Lush tropical terrain. Monkeys, temples, and rice terraces. Coffee. Chocolate. Gorgeous beaches and friendly people.
But there’s another side of life on this island in SE Asia. And once you’ve been there, you can’t unsee it. There’s poorly lit alleys that wind their way behind sketchy bars and convenience stores selling ice cream and magazines. Narrow streets of hard-packed dirt twist and turn and dead end into dark corners where an entirely different type of merchandise is sold. These aren’t the places tourists go. You have to know what you’re looking for. And the men we saw in these places certainly did. There was no doubt about that.
We were self-conscious as we entered the brothels. To say we were uncomfortable would significantly understate the situation. It’s difficult to describe what you feel when you step into such a place. It’s overwhelming and nauseating. It’s heartbreaking and infuriating. It’s a toxic mess made by an unredeemed and rebellious humanity driven by the prince of darkness. It’s the face of beautiful girl with sad, empty eyes, enduring a soul-crushing existence. Bought and sold. Bought and sold. Day after day after day.
It was a relief when our team leaders spoke to the boss lady, letting her know why we were there. When we got the nod, we stepped deeper into the morass, into the aquarium. This is the well-lit room you’ll find in most brothels here where the girls sit on long wooden benches and wait to be selected. It’s like a fishbowl—hence the name—with a big window so the men can peruse from outside in the dark while they decide whose services they will purchase. When they’ve watched long enough, they make their selection with a laser pointer. Toxic. Soul-crushing. Heartbreaking.
But not far from these places is another place. A safe place. This place is bright and fresh and lit with the light of life. That life fills every corner of every room. It’s all over the faces of the staff and the girls that have come from the darkness into this marvelous light. The light is laughter. It’s healing. It’s tears of joy. It’s Bible Study and baptism. It’s hope. It’s a new creation. It’s Jesus.
Our friends and partners in this tropical paradise are working tirelessly to bring that light into those dark, depraved corners, into the aquariums where the alleys dead end. Will you help us as we partner with them? Will you pray for the outreach teams, for the safehouse staff, for funding and protection and courage, and for these warriors to persevere in the fight for these beautiful girls made in God’s image?
Will you consider going with us next year when we go back? We hope you will. You will never be the same. In all the right ways.
In the meantime, if you want to know more about sex trafficking in SE Asia and how our partners are combating it and how you can help, message us and let’s talk. The fields are white with harvest and there is much work to do.
PS The Christmas Outreach Parties that we were passing out the invitations for in the red light districts of Bali are scheduled for December 23, and 27. There’s room at the safehouse. Please pray they come!