Talk to the hand. Sometimes that’s what I hear. Maybe not literally, but through someone’s actions or reactions to something, their comments, etc. And honestly, I just want to get in their face and say, “Really?! That’s what you’re going with?!”
I guess you could say that I lean towards being a Red-Letter Christian. That may make some of you cringe because those kinds of Christians can be a little “out there.” But notice I said that I lean towards it. And by that I mean that I do not get myself all wrapped up in the do this-not that, say this-not that, don’t touch-talk to-sit near the icky person, you gotta dress to the nines for church, Pharisee-like practices. OK, so maybe when my teenage son comes down on Sunday morning wearing a stretched out and faded Dr. Who t-shirt that looks like it was drug out from under his bed, I make him go at least put a polo shirt on. But jeans and tennis shoes are fine. And sometimes I’m even fine with him saying “brushed hair” is when you run both hands through it and call it done. But in all seriousness, the phony and close-minded behavior is why I walked away from the church in the first place. My desire is to do what Jesus said to do, and follow His example; basically the red print in the Bible. And that’s it.
in 2010, right before I went on my third missions trip to Thailand, I asked God to show me why I felt such a strong pull to keep going back there. I spent almost a month in Thailand that trip, and visited/worked with several different ministries in different parts of the country. But it didn’t seem like God was answering my question. Then one night I tagged along with a friend who leads a ministry in Bangkok that reaches out to foreign men that go into the red-light districts (RLD’s). He needed some pictures taken for new ministry prayer cards, and asked if I would take them. (At the time I was really into photography) So off we went, into one of Bangkok’s most popular RLD’s. It wasn’t like the RLD’s I’d been to in Pattaya, with open air bars, cars and motorbikes zipping up and down the streets and a variety of tourists including women and kids wandering about. This one had one way in and out, had multiple floors of go-go bars, and who knows what else behind the velvet curtains. And I definitely did not see any other normally dressed, Caucasian women in there; I got some strange looks, believe me.
But of all places, it was in there that God told me what He wanted me to do. Almost a week later, in a different Bangkok RLD, Steve was also moved to do the same thing. The following year we began planning and fundraising to become full-time missionaries in Thailand. It would prove to be one of the most challenging things we would ever attempt. God’s call on our lives was to those foreign men who travelled thousands of miles and spent thousands of dollars, to “buy love.”
Human trafficking is a big topic right now, and it should be, with 27+ million people around the world caught up in labor and sex trafficking. It’s a huge animal to take down, yet a great deal of love is poured out for the suffering women and children that are trapped, with so many organizations out there – religious and non – that are working tirelessly to get it done. So step into that arena, and wave the banner of “We are combatting this from the demand side so let’s pray for the men!” Then just sit back and wait for the tomatoes to be thrown at you. In the most Christian of manners, of course.
In the book of Acts, Peter is invited to stay with a man by the name of Cornelius, who was a captain in the Italian Guard, stationed in Caesarea. Despite the fact he was not a Jew, Cornelius was a godly man, and took in everything that Peter told him about Jesus, and was eventually baptized. When Peter returned to Jerusalem, his Jewish friends were none too pleased. “What do you think you’re doing rubbing shoulders with that crowd, eating what is prohibited and ruining our good name?” (Acts 11:3 MSG) Peter explained to them that through a vision God told him that no one was better than another, and that the gift of salvation was for everyone.
How often does the church body forget that? We cannot pick and choose which broken people we are going to lift up. Some brokeness is uglier than what we would like to acknowledge. It’s easy to take care of the widow and orphan. But what about the prostitute and the john? Or…gasp!! What about the trafficker??!! The man or woman who is selling others into slavery? Let’s all gather around that person and lay hands on them, shall we? I think some people would rather cut their tongue out than utter a prayer over a person like that. Admittedly, I would have a hard time myself doing that.
But here’s the thing. God did not say to go bring in the lost people who look like they’d be attractive enough for a great picture on the flyer you’re mailing out about your church. God said that we are to be a light in this world; all of it, not just the most popular or prettiest spots. Sometimes you have to go into the darkest of holes, and take the hand of the dirtiest of people. You have to be willing to take them, dirt and all, and wrap your arms around them, exactly like Jesus did. It doesn’t matter what your “Jewish friends” say. What matters is what’s there in the Bible, in red letters. It says “go into ALL the nations.” Sometimes that “nation” is a red light district, but sometimes it’s the ghetto in your own hometown.
And maybe that john, sitting on a curb in a RLD with a cigarette in one hand and an empty beer bottle in the other might be Jesus in disguise. What will you do?
Céad míle beannachta.
(One hundred thousand blessings)