It has been a week now coming back from my trip to Malaysia attending the Southeast Asia ICAP consultation. A total of around 70 workers in ministry and people interested to know more about anti-human trafficking and prostitution. It was great to connect with people from around Southeast Asia who has for these prostituted women and have also dedicated their lives to be used by God to be a part of the transformation. There were people from Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines, Hawaii and the local Malaysian ministries.
Malaysia is an Islamic country and the native Malaysians were all Muslims by birth and controlled by the government.. dressed very conservatively in head dresses They could even have up to 4 wives. Im shocked to hear that this was still going on.. Chinese were next in the population and then the Indians. So it felt a lot like home to see the Chinese influence since it’s like that in Vancouver, Canada. Except this is 100 times more Chinese-er than I’ve ever experienced. There were decorations of lanterns everywhere to celebrate Chinese New Year. I checked out their Little India and had the most spicy Indian food in my life!
Malaysia is becoming more developed and much cleaner compared to the Philippines with a lot more nature in their capital city, Kuala Lumpur. It was very different compared to what I’ve seen in Manila.
After I checked in at the hotel my Chinese Malaysian friend called the phone in my room and said he would be there in 2 hours since he was on the way to KL anyway. I knew him from when I lived in Australia and we went to Hillsong church. I also stayed with another Hillsong friend after the consultation. I couldn’