I’m continuing my journey on to Pattaya, Thailand—a beautiful coastal city . . . and home to an estimated 30-50,000 sex workers.
It’s hard to imagine that this relatively small city is one of the sex capitals of the world. In fact, this is where Thailand’s sex tourism industry all began. During the Vietnam War, American soldiers would come to this beautiful fishing town on leave. And soon, Pattaya became known as a place to come for “innocent fun.”
Today, the city is a menagerie. But I was totally unprepared for how enmeshed family-style entertainment was with Pattaya’s blatant sex tourism. I saw families with young children walking casually through the streets as “bar girls” negotiated rates alongside their pimps who were looking on.
I couldn’t help but reel at how normal everyone seemed to be acting. It was like going to a circus or street festival—but this was the farthest thing from innocent entertainment.
Just as unsettling was the amount of trafficking victims we saw. Thai, African, and Russian girls lined the streets at every bar.
Often these women are uneducated and promised a lucrative career in Pattaya. This offer is especially enticing for the young women who work to support their families. The better paying the job, the more money they can send home.
It’s a vicious cycle. These women are paying the ultimate sacrifice by laying aside their dreams and safety in order to provide for their families. Their work in Pattaya puts them at serious risk, and all the while, the shame of their lifestyle destroys their future little by little.
But God is blazing a new way in this darkest of places. Through a strategic partnership, we’re working to curtail the sex trade by transforming one life at a time with help and hope.
World Help is in the process of building a safe home that will care for up to 20 at-risk girls at a time. These young women will receive the best care possible within a family-style environment, an education, counseling, and even opportunities to attend college or earn a vocational degree.
The campus will even include a café where girls can earn wages and learn business skills. But most important, each girl will hear of God’s love daily through a Gospel-centered community.
Because an estimated 50 percent of women in the industry have followed their mother or sister’s footsteps, it’s critical that we present the reality of an alternative lifestyle to women in Pattaya. Sisters and daughters will continue to follow the example set before them. This home could literally impact tens of thousands of lives over the coming generations!
One evening, as the situation in Pattaya seemed to come crashing down on me, our compassionate partner Ann reminded our team of Galatians 6:9. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Maybe the sex industry overwhelms you like it does me at times. Maybe you want to throw your hands up in the air and say “It’s hopeless!”
Don’t give up. Every life counts. Every investment matters. I believe God will use our efforts to reap something incredible in Pattaya in His perfect timing—a generation of women free in Christ.
We believe this new project will rescue and restore lives trampled on by the greed and injustice of the international sex trade. But we honestly can’t do this without you. Groundbreaking on this new program in Pattaya is in its beginning stages and funding is desperately needed to bring this to completion.
Please pray about how you can partner with World Help to bring light in the darkest areas of our world. And please keep the victims of the sex industry in your prayers.
Bangkok, Thailand is the last stop in my journey—and it’s here where the horrors of the international sex industry seem to culminate. There’s an estimated 15,000 sex workers in one area of the city alone, and thousands of individuals from around the world come to visit for one reason.
These visitors call it “sex tourism,” as if it were simply a part of their holiday experience.
I’m broken by what I’ve seen in Bangkok, still unable to fully process my emotions. But here is the raw version—because I can’t tidy these truths up. I just can’t.
I came to Thailand to tell you the truth . . . but also to show you hope.
Our partner is located in Bangkok’s red-light district. It’s a place of refuge in the middle of devastating darkness. Our team works by entering busy bars and building personal relationships with the women entertaining there.
Then they make them an offer: the chance to leave the sex trade once and for all and complete their education for free—whether that means finishing high school, attending a university, or earning a vocational degree. While there, each woman in the program is offered a safe place to stay, three meals a day, counseling, the support of a loving community, and the love and dignity of Christ.
Because most of these women are uneducated and come from impoverished backgrounds, the offer almost seems too good to be true. For these women, education is their escape from prostitution. But it also leaves them with a choice . . . to invest in their education or earn money every night on the streets.
The answer is simple, right?
Actually, it’s far from simple. So many of these women work in Bangkok to help support their families back home. They make 10 times the amount here than they would in their own villages, and to quit would leave their families empty-handed.
The sex industry is a complex web . . . but I saw the redemption that’s possible through compassionate dedication.
I joined our partner one evening in the heart of Bangkok’s red-light district—a regular routine for her as she seeks to build trust with these young women. We sat down at a go-go bar, waiting for the right opportunity to speak to whomever would eventually wait on our table. All around me I saw men—mostly western—bidding on women who were literally numbered.
I felt sick.
There in the bar, surrounded by vulgarity and what seemed like the abandonment of all justice, the gravity of the situation began to suffocate me. It was all I could do to hold back the tears and appear strong. But as soon as I got back in our vehicle, my emotions poured out.
“How do you do this . . . every night?” were the only words I could muster shakily through tears to our partner later that evening. And it was as if her response was the answer I had been waiting for all along.
“If we don’t do it, who will?”
It hit me. This isn’t someone else’s problem. This is our problem.
In God’s perfect timing, at our next stop, I saw our partner’s work in action and began to see the hope.
Our waitress arrived, and in an instant, our partner began her work. We had only moments with her. The urgency was so great. But in those few sacred minutes, she was told about the home and about receiving an education for free. We learned this young lady had only just begun her career as a bar girl, but the desperation was already visible on her face. Her eyes lit up when we spoke of a different way of life, and we left her that night closer to hope than she had ever come since arriving in Bangkok.
Back at the home, I spoke with a young woman named Arinya who had found a new identity through the love and care she found there. She came to Bangkok when she was just 15 years old to help support her poor farming family.
She endured three years of working in the industry at a bar. And just when she thought she couldn’t take anymore, she heard about the Home of New Beginnings.
Today, Arinya has graduated with a business degree and earns a respectable income. While at the home, she also discovered the love of her heavenly Father and couldn’t resist His forgiveness. Now, she feels called to reach out to women who were chained to a life of humiliation just like her.
One by one, this work is transforming lives for eternity.
Bangkok is where my journey ends, but it’s also where a new chapter begins. I invite you to partner with World Help as we continue to bring light to the dark . . . to set captives free . . . to do justice.
Each rescue takes considerable time and investment—but every penny is worth it. As I think back on the faces of the young women I met on this journey, those words still ring in my ears: If we don’t do it, who will?