Hey Guys, So I’m only just beginning to recover from all the sights, sounds, smells and ping pong balls that hit us last week in Bangkok. I feel that I can now officially say along with the Apostles that I have; ‘Seen Strange Things!’ What a powerful, intimate, yet strangely uncomfortable time was shared by the 15 of us who hit the Red Light districts of what is easily the sex capital of Asia. Over the past 20 years I have found myself in all sorts of crazy situations. From driving through civil war zones in Yemen with gun fire echoing through the night air, to finding myself on national television for 77 daze with over 50 cameras on me 24/7, to being taken to a late night ‘Naked Spa’ with a strange Korean Pastor who insisted on full nudity whilst we all bathed together! I can honestly say that my life has been pretty colorful, YET this was one of the strangest weeks of them all! When a year ago I found myself on an Plane bound for Singapore and Malaysia and I started singing the Rush song; “I’m on my way to Bangkok, upon the Thailand Express,” little did I realize that a year later we would find ourselves walking together night after night through the seedy underbelly of Bangkok’s massage parlors, gay bars and Ladyboy clubs. This was the strangest of times and mmmmm the strangest of times! I can only imagine how insanely different Facebook looked as we posted our photos, updates and random glory stories whilst we were away!
This was never going to be a smooth ride!!!! We realized pretty early on that although we sorta had something of a framework for the week, that we would be fools to consider that on this tour ‘Admin’ was going to be our fast ball, and we knew that yet again the ‘Drama Angels’ were going to be fairly active! This is sorta how we roll on these missions, it’s seat of your pants stuff with no-one really being confident of what is going to happen next – other than an unusual manifestation of unpredictable randomness! This is where you need a team signed up who are very ‘open,’ and extremely flexible as plans change and stuff hits from all different angles, (and it did!) This team was exceptional! So much love, so much acceptance, manifesting such a willingness to just go with the flow and to love and not judge. This was not a situation where anyone was going to hold their hands up and suggest they were a professional in such matters! This was definitely a ‘Team B’ scenario, a ‘Hands On,’ learn ‘On the Job,’ approach was adopted by ALL! I love that! I love the fact that we can all drop the pretense and just ‘Be,’ in the midst of a crazy situation where we all feel out of our depth! These situations show you the absolute limitations of religion, they highlight our inability to bring radical change to humanity, they show us that ‘Love’ was and is the only answer for radical reform.
Our passion in going was to connect with Bangkok’s impressive and growing ‘Ladyboy Community!’ The Ladyboy culture has infiltrated Thai society in an incredible way and in many ways is now a normal part of the nations make-up. Many of these precious souls, who are born boys, at a very young age start to develop an adoration for the female gender. They notice the beauty of female form and over time develop a desire to become as their female friends. In one of the clubs that we visited I sat down with ‘Benty,’ formally ‘Ben.’ Benty talked with me for almost an hour about her journey. Benty said that as a 10 year old boy he had started to notice more and more the beauty of female form. He loved the length of a ladies hair as opposed the the way men dressed their hair short, he loved the way women wore make up and walked with real elegance. He said that from the age of 10 he purposed in his heart to be transformed into a lady, (this is probably typical of many of the ladyboys stories.) There am I 13 years later sat with Benty in a bar in Bangkok being urged by her to touch her new breast implants and to feel how ‘real’ they actually were! I asked Benty about her desires, her dreams, her plans, I wanted to know what hope she had for the future. It was then at this point that I hit a wall.
Sadly for many of the Ladyboys life has become one of having to shut down all emotions and all feelings. For them to survive and for them to accumulate enough money to pay for the surgical changes needed to live their dreams as a ‘Lady’ many are forced into serving in the hugely impressive and ever expanding sex industry in Thailand. It grieved my heart to see the mass of obese 60-80 year old western males fully taking advantage of all that Bangkok had to offer. To see guys old enough and ugly enough to be your grand father sat in bars with 4 very young and very beautiful Thai girls draped over them, begging for their attention was hard to watch. To then see the same guys walking hand in hand back to their hotel with a girl young enough to be my daughter was sickening to say the least. The whole system is corrupt, it’s hard to imagine, even harder to observe up close and personal. Yet for many of the Ladyboys they see this as the only way to chase their dream of eventually being female! When you realize that this is the harsh reality offered by the sex industry of Bangkok it becomes easier to see why Benty needed to shut down all emotions, feelings and dreams of a life outside. It was crazy for me to imagine Benty walking off with one of these overweight and bald western weirdos, BUT that’s exactly what she does and the only way she can stay sane in the midst of it all is to shut down all of her God given dreams, desires and emotions!
We certainly didn’t visit Thailand in an attempt to clean up the outside of the cup! This was the very issue that Jesus in His incarnation ranted at the Pharisees over! The Pharisee loves a ‘Tidied’ expression of humanity, a cleaned up and correct model. Religion demands a correct appearance and slams anything outside of perceived perfection. The outside of the cup presented to us in Bangkok was smeared with all sorts of stuff, it was a mess, yet a mess that Jesus wasn’t intimidated by. There are always diamonds in the darkness, treasures to be appreciated right in the midst of the mess. In the Gospels we don’t see a Jesus taking people out of their situation, but we do see a Jesus sitting down ‘With’ guys right in the midst of their situations. A Jesus not offended by the mess on the outside of the cup as He is too busy partaking of the precious Tea on the inside of the cup! Humanity HAS been transformed, can you see it? We may not see it fully manifest yet but we are able to see Jesus right in the heart of Humanity! Somehow in the non-judgemental appreciation of the beauty of humanity shift happens. As we see beyond the mess presented before us we are able to drink from a tea which is heavenly!
Over the week friendships were built, not just within the team but also further afield as the guys spent time loving on some of the individuals that we met. A few of the guys paid money to hire a Ladyboy one night and took her away from her surroundings for a few hours for a meal and a chat. A great connection was made and they are now Facebook friends with an opportunity to connect more as time goes on. This is real stuff man, great stuff. This has to be the way going forward, in all of our global evangelistic thrust in many ways we have failed in our appreciation of humanity and in our appreciation to see the real fruit of His labors. Something HAS been accomplished, it may be hidden but is very real and springs up in the heart of humanity as we simply appreciate it’s existence! This Tour certainly wasn’t the usual evangelistic throwing out of the net to bring in an impressive catch (which we can all go home and boast about to our friends,) deal! No this was one of going under the compulsion of ‘Love,’ speaking with the one or two, showing dignity to some who may not have been appreciated for who they are in a long time. I believe that somehow as the team looked beyond the ‘stuff’ and saw an Eden now present that change was provoked. I love the lyrics of Godfrey Birtills song ‘Balsam Trees’ I believe they wildly communicate this same Truth;
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens then look upon the earth beneath,
Over the Hills, along the valleys what do you see?
In the wilderness do you see Eden? On the barren land the garden of the Lord,
All along the banks of the beautiful river I see the good fruit grow!
Can you hear the breeze in the top of the Balsam Trees, the marching sound advancing all around,
I’m calling YOU, C’mon break through, this is your time to ARISE!”
Guys thanks to all who sent us. Thanks also to all who gave to send Moggles with us, I know he had an absolute blast! We love you guys endlessly and always appreciate your thoughts. Please stand with us/partner with us as we keep evolving and moving forward into LIFE!