In May, 2014, I heard John Crowder’s announcement that he and Dave Vaughan would lead a missions team to Bangkok. The “targets” were the ladyboys. The emphasis would be showing the love of Jesus to them, and I was interested in seeing this accomplished.
The troublemaker, John Crowder. My appreciation for him runs deep.
Jeremy Gilbert, a closet brony, with the ladyboys. With that t-shirt, he isn’t closeted anymore.
Due to your support, I was able to join this incredible mission in November. I never experienced a trip like this. Typically, local churches host a mission team, you hand out flyers for meetings and invitations for bible studies, and participate in those revivals and studies. That is not what happened in Bangkok.
Several of my amazing teammates: Joanna, Caleb, Britney, Julie, Mi-So, Travis, and Brandon.
Some random statue around the block from our motel.
A woman with a toddler accepting money on the sidewalk.
We did not have a local church hosting the revival for the ladyboys. We did have a space reserved for a meeting, but that fell through on the first day! From my understanding they were not fans of the idea of hosting a revival with ladyboys in their building. Therefore, all the flyers that were printed were worthless. Since we were there to specifically contact ladyboys, we had to go where we knew they were — in red light districts (hence, we did not door knock with pamphlets and flyers).
Clayton loved the pictures!
I’ve been to some seedy places before, but never a red light district! Thank God the Spirit helped remove the comfort zones so we could focus on love. It took a while, but we eventually found places frequented by ladyboys. The language barrier was an issue, depending on how long a ladyboy worked in Bangkok. The longer a ladyboy sold her time, the better her English.
Joanna and 3 ladyboys she had the joy of befriending.
At first, the females on the team seemed to have an easier time starting conversations with the ladyboys. They were able to talk about hair, makeup, and things of that nature. For males to start talking about that stuff may have come off as flirting, thus trying to solicit the ladyboy’s “services”. Finally, I just asked one of them “What makes you beautiful”? After I heard the answers, I was able to talk more about Jesus and the gift of beauty He gives all of us. That was the approach with which I felt most comfortable and easiest to start engagement. I would ask about their families, growing up and their dreams. I adopted those talking points from my teammates.
Julie, Hannah, Travis, Britney and Mi-So playing a mean game of Jenga with several ladyboys.
I was able to visit Rahab Ministries on Wednesday. The building was spotted by my roommate, Jeremy Gilbert. When a woman wants to stop earning a living from prostitution, Rahab Ministries teaches them how to make jewelry and speak English. They also teach them basic computer skills. Sadly, this ministry is struggling financially. It seemed to assist heterosexual women who worked as prostitutes, not ladyboys. They were serving lunch when I visited, and it was a small facility, so I felt awkward asking the co-director, Chanaprai Wongkhampha, more questions about the ladyboys. She was very friendly, and the women seemed very happy to be there.
Chanaprai Wongkhampha, co-director of Rahab Ministries.
The week was spent trying to connect with the ladyboys by buying time so we could talk without them getting in trouble with their employers. A lot of the week was stumbling around just trying to do my best. It went better than I thought. My goal went from trying to get them “in a church” to just opening their minds to Jesus, the Creator of the Universe. I wanted them to know they were loved by a Man that cared about them regardless of their history and occupation. Jesus doesn’t have ulterior motives. Everything He does is out of love, and that is a relationship that was very foreign to the ladyboys I met. They were used to being used for their money and their bodies. Several that I met sent money to their families in rural areas. To keep their jobs they had to live a life being treated as an object. Hopefully you can appreciate how Jesus’s love would be a breath of fresh air for them to embrace!
Candy and me.
If you are wondering how many ladyboys received Christ, I would like to partially quote my friend Jeremy’s response to that:
“I can’t count the number of people that have asked me if anyone received Christ on my mission trip. My answer to them is a resounding “Yes.” EVERY SINGLE soul I came in contact with received Christ…and, I’m serious about that. Not one soul rejected my smile, my offer to share a beer with them, my offer to pray with them, my prophecies, or any other display of love. Each person received the radiance of Christ in me which helped them to recognize Christ in themselves.
As far as an evangelical conversion to a set of clearly defined religious beliefs, with a water baptism, a new language of tongues, and a dedication of aherence to religious principles such as full time church attendance & daily Bible reading – well, I’m afraid we’ve allowed the semantics of the 2 words “receiving Christ” to become misconstrued if we think that’s the meaning.
Christ isn’t a Sam’s Club where you have to be a member displaying your proof of membership at the door before you can shop. He’s more like a Samaritan’s Purse that gives away items for free. As you begin coming back again & again for free items, you inevitably begin to become one that helps distribute the items as well.
You are the message!”
I had more conversations about Jesus with ladyboys than I ever did on other religious trips. It was incredible to see faces light up when they started to grasp there was a greater purpose for them than being used. The ladyboys would always be beautiful, but not because of their makeup and body modifications. They would always be adored because they were made by Jesus!
Jeremy, Caleb, and Travis with Alice. LOVE their story about their time with her.
Jerome praying for a man in front of 7-11.
We also worshiped with Mark Amir, a brother that ministers to Pakistani refugees. Mark and his wife, Felicity, do a wonderful job helping Pakistani refugees. It was a joy to be with them. Mark went with us in the red light district the first evening. It is my prayer that he can create an environment that will be open and loving to the ladyboy community.
Kristian getting owned by Linda in a game of pool.
Mi-So visiting with a young girl playing her recorder for money on the sidewalk.
Was the trip worth it? Was it a success? Absolutely! We were able to reveal the person and love of Christ to a community that may not have heard about Him otherwise. How many people would rather talk about and condemn ladyboys than start a friendship and genuinely love them? It was a trip of a lifetime, and I am open to going back. It never gets old revealing Jesus to others.
Dave Vaughan with Benty.
Thank you for making this possible. Thank you for partnering with me to love and reveal Jesus to people that are accustomed to being used as objects. Also, you enabled me to meet a team of incredible people that loved everyone around them. The impact Jeremy, Joanna, Mi-So, Britney, Travis, Julie, Brandon, Clayton, Kristian, Jerome, Hannah, Caleb, Dave and John will never be forgotten. They taught me much about Jesus and the ability to reach far beyond what we thought possible because of the gospel. The time I had with them is priceless. I am eternally grateful for all you did to make this possible!
Grace and Peace,