People always ask me, “How did you get to where you are? Why southeast Asia?”
To be honest, southeast Asia wasn’t part of my original plan. (See my previous post.) But as for how I got here, it really is as simple as I quit my job in America and got on a plane.
The journey to this place in my life has been an unexpected one. It’s one that took me to all kinds of places across the globe before landing here. This journey for me has always been about a passion the Lord placed in my heart more than a specific place. Thailand is now a place I get to call home for this season of my life.
So allow me a moment to share that passion.
Back in 2009, I went on a short-term mission trip with my home church to Kenya. We partnered with a local children’s home whose mission is to care for abandoned babies and see them adopted into loving homes, both locally and internationally.
The trip was eye-opening as I came face to face with stories of heartbreak, loss and brokenness. And in the midst of these stories, the Lord allowed me to encounter incredible hope and things began to stir inside.
One morning, the pastors of the local church we partnered with took us to visit a nearby town called Salgaa. A town well known for prostitution. The pastors and a few members of the church had been going weekly into Salgaa for a few years to build relationships with several of the women living and working there. So we were going to visit a few of their homes to get to know them and hear their story.
I had no context prior to my arrival in Kenya for what to expect in a town like Salgaa. By day, it seemed like any other small roadside town you’d pass through with pop-up shops selling fruits, veggies, secondhand clothing or other textiles. Several kids were running around in a dusty open field pushing a bicycle tire with a stick, laughing and passing it to one another.
On our drive into Salgaa, were told at night the town took on a different life, as anywhere from 100-300 semi trucks would stop to fill up the local bars and pour into what turned into a red light district. Women would weave their way in and around the trucks offering business to any interested customers. This, I soon learned, for many of the women was their way of life, a means of putting food on the table and providing for their children.
We visited 3 homes that day, and I’ll never forget the encounters. Each one a small one room shack holding every bit of belongings these women had. Each one had come to Salgaa for different reasons – running away from an abusive father at home, the promise of good work in this town, a husband who was killed and a struggling mother left to survive on her own with her children.
As I sat in the last home and watched this young woman sitting in front of me share her story, my heart felt so raw and broken. Hiding her face behind the sheet hanging down over her bed as a curtain, she hardly looked up as she spoke. What I watched in that moment was a woman filled with such deep shame. A woman who didn’t know or believe she had any value. Life had certainly taught her otherwise, that she was someone to be used when needed and forgotten when not.
Every emotion felt twisted up inside of me as we left Salgaa that day. I didn’t know what to do with all I’d seen or heard. I had met actual women. I knew their names and had seen their faces. They were no longer a statistic on a page or something I had heard about from someone else. This was personal.
Just how deeply personal, I would come to realize several weeks after returning home. The Lord ignited a passion in me to see people valued, known, seen, and loved. And that passion is not limited to one place or one kind of person. I simply want people to understand their incredible value, to know their worth, and to understand who their Heavenly Father says they are!
For now, that looks like me living in Thailand in a border town where the majority of people I work with are displaced, oppressed, discriminated against, or stateless. It looks like me putting my energy into understanding how to help run a local business training center that provides work opportunity for young women and mamas, but more than that provides training in things they love and have dreamt of doing some day! It’s a place that values each individual, a place for them to unlock their creativity and learn to dream with the Lord for their future and that of their families! It’s my heartbeat to call out the gold I see in every woman who crosses my path, to let them know they are seen, known and loved.
This is my passion.
One the Lord ignited in me in Kenya. One that I’ll carry with me to every part of the globe He leads me to.