Thursday, 7 May 2015

Let's Love

So this update will be very short ms brief, mostly because it is 11pm here and I have to get on a plane tomorrow to fly out to Cambodia. So this is just going to be a quick update about what I've been doing for the second half of my time here in Thailand. So once we were done at the Thai church outside of Bangkok we came back into Bangkok to work with a ministry called Rak Teh, meaning "love authentic" in Thai. The building we stayed at was right in the centre of a major tourist area in Bangkok, an area surrounded by temples, but also a lot of homelessness, a large deaf community, and so many people to reach to. I really loved this ministry because they were so open to just doing what God called us to do and just going with what each day brought us to. What that looked like was a time of 36 hours of consistent prayer and worship, buying food for the locals, hanging out with the local deaf community and just living life alongside the people of this area. One major event we did was host a hair and nail day for the women of the neighbourhood. We basically took the time to treat them like royalty, from hair cuts, to pedicures, to manicures, to dinner, to desert, we did everything we could to make these women to feel special. It was a great experience just to serve those around so and let them know they are loved and cared for. In between ministry times my friends and I loved going down to the tourist backpacking area to shop, eat food, Skype our parents and hang out. I also may have tried eating scorpion and tarantula down there... One of the craziest things I have done. Anyways I will update you more as time goes on but until then thanks for reading! 

Cambodia Bound

   Well tomorrow I am officially done ministry and work in Thailand, and I am heading over to Cambodia for the next month to do more work and ministry. Honestly I don't have a ton of details about what exactly I am doing there but I will share with you the bit I do know. Like I said tomorrow we will be flying from Bangkok, Thailand to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We will be in Phnom Penh for about two days before we drive for three hours to the province of Kampong Cham. The living conditions will be interesting with the 45 degree heat, and the upcoming raining season. At this point we are not expecting to have air conditioning, wifi, western toilets, or any sort of amenities. Honestly I'm okay with it. When you are living in very minimalistic conditions it forces you firstly to trust in God more and secondly rely and enjoy your time with the people around you. Once we actually start doing work (as far as I know) we will be working with local youth centres in two teams going out and teaching English, hosting kids programs, giving hygiene lessons, and setting young people up for success in a culture and place where it is all too common to sell your children for money. 
   Again because I don't know a lot about my time in Cambodia I thought I would just share a bit about the country itself as well as human trafficking and sex slavery within the country. Cambodia is a country where a lot of the population lives in poverty. With the major people group being the Khmer people. Major languages spoke are Khmer, English, and French. 95% of the population is Buddhist and the other 5% falling into the other major religions. In terms of human trafficking Cambodia is a major hot spot for sex tourism, child labour, and sweat shops. 2.5 million (that we know of) out of a population of 13.5 million are trapped in human trafficking at any given time, with 43% of that number being people used for sexual purpose, 98% of those people are women and girls. It's heart wretching to read about these things, but also drives me to do something. So that's what I'm about to do hop on a plane and spend the next month working alongside these people, changing lives, and doing great works through Christ. 
   That being said I am very thankful for all of you and your amazing support you have given me. I am very excited to continue this journey in South East Asia but just has excited to fly home to Canada and be with everyone of you who have supported me and helped me through this journey. So I thought I would just write out a few thank you's just to remind every single one of you that you are the reason that I am here, because of your love and support. So to my fantastic friends, my lifegroup, and to you awesome people who I get to do life with on a daily basis. I am incredibly thankful that you are in my life, and I am even more glad that you have continued to be my friend even when I'm on the otherwise of the world. Your readiness to text me, and see how you can support me has been overwhelming and I just want to say thank you. To my former teachers, youth leaders, and mentors you people are fantastic. I just want to thank you for helping raise me to be the person I am today. With out you believing in me, teaching me, encouraging me, and helping me grow I wouldn't be half the person I am today, so thanks a lot. And last but certainly not least by any means a huge thank you to my amazing, selfless, and incredible family. I love all of you so much, and if am so privileged beyond belief to have you in my life. Doing life with you every day is a blessing and everyday I am away from you I think about you and miss you more and more. So all of that being said thank you again to everyone for your emotional, spiritual, and financial support all of which is appreciated greatly. I miss you all and can't wait to share more about my crazy adventures. 


