We just returned from three weeks in Korea and Thailand. There we witnessed first-hand the Spirit calling people into missions, we served alongside front-line missionaries who care for women and men in prostitution, and participated in prayers of confession and repentance to address larger macro-powers.
In Korea I led a retreat for about 200 members of Jubilee Church, a congregation of young mostly-Asian English-speaking ex-pats living and working in Seoul. Jubilee’s mission statement is Isaiah 61, and the Holy Spirit was strongly present to call people into Jesus’ ministry, visibly filling and healing people. Many expressed their longing to follow Jesus into the darkest places—and Thailand definitely qualifies. (Jubilee prayer team is first picture below).
Next stop was Bangkok, where I met with Jennie-Joy, a young, joy-filled missionary working with Nightlight to advocate for individual women trafficked from other nations so they can get out of the sex trade (second photo below).
Iven and Kashmira Hauptman welcomed me into their home in the heart of one of Bangkok’s red-light districts. Iven invited me on a several-hour loop around the National Palace and Emerald Buddha Temple, where we encountered dozens of young men awaiting customers as free-lance prostitutes.
We talked to a number of guys about Jesus and prayed for those who accepted our offers to bless them, as potential customers slowly cruised by. Iven and Kashmira are fluent in Thai, have built relationships with their neighbors and many of these young men, with whom they envision starting a church.
My third stop was Pattaya, Thailand, home to the world’s largest sex-tourism scene and meeting place for two gatherings of missionaries living and serving the poor in slum communities with Servants and the New Friars. Gracie and our 17-year-old daughter, Anna, joined me to minister to these missionaries.
While there we went out on the streets three nights to pray for people in the heart of the red-light district, and to discern what Jesus would have us notice and do in response (third photo below). Walking the streets was highly disturbing, and yet intercession seemed urgent and came naturally as the despair and emptiness of the women and men selling themselves and also the customers was in our faces.
We knew that an old US Air Force Base “U-Tapau” was close by, from which US B-52 bombers left to bomb Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Many directly link the death and terror from these bombing campaigns to the rise to power of Khmer Rogue, and Pol Pot’sexecution of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians.
We were also aware that the US military had used Pattaya as an R&R site, and that sex tourism got it’s start there largely due to US troop presence. One evening after a prayer walk through the heart of the prostitution scene, my friend Tom and I waded into Pattaya Bay and confessed nation’s sins, re-affirming our baptisms. We felt God’s strong presence hovering over the waters.
At the Easter Sunday we included an act of public confession and repentance for US’s use and abuse of Pattaya as part of our celebration of Jesus’ victory over the powers (see below). Many Americans joined me as I led these prayers (fourth photo) and Cambodian participants and ministry workers living in Phnom Penh offered declarations of forgiveness.
The following week our daughter, Anna volunteered with Tamar Project, a ministry that reaches out to women in prostitution. Anna was deeply impacted as she worked alongside women whom Tamar staff had befriended and offered employment through their bakery, café and greeting card businesses (final photo).
Anna’s experience of working alongside the women was life-changing, reminding us that Jesus’ love is deeply personal and relational, and can overcome any barrier. It breaks the grip of evil as people surrender to the crucified and risen Victor.
Prayers of Confession (March 31, 2013, Pattaya, Thailand)
I confess and renounce the sin of the United States of America of using and abusing the land of Thailand, the city of Pattaya as a launching pad for bombing raids on Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos. I renounce US Imperial designs and lament the death and ongoing destruction that have resulted and continue to be felt.
I confess and repent of the sin of American soldiers, military personnel and other citizens of using Thai and Cambodian women as objects and for and any role the US played in contributing to the rise of prostitution in SE Asia.
We declare that there is no justification for these actions.
We repent of the sin of misrepresenting God through these behaviors [since many people would have viewed the US as a Christian nation].
We ask the people of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam for forgiveness for these sins in the name of Jesus.
Links to people and ministries
Jubilee Church, Seoul, http://jubileeseoul.com
Jenny Joy Tefler, http://seedswillgrow.com/partners
Iven and Kasmira Hauptman, http://ivenandkashmira.com
Tamar Project, www.tamarcenter.org/en