry or give a donation.
CEO and Founder
|November 24th, 2012||No Comments »|
(by Jennie Joy, current volunteer staff at NightLight)
Recently, I heard a woman express thanks to God in a way that shocked me. Let me set the context. This woman is a trafficking victim. A trafficker offered her a legitimate job to gain her trust. She was transported around the world, then dumped in a strange, new place and told to sell her body until she paid off the debt (and then some) incurred in her transport. Night after night, from 7 PM to 7 AM, she roams the sidewalks or stands on street corners, expected to find customers and sell sex. No choices. No options. Controlled and threatened by fraudulent debt. Human trafficking.
|October 29th, 2012||No Comments »|
By Courtney Dow
Director of NightLight USA
I see the scars of pain everywhere I go. It’s not actually the pain that causes the scars. It’s what we do to escape the pain that leaves visible marks. Track marks, cuts, yellowed eyes, emaciation–they all point to one thing: Pain. In our attempts to control a deep soul pain, we turn to drugs, alcohol, sarcasm, anorexia, bulimia, sex, performance, cutting, humor, suicide…
Why? Because the pain is so deep that we feel that we cannot bear to live with it. So, we medicate. Sometimes we medicate to live. Other times, we medicate to die.
I understand this pain.
It’s a pain that we can feel with our entire body, soul, and spirit. There is this physical pressure, as if the pain was going to explode out of our bodies. Why do we call it heartbreak? Because it literally feels like our hearts are breaking.
Everyone encounters trauma. Some trauma is more profound than others. I’m surrounded by people with heart-wrenching stories: the 11 year old who was raped; the 30-something who’s been ritualistically abused her entire life until this very day; the wife whose husband had an affair; the many individuals battling cancer; the little girl whose daddy just committed suicide; the wife whose husband is in Afghanistan; the mother whose daughter was raped and beaten to death… It’s enough to make me want to throw myself on the ground and pray for the Lord to take me to Heaven because I cannot process this kind of injustice.
This is the very place where we need Jesus.
Unfortunately, Christ followers are generally pretty bad at binding up the brokenhearted, I believe, because it forces us to take a really good look at our own brokenness. We’d sooner run away than do that and that’s exactly what we do, RUN! For those of us that don’t run, we tend to offer cliches or cast blame. Who needs satan when you’ve got Job’s friends? As the disciples asked Jesus, “Who sinned?” (John 9), we busy ourselves trying to explain the pain rather than taking the time to heal the pain.
Friends, the explanations hurt. The “Why didn’t you’s” and the “What if’s” do not offer life or healing. We spend all this time convincing each other to sober up, eat something, or get serious for just a second to offer what? More pain? That is not justice.
Let’s be clear: Pain is not a sin. Pain is the result of sin.
Whether our pain was caused by our own sinful choices, the sinful choices of another, or the effects of living in a fallen world characterized by death and decay, it can cause an agonizing pain so unbearable because we were not meant for this world. Even the whole of creation groans for the freedom, revelation, and redemption of the children of God (Romans 8:21-23).
It’s easy to view pain as the enemy. But pain is not the enemy. Pain is what happens within each living person to notify us when something is wrong. And something is very wrong. There are major injustices in the world and in our own lives. Here’s why:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
The reality is that satan desires to demolish the works of God in the most detestable and abhorrent ways imaginable, not because he cares about us, but because he hates God that much. He’ll do whatever he can. God does not promise that we will not have pain or troubles. But we must guard our hearts and minds in the battle so that we do not give satan ANY legal authority to torment us further.
My mom was diagnosed with cancer in March. Do I believe that God gave her cancer? NO! Do I believe that it was God’s will? NO! Is there cancer in God’s Kingdom? NO! Do I believe that God still cares for us? YES! I REFUSE to make any agreements with the lies of satan, I REFUSE to stop praising God, and I REFUSE to stop pursuing righteousness. Got it?
But, when the battle is over and everyone’s gone home, yet we’re left wounded and bleeding, what then? How do we actually heal?
