Thailand: Behind the Smile

Stephanie Wilkins, USM
June 12, 2017

Stephanie Wilkins.jpg

I have officially made it to Thailand! The first few days have consisted of wrestling with jet lag, learning our neighborhood, orientation, team bonding, and prayer walking the city.

There really are no words to describe the spiritual darkness in Bangkok, or the heaviness of the burden you feel when walking along the streets. Thailand is called the "Land of Smiles" because of their friendliness and their emphasis on being outwardly beautiful, but if you look beneath the surface, you will find a broken culture seeking satisfaction from everything but Christ. The people of Bangkok are enslaved to idol worship and sex, but we are praying that their chains would be broken and they would find freedom in Jesus.

I am working with an organization that works to get men and transgendered sex workers out of the red light district. They do this by preaching the gospel first, because as we know, true change only comes from having a radical encounter with Jesus Christ. They also provide their students with restorative counseling sessions, job training, life skill classes, and exercise classes. I will be working to provide Gospel-centered counseling alongside a Thai social worker. We will also be doing outreach in the bars, attempting to reach the men and transgendered prostitutes.

This past week, we started prayer walking the red light districts, asking God to prepare the soil for when we start outreach next week. My heart was shattered like never before as we walked through the district. I began to weep in the middle of the street. There is something especially heartbreaking to watch as young women and men prostitute themselves for less than thirty American dollars. This is not God's desire for those he has declared image bearers of Himself. The sinfulness of man can clearly be seen as you watch men of almost every ethnicity buy other human beings that God has created. Even though I can see that Satan is ruling in these areas, I am reminded that God is still sovereign. Going to Thai church reminds me that God is at work revealing himself to the Thai people and calling them by name into salvation.

I have some prayer requests for you guys. Please pray for Thailand to become a reached country. Pray that we would faithfully proclaim the Gospel to those who are not believers. Pray for the men who are customers in the red light district.  Pray for God to serve justice there.  Pray that He will open the eyes of those in the district, and deliver the needy from the hands of the wicked as he promises in the Psalms. It's hard for me to have compassion on those who abuse and exploit others, but their lostness is just as real as those being sold. Pray for their hearts to be convicted and petition for their salvation.

Pray for a young woman in a yellow bikini who I was unable to talk to, but felt the spirit guiding me to speak to her. Pray for another encounter with her. Pray for a young woman, who I met on a bus, that I will be getting dinner with - for a Gospel conversation to occur. Pray for my team and me.  It almost feels selfish when there is so much hurting elsewhere, but pray that we would grow spiritually so that we can love the Thai people well.