by Hattie, DTS graduate and outreach team co-leader
Today God changed the way I view heat. You see, I’m from Wisconsin and didn’t really know heat until I came here to Thailand. It was 100% humidity with temperatures soaring over 100. When we deplaned in Bangkok, a layer of sticky sweat coated my whole body within seconds. And that was at 1 AM. I wanted to be a “good missionary,” one who wasn’t bothered by something like the weather, but at that moment, it just wasn’t happening.
And so today God totally changed my perspective.
We went to the Tamar Center to help with an English class that the prostitutes of the area attend once a week. If the women learn English, they will have many more jobs available to them so they can earn a living wage . The Tamar center is in the middle of one of the busiest areas of prostitution in the city of Pattaya. I love English classes and couldn’t wait to actually meet the people I had been praying for these last seven months.
As the women walked into the room for class, the first thing I noticed was their smiles. There were wide smiles and slightly shy smiles. The women greeted us with the wei (a wei is where you bring both hands together in front of your chest and bow your head ever so slightly; it is a sign of respect) and quietly took their seats between all of us. They wore tight shirts and shorts that were a bit too short. They were young women in their early 20s (like me) and older women in their 40s. Some wore makeup and some did not. Some had dyed hair and some had naturally dark hair that shone in the lights above. But one thing they all had in common was their smile.
We started practicing English words with them: tall, short, big, small, beautiful, ugly. They giggled as they struggled to make the right sound. And when we tried to speak Thai, they slapped their knees and laughed. They tried again and again, until the word was as perfect as they could make it. I was impressed with their dedication.
The woman I helped was named Mook. She seemed to be the oldest of the group, but had such a youthful spirit about her. Mook wore a Playboy shirt and tight shorts. She had long beautiful black hair and natural beauty. She was relentless with her English pronunciation. When she mastered a word she leaned in close to whisper the word into my ear in Thai. She wouldn’t let me stop trying until I had said the word to her satisfaction.
After our English class concluded, my teammate Kate led us in a song called “Safe Place.” It was the perfect song to sing in such a dark and fearful place. Then Julia shared her testimony with a message of value and worth and God’s great love. Mook and a few of the other women teared up as she spoke.
I turned to Mook and asked her questions about herself. Using gestures and pictures drawn on paper I learned about her life. She is 43 years old. She has lived in Pattaya for a long time, as a prostitute for years. She has two sons and a husband who left her. Mook asked me to pray that she would be able to learn English and for her family.
As I prayed, it was like I could feel God’s heart for her. I felt proud of her for carrying on even though life was hard. And I felt compassion and weeping for her pain. We took a picture together, laughed a little, and then it was time to go. Mook stood up and left with a huge smile across her face.
As I walked outside I felt the familiar glaze of sticky air envelope me. I thanked God for bringing me here. I thanked him for the dirt and the tiredness I felt. I thanked him for the heat. I thanked him for letting me meet Mook. Thailand has stolen my heart. A prostitute has stolen my heart. God has stolen my heart. I will never be the same. And now, when I think of that sticky heat, I’ll be reminded of Mook and the other women like her.