Stop the traffic

Well this is a huge topic I have been waiting to write about, which I'm sure you have guessed is human trafficking. One thing I've found very interesting is seeing and experiencing how human trafficking is different everywhere you go. From Las Vegas, to Tijauna, to Bangkok, to Phnom Penh every place is different. I think so easily we try to box in this issue and put labels on it, but it's so complex and deep it's almost impossible to do that. One thing that struck me in Bangkok is that they are open about selling sex but at the same time there is an entire other realm of sex slavery, and prostitution you wouldn't see unless you sought it out 
   So first I will talk about my experience in one of the red light districts here in Bangkok. Honestly it's crazy. Tourists are everywhere, parents with kids and all around the shopping, food, and excitement there are people exploiting and selling women and girls. We would be walking down the crowded streets while men would try to usher you into bars and clubs to see sex shows, and women do completely inhumane acts for others enjoyment. None of this is hush hush either, you can walk by and watch women dance half naked dancing on bars while men hassle them. When you look those girls in the eyes they just look so dead, and lifeless. All of them are so young and have so much potential but right now they are dancing on bars because they have no other options. Another big part of the visible sex industry are massage parlours and karaoke bars. Usually massage parlours in certain areas are used as means to get a prostitue or to have a place to "relax" sexually. And karaoke bars are places where you can rent a women to sing and have fun with which could then potentially lead to renting her for other purposes. It's honestly just sad, it's so sad. It's ridiculous to see how many tourists go to see these shows, and to take advantage of women, but it's also sad to see people sell other people. 
   Another form of human trafficking and at times freelance prostitution is some who work the streets without ties to a strip club, bar, massage parlour etc. this for the most part is the more hidden aspect of prostitution. It's interesting because we were informed that some of these women do it freelance for reasons like lack of a better job, need more money, pays better; and some women work for pimps and may be forced into what they are doing. We were also told that there are also a lot of freelance male prostitutes in the area, and that there are a lot of people who may not look like your stereotypical prostitute out selling their body. Another crazy thing we found out is the amount of pay by hour hotels which are used as places for prostitues to do business. Again going back to the fact that this is such a complex issue., it's so hard to wrap my head around all the different types of exploitation and how I need to respond to them. Although it's heartwrenching to see, I can't wait to see more in Cambodia just to get a better understanding of this issues and why it is something every single one of us needs to pay attention and care about.   

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Thailand take 2

Alrighty, so this is take two or three for me on this blog post... I literally have started and for over half way through on this post numerous times but each and every time I forget to save. So I apologize for taking a long time to update all of you wonderful people on my time so far in Thailand. Not going to lie after 24 hours of travel time, and running through the Taiwan airport, and then getting off the plane in Bangkok to find out it really is s hot as people say it is, I was a little bit skeptical about spending a month in this place (and two months in Asia). As time has gone on though I've realized being here isn't about me, or all the things that are against me, it's about God, people, and most of all love. So to kick off this blog post I'm just going to talk a bit about what I've been doing, some stories, and just about what's been up for me. 
  So right now (and up until now) myself and my team have been working and living in Bangkok, and the suburbs of Bangkok. The first place we stayed was at a local Thai church just outside the city, but let me tell you that place challenged everything within me. No joke. From the roosters crowing at 3am, the 5 foot lizards lurking around, the lack of toilet paper, the constant heat, humidity and lack of air conditioning, or even just being in a completely new culture, it was challenging. A lot of what we did was went out into slum like communities and encouraged the people, and invited them to different events we were hosting like kids camps, church, nights where we did dramas/music, and just inviting people for meals. Although what we did got redundant, and draining very quickly there was some pretty amazing things that came out of that week. 
   Firstly we prayed for a man with poor vision and restored his eyes and ability to see. Some people get incredibly amazed by those kinds of stories, I mean so do I, but I guess when you walk as a child of God every single day things like that literally just become part of your everyday life. Loving people, is a lifestyle, it's a choice not a feeling. I have also really been loving getting to show love through music and worship. More and more I have realized how universal music is. I honestly don't think you need crazy impactful lyrics to allow music to speak, so that has been a really amazing experience. 
   Another big thing we did throughout our time at the Thai church was most kids camps and activities. I really love kids, they are all so universally carefree and just have this wonder about them that is so amazing. We led songs with the kids, played games, did skits, but for the most part we just hung out and played with them. A lot of people are very quick to judge and write off kids ministries and setting up programs for kids but ultimately plugging them in to something in there neighbourhood sets them up for success and starts breaking chains of violence, abuse, drugs, and even trafficking within a family. It's honestly incredible to serve change is families simply from starting with their children.
   One other major thing we did was visit families in local slums or lower class areas. A lot of these families were poor, worked in factories, and had houses in living conditions we couldn't even start to imagine. It honestly takes me back to hear these people at God is good, and still be so happy even though life is completely against them. We met burn victims, cancer survivors, people who couldn't walk and every single one of them met us with a smile, extremely generous hospitality, and a positivity that I wish westerners would adapt. Hospitality is one thing so evident in Thailand, they treat their guests like kings and queens. We went to a families house for dinner and honestly I am still in shock to see a family that barely has anything give us, seemingly rich westerners their best. Before the meal they had our plates of 5 different kinds of fruit, bottled water, Thai rice crackers, and made sure all of us had a seat. Then they brought out some amazing pad Thai, and even then they weren't done because they brought out sticky rice and mango for dessert (literally my favourite Thai food). All of this seriously makes me questions myself as a westerner, how a Thai family living in a slum could give us all that but we are so quick to not love one another. 
   So anyways that has been my journey in Thailand so far... More to come later I promise. I am leaving for Cambodia on Friday, May 8 and will be there until June 4 which is when I head back to Las Vegas.