I found myself, in the middle of a red light district in Thailand, being threatened.
A man in his 50s, getting in my face and yelling at me at the top of his lungs in front of a crowded restaurant- it was almost an out of body experience. No one stepped in to help us, I was in shock and it didn’t seem like it was really happening.
I’ve been going to red light districts to do ministry for years; this is a people group that God has put on my heart so strongly. Not only the prostitutes, but also everyone who is down there, the johns, and the street people. I love getting to know them, bringing the light of God to the darkest of areas, and showing them there is more to life. The first time I ever went on a prayer walk in a red light district in Tijuana, Mexico, I spent the drive home with tears streaming down my face. That was a pivotal moment for me: these people, wherever in the world they are, they are a part of my calling, they are written on my heart.
This day in the red light district in Chiang Mai started out like many of my other days of ministry there. It was a few days before we left and we were wrapping up ministry. We had team time, and headed out onto our daily prayer walk through the bar areas. We went to camp out and pray at our usual spot, a series of bars crowded around a huge boxing ring. These bars are closed during the day, with only a few bar workers milling around.
As I sat and worshipped calling forth freedom for these women, God gave me a picture and a verse:
He gave me a picture of the women in the bars surrounding the boxing ring, weeping and wailing. Mourning over their lives, their sin and their shame. At the center the boxing ring was removed, and a cross took its place. One by one, women came to lie at the foot of the cross. Gradually their weeping changed to a joyful song. As the spirit of the Lord came stronger in the room, freedom came. Praise and dancing erupted among the women as they began to experience true joy and freedom in the arms of their savior.
“You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
Oh Lord I will give you thanks forever.”
God put it on my heart to dance around the boxing ring, as a prophetic action to sort of speak this vision into life, so I did it. Like a crazy person in broad daylight, I danced and worshiped around the boxing ring. I may have looked stupid, but God was so in the midst of that moment. I danced, and wept and worshipped in that place. In that place of such darkness and evil, I danced and praised the Lord, and I began to experience for myself the true joy and freedom from the vision God had given me, as I prayed it over those women. You could feel the atmosphere of the place: it was tangible, it was changing.
Later that night I went out for one of my last times of bar ministry in Chiang Mai. I was so excited to have some more quality time with the women before I left, but God had a different plan. Lisa and I met two Australian guys in one of the bars and we were able to share about the love of Christ with them for over an hour. The Holy Spirit was so at work in those conversations. These men were so lost and had no sense of value for themselves, no wonder they didn't value the women. We had the amazing privilege of telling them about their identity: that they are made in the image of God, that God desires personal relationship with them, that Jesus died for them to have freedom, that Jesus broke away the shame and the guilt, those things that chained me and He could break the chains off of them as well. We walked away, smiling at the faithfulness of God, praying that God would continue to encounter those two men. We thanked God for already encountering them where they were at, in the midst of their sin and brokenness. God chose to send someone to speak life over them in a sleazy bar in a red light district-these men who have been going to prostitutes for over ten years.
God is there in the midst of our brokenness, patiently waiting for us to come to Him. When we think we are running away from God, he is always right there with us,
He’s never far.
As we walked home that night, I was feeling so excited about what God was doing, so pumped to be a part of it, and then I saw him. A white man in his 50s, rubbing his hand up and down the front of a little 5-year-old Thai girl. I’ve seen this girl, from a slum nearby, as she goes around selling flowers to help support her family. I was shocked, the man who was in complete public on a busy street, felt so comfortable touching this little girl. Before I knew what was happening, I simply asked him “What are you doing?” He became enraged. Got into our faces, yelling. I was bracing myself for him to hit me, he was explosive. He explained, “I’m just buying her food to fill her belly. How can you call me an effing child molester?” And I answered back, “that is very nice that you buy her food, but all I saw was you touching her so I asked you what you were doing.” Extremely defensive, He kept on yelling. Finally when he ran out of insults about Christians and the fact that I as a young girl don’t know anything, he insisted we leave. We left, shaken up and confused. Discouraged. After an amazing night of ministry, why did it have to end like this? And then it wasn’t over, he ran after us. He snapped a picture, and yelled: “You have three days to leave the country. I will pay people to find you. You will find out what happens when you try to leave the airport” and then he finally left us alone. we took a tuk tuk home, praying that he wouldn't follow us. it now felt serious. This volatile man who has lived in Thailand for three years, has our picture, hates us, and wants to punish us for making him out to be a child molester or drawing attention to him and who knows what kind of contacts he has.
The fear crept in. Who is this guy? What will he do to us?
Child prostitution is illegal in Thailand yet it happens, regularly. While I may never know the exact details, something was not right with this man. He is not simply a generous, philanthropist living in Thailand and helping the poorest of the poor by supplying them with food. Whether he is a pimp, a trafficker or simply just a child molester, it comes back to one thing, manipulation. He was a man, exploiting the poverty and hunger of a young girl, slowly gaining her trust, in order to take advantage of her later. this is a pattern that happens way to often in places like this. And as he proudly called himself, he is a “bull dog.” Simply a dog: a dog that became aggressive when his territory was threatened. He felt threatened when I let him know I saw what he was doing. When I think about that man, that precious little girl, I feel sick. I feel sick that I couldn’t take her away to a safe place or protect her, I feel sick about what that man will do.
This man is so broken and lost, he threatened me, declaring that he would not only find me but also find a way to hurt me. But is he the real enemy here? After an amazing day of breakthrough in prayer and ministry came an attack. Ever notice that pattern in your life? Great breakthrough with God in one area- followed by discouragement of your thoughts and in your spirit, discouragement in the very area you just made progress in. It happens to all of us. It’s called a spiritual attack. You see the enemy does not enjoy when we make breakthrough. He does not enjoy when God is using us in specific ways to bring His kingdom. He stirs up things to bring us down, to cause us to doubt our Father. The enemy will come in any way he can to bring discouragement, to re-establish the lies, to find a way to make us quit. We can fall prey to these things or we can recognize them, and continue to operate in the areas that he is attacking, because that means we are actually accomplishing something.
I know who my real enemy is and his name is Satan.
He can attempt to make me live in fear of that man, to run and hide, to choose to stop doing ministry, to stop declaring breakthroughs in areas that he considers his territory, but I refuse to let his schemes work. Satan is just a harmless bulldog, and I serve a God who fights for me, a God who is victorious. A God who not only brings protection, He brings comfort. I was initially shaken up, confused, frightened, doubting why I even spoke to that man at all, but then the peace of the Lord set in. I have nothing to fear, because I know who fights for me. God has brought me on this journey, to bring His light into the darkness, and part of this journey means learning to rest in His unfailing sovereignty and protection.
We as the church need to identify who our real enemy is. We have the power as Christians to demolish strongholds, we have all authority in Christ. When we walk into our callings in these areas, the enemy will not be pleased, but we do not have to live in fear of the world.
We simply have to trust that He who is greater is in us,
and when He is for us, what can man do to us?
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
We demolish every argument andevery pretension
that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,
and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5