All I know is that healing is the miraculous work of God. In fact, that’s the very reason He sent His Son, Jesus, “to bind up the brokenhearted” (Luke 42:18-20). I’ve seen it over and over again but I can’t explain it–it’s supernatural. I wish I had a four step system that was guaranteed to bring each of us healing and freedom but all I have is this promise: God is Good. He is Faithful. His Loving Kindness endures forever.
If you’re sitting in your own pain, you are not alone. Do not give up. Do not run away. I believe that God has a gift for you in the following verses. I pray that the truth enters the deepest places of your heart and that it becomes your reality in Jesus Name.
“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles; but the Lord delivers him from them all;
He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.” -Psalm 34:1-22
|August 14th, 2012||No Comments »|
A NightLight Atlanta Team Member and iron WO-man rode a bicycle across America this Summer with Just+Hope, a community that empowers people to benefit the world and discover their souls through adventure-driven humanitarian efforts. In this blog post from New York City, she discusses her past of sexual abuse and exploitation and what healing has looked like for her.
“Ah but let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will always be in her heart.”
~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlett Letter
Though I can’t pour out my entire life story right here on a blog post, I will try to answer the constantly asked question of what is in you that makes you even want to ride a bike over 3,000 miles.
Definitely not everyone, but so many people could not understand me doing this ride. I’m a mother. What about my children? I would watch the same people that would drill me about how I could leave them not be near as taken back that there were two men on the trip with children back home. It could be my perception but it seemed to bother many people way more that I am a mother.
They couldn’t fully grasp my need to heal on the road. I am still often silent yet try to explain that this is the best thing for them. That I will come back a better mom, a better wife, a better friend, healed in many ways. Hopefully, I will no longer be silent.
I know this started way before this bike ride. As I began the journey of looking back, now over a year ago, many didn’t understand why. I heard so many times,
“Leave the past behind you.
“The old is gone.”
“None of it matters anymore.”
And I wrestle. Is all I lived through irrelevant now? Does the hurt just disappear because I’ve changed?
Everyone understands this World Trade Center memorial here. We understand that death is an inescapable, common pain that we all have to learn to deal with at some point in our lives. To revisit it, to mourn, to grieve is all part of healing. Talking about it and sharing the weight of it with people is normal. Not this world of silent burdens I have somehow created along the way–or maybe even learned.
Yet, I haven’t found the understanding of mourning my virginity being taken at the small age of 11.
It seems to be a different kind of death. A loss of soul. A crushed spirit. But not a physical death–so maybe pretend it doesn’t still take a toll on me now. Talking about these things is not near as normal. And I stayed in that toxic relationship for the next few years, living in action like a grown woman with the mind, body, and emotion of a small child. Then, drowning it out with every kind of high I can get even if it meant robbing every neighborhood air conditioner of its Freon.
None of it seemed to compare to the hurt that would come when he broke off this relationship with me. It was a different type of death. It was as if my heart had been ripped out of my chest. Not to mention now I have this mark on me forever.
Far from pure.
I’m still not in high school at this point and don’t care really if I ever get there. I take the cheap bottle of vodka my brother paid me for cleaning up after a party and a bottle of Tylenol up to a friends and go for it–no intentions of getting up. As my friends there throw me in a shower to keep me awake, I am sicker than I have ever been.
Somehow I do not die but become the most self-destructive girl you’ve ever seen. I rolled through boyfriend after boyfriend not really caring that I was destroying lives along the way. Anorexia started when I used my lunch money for cigarettes. I felt often in complete control of life with it and other times like I was punishing myself if I started to feel anything. I remember smoking a joint after I got out of rehab and actually feeling a little guilty.
I was always told I was this bad kid that did whatever I wanted without any care if I got caught. I believed it. That maybe something was wrong with me. I still don’t speak much of those few years prior but I am now becoming quite sure they destroyed my ability to care for way longer than the years lasted. I sometimes still see my old room as yellow and remember cutting all over myself with razor blades wondering if I could still feel anything at all.
When I became pregnant at 17, I was numb to it for the most part. Now, when I see her, I know in many ways she saved my life. After I divorced and left her behind, I found myself living out of a car. I hated the dates I would go on if I didn’t have money to eat, mainly the creep customer from Home Depot. One night, I wound up at the Suburban Lodge off highway 78 bent over a glass table bumping lines. It didn’t matter how much I did, I still felt for my girl. As much as I tried not to care, I couldn’t bury it.
When I chose she was worth fighting for, I had to kick all the hard stuff. This really means I became an alcoholic. At 21, I bought a house and struggled to make ends meet but finally felt I may be able to have a future.
When I became pregnant at 23, I was in shock. Pregnancy itself depressed me to where I never left the bed. I felt overwhelmed with guilt that I still smoked half a pack a day and somewhat proud I was sober other than the smokes. I was so sad when I got married. I felt sad for myself that I was the one giving myself away. Sad for Brian that he was marrying into this world of brokenness that he has no idea I carry around. He has no idea my inability to carry on a real conversation and that my emotional level, when I am not numb, is still that of the 11 year old girl.
After I have Nathan I become suicidal and anorexic all over again. I think the Depo-Provera shot was adding to my insanity.
Then, I hear this voice from heaven at 25 that says “Thank God for Jesus” even after I had over a bottle of Robitussin that day. It’s the same voice I am still walking toward that would eventually sober me–teach me to run or ride a bike instead. It took a few years. I find it strange that people support you quitting everything but drinking. When I quit smoking, other smokers encourage. When I quit drugs they just puff, puff, pass. No big deal. When I quit drinking, every friend I have buys me a beer. I haven’t figured this one out yet.
And, finally, when I had sobered up enough to begin to feel the plus 30 years prior, I walk in to get healing from a place that clearly knows nothing about healing. With the final words to me being “we‘ve given you a place to vent, cry, bitch, etc. without ever complaining.” It was like the final stab in the gut. I could have found that at a bar and maybe felt less degraded in the process.
That was when I came to the end of myself and I wanted nothing but to die all over again. Then I find I can’t quit trying to go back and deal. I end up under the care of the ministry where I had only volunteered until now.
Maribeth is nothing short of a mother to me. Courtney fights for me and I trust her maybe more than I have anyone before now. She pairs me with Jeaunett who saves my life that day. But, not before I drive myself back to the boys house where it is as far back as my memory goes. I look through the windows to see what the room looks like–if it has changed. I am scared to death to knock on the door. So I don’t, but there are cars in the drive way. I leave his house and go straight to Jeaunett’s. I stay for hours–maybe 10 hours or more. I stop crying. It was a beginning to the end to the year+ of wrestling.
Shortly after Jeaunett’s, I walk miles with a stranger, now friend, Andrew (http://walkingtolisten.com/). He holds many small hurts and stories for me. In a way, he kept the stories alive so that I may go back and deal with them one by one when I will finally find the space on the road. Not all at once. I’ve had the perfect work place with a boss that has been way more than that title.
January, Brian is becoming the one I can share with. But it is coming slow. I am not starting from the starting block. I am starting from 32 years of running backwards.
This is what brings me here. I ride for these things:
To stand up and try to speak boldly (really just cry and tremble while I muster up a few words) of being a child that was sexually abused at the same time try to believe the reality that I wasn’t just this bad kid who was to blame for what I lived through…
To tell it as if I lived it–not just something distant that happened to another…
To create a new world for myself that isn’t a silent person sweeping it all under the rug and forgetting because it is all in the past…
And to create a new world for my husband and my children where we actually talk about the things that hurt us. That we share each other’s burdens. Creating a world in my home where we can each stand unashamed.
And this is only part of the reason I would ride a bike this far. There is another half of the equation: The people I am riding for…
Faces I’ve met along the way from years ago until now…
Children I’ve met in rough homes, neighborhoods…
Girls I’ve met on the streets…
The faces I saw in the markets of Indonesia…
How could I not want to bring freedom to girls and boys caught in the sex trade?
To feed refugees that are fleeing for their life?
To break the cycle of injustice that has been present for years?
Trying to process my entire 32 years in 2 months on the road is not fully possible…
…But I’ve come a long way.