In July 2014 a group of nine women left Austin, Texas early in the morning to begin the long trip to the other side of the world. My wife, Danielle, led this team of incredible women on this journey. One more who lives in East Asia joined the team at the Bangkok airport completing the team of 10.
Danielle and I lived in Thailand for half a year in 2007.While living there, Danielle became involved with the Tamar Center. Tamar was founded in 1999 and seeks to provide hope in a city full of red-light districts. To provide healing through love, biblical principles and to provide education as well as job opportunities for girls leaving the bars.
Please enjoy this interview with Danielle about their trip:
When did you first become acquainted with Tamar Center?
We went on a short-term mission trip to Pattaya, Thailand in 2006 to volunteer with another ministry in the city. It was on this trip that I was introduced to the Tamar Center.
What inspired you to begin working with Tamar Center?
I loved the heart of the leadership and their desire to help the bar girls find another way to support themselves and their families. Tamar is a prostitution rescue center. They start by inviting bar girls to English class, build relationships, share the love of Jesus and provide them with a job skill. They train the women to make cards, to work in a salon, work in a restaurant, design jewelry, make scarves or work with computers.
Why did you decide to lead a team of women to work with Tamar Center?
My first motivation was to return to Thailand, to work with the ministry and to decide if it would be good timing for our family to return there to work full-time. That desire to return to Thailand turned into a team of 10 women who were familiar with Tamar Center joining me for ministry.
What challenges did you face?
It takes a stinking long time to travel there!! It requires a domestic flight to a major hub city like Houston/Dallas/Denver/Chicago, a 12 hour flight to Japan, a 6 hour flight to Thailand and then a 2 hour van ride to Pattaya. When the travel is all totaled it’s about a 30 hour trip. On a 10 day mission trip 3 days are consumed by travel. Then you have jet-lag. At the end of the trip I was feeling my age. Other challenges include the heat, smells, language barriers and the oppression that occurs in a country that is dominated by worship of a false god.
What was it like to be back in Thailand working with Tamar?
In some ways it was like being home. I experienced sheer delight seeing the faces of dear friends and meeting new Tamar staff. Working with the bar girls was just as fulfilling as the first time I volunteered. There’s nothing like sitting with a woman during English class and connecting at a relational level.
Share a couple of highlights from the trip.
All of our outreach efforts led to a party the last night we were in Pattaya. We invited over a 100 bar girls and lady boys to this party. It was an elegant night in a luxury hotel with a fancy dinner, entertainment, games, prizes and tons of unconditional love. These women really respond to being treated with love and respect for the night. Our team invited and literally went to the bars to buy the bar girls and lady boys for the night. We had over 100 in attendance. During the evening the Tamar staff shared about their program and had many people sign up. Since our departure many more decided to exit prostitution. Other women and lady boys decided to follow Christ and are coming to the Tamar center to discover more about that relationship.
One of the women on our team, Kim, connected with a bar girl the first day of English class. The bar girl came to all the classes and then the party we held the last night in Pattaya. On our return we were informed she joined the Tamar center and has dedicated her life to Christ. There have been a couple of these stories and it has made it all very personal for each of our ladies from Canyon Creek who poured their lives, love and prayer into 1-3 bar girls during our time in Pattaya. These bar girls are no longer statistics on a page or a face in a video. As Americans we can become desensitized to the pain, poverty and despair that takes place on the other side of the world. Kim has taken the next step. She is educating herself and in the process of becoming involved in the human trafficking plight here in our own city.
I think every Canyon Creek team member was personally touched by the unconditional love expressed by the Tamar staff to the lady boys. Most of these boys have been raised as girls, given hormone treatments and sent into the city to make money. Their identity is all confused and they are treated poorly by everyone around them. Tamar has literally stepped into this very confusing arena with the love of Jesus. It’s amazing to watch the Tamar staff step out with love to the unlovely. We all came back deeply challenged about the areas we tend to be judgmental of others. It simply changed us.
How can we as Americans support a ministry like Tamar that is on the other side of the world?
Give, pray and go. Check out their website—www.TamarCenter.org—and buy cards, jewelry and scarves. Each purchase literally allows a girl to exit prostitution. Step outside your very blessed American life and give. Educate yourself and take that to prayer. And if the opportunity arrises to go and give away your talents, they always welcome the help at Tamar Center!