Happy belated Thanksgiving! It was definitely different than how we traditionally celebrate the holiday, but some of our team members are looking forward to the Thanksgiving meal that their families or significant others have waiting for them at home. I had a Hungry Man frozen turkey dinner a night or two before we left for Thailand, so I suppose that will suffice until Christmas.
We started our Thanksgiving day at Rahab ministries in the heart of (one of) Bangkok’s red light districts. It wasn’t far from the Christian guest house where we stayed at the beginning of our trip, and we had to walk past a block of strip clubs and bars to reach the ministry headquarters. At Rahab, we met with their staff and volunteers, leading them in a time of worship and taking some time to pray over them. We prayed for their ministry and for the girls who work in the clubs across the street. Some of the volunteers used to work in the clubs, but through Rahab found new work and came to have faith in Jesus. Part of Rahab ministry’s mission is to teach girls new skills that would allow them to find work in other neighborhoods. They also learn how to create items like crocheted stuffed animals and jewelry, the sales of which support the ministry. We ended our time with Rahab in their gift shop picking out some souvenirs for friends and family back home.
Following our morning with Rahab, our team went out to lunch for a special Thanksgiving meal with Silk, Kris, and Kris’s mother, who is in Thailand for the next month. We went to a steakhouse where they served American-style beef steak. While T-bone steaks aren’t the traditional Thanksgiving meal, it was a nice taste of home. Kris said that having something familiar but not exactly the same keeps us from getting too homesick. It was also great to have a potato instead of rice or noodles for a change :)
After lunch and a brief time of rest (during which I treated myself to a Thai aromatherapy massage in the hotel and our team treated Silk and Kris to an afternoon at the hotel spa), our team joined Silk and Kris for a time of worship and prayer for Kris and her ministry. We broadcast the time of worship on Periscope and were excited to see so many of you joining with us from home as you began preparing your Thanksgiving meals. During our time of worship, Mitch offered a prayer over our team and ministry. We learned afterward that Mitch did not remember praying. Like, at all. He didn’t even know it had happened! Prior to our trip, two people prophesied that he would open his mouth and God would fill it with His words – I guess they were talking about this very moment!
After worship, Sophie and I went to dinner at a restaurant across the street. Earlier in the week, I had heard live music coming from the restaurant and wanted to check it out. Looking back at the evening now, I think this was God’s way of leading us into the restaurant. Looking around, there were several tables of an Asian woman with at least one white man. Considering the neighborhood, this wasn’t unexpected but still a little shocking to see. One woman at the table behind Sophie was seated with two men. They all looked somewhat bored, perhaps waiting for the appropriate amount of time to pass before going home together.
At the table behind me was a woman sitting alone. She looked like she was working but didn’t have a customer yet. I asked her if she was sitting with anyone and invited her to join us. She said no, but continued to smile at us for the next few minutes. After placing our orders, Sophie went over to talk with her, and we eventually moved our table over to hers. She said that her name was Candle, pointing to the candle on our table to help us understand what she was trying to say. She spoke English, but it wasn’t always clear what she was saying. We bought her a drink and invited her to share the pizza and cashew chicken we had ordered for ourselves. She said thank you but did not help herself to the food.
Sophie could tell Candle was distracted and asked if she were worried about finding a customer that evening. When Candle said yes, Sophie asked if we could give her a financial gift so that she didn’t have to worry about finding work and could just join us as friends over dinner. Candle resisted the gift at first, but then relented, allowing herself to sit back and enjoy the evening with us. She slowly began to pick at the food before her but still did not really eat any. I saw tears begin to form in her eyes as she realized we were there just to love her in ways she probably has not experienced in a while. Sophie and I began speaking hope and truth into her life, assuring her that God loves her deeply, wants so much more for her than the life she is currently living, and has created a wonderful plan for her life. Candle’s tears flowed more freely, especially as the house band began playing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King. Sophie and I asked each other if we should sing a worship song over Candle, but we weren’t sure what song to sing or if we would know all the words. At that moment, the band was performing “Wind Beneath My Wings,” singing the words, “I want you to know I know the truth.” Sophie and I began to cry, realizing that we didn’t need worship songs to worship God in that moment. We started praying out loud, thanking God for his presence in that place, asking for more of his spirit to come over our table and Candle’s heart.
Candle’s emotions would come in waves. Sometimes she would be overcome by whatever God was stirring in her heart, sitting back in her chair and struggling to hold back her tears. Then she would revert back to “working,” trying to dance with us, calling us “baby,” and acting as if she needed to offer us services in exchange for the gift we had given her. And each time she would ask us to dance, we would remind her that we just wanted to sit and talk and enjoy giving her an evening off. She began to relax and eat, but sometimes her thoughts caught up to her or God stirred something in her heart, and she stopped to wipe away tears.
As we sat with Candle, a server came up to us and asked Sophie and me if we were missionaries. She saw us sitting with Candle and praying for her, and she knew that we were different from the usual customers. We asked if we could pray for her, and she was eager to receive prayer but was busy. She said that she could come back when the next band came on stage. A few minutes later, another server came by and asked us what our religion was. She also noticed us with Candle and said she had never seen anything like that in the restaurant before. She was also a Christian and invited us to join her for church. She was excited to connect and kept coming back to our table throughout the night. (She was also excited to discover we were both Filipino. The other server was Filipino, too!)
The first server came back, and she and Sophie went inside to pray. As Sophie got up from the table, Candle grabbed my hand and asked me not to leave. “I don’t want to think,” she said. She noticed that her friend who was also in the restaurant now had a customer. I couldn’t tell if her tears were because she was jealous of her friend or sad that her friend now had to go home with a man. I prayed for her friend and told Candle that she should share these words of hope and life with her. I said, “You don’t need a customer. God loves you and will provide for you in another way.” Candle said, “I need a customer, but I don’t want one.” That essentially summed up her situation. She was desperate and was willing to do whatever she had to do to get by.
When Sophie came back, we told Candle that we had to go and assured her we would never forget her, our new friend and sister. As we walked home, Sophie filled me in on the conversation and prayer she shared with the server. Candle visits the restaurant often. Because she does drugs (I think she sniffs or huffs), she is not always coherent and does not always understand. That explains why we could not always understand her responses to what we said, but God broke through the haze to speak to her heart that night. Even when the band was so loud we couldn’t hear ourselves, we spoke life and truth to Candle, and she responded deeply as we prayed over her. It had nothing to do with the words we said and whether or not they made sense to Candle. God’s presence was there in that restaurant and was at work in Candle’s heart. Pray that He continues this work within her. Pray that Candle would not return to this line of work but instead would turn to Christ. Pray that the two servers would be representatives of hope and truth for Candle and all the other girls who are waiting for their customers in that restaurant. Pray that one day Candle would shine brightly with the light of Christ within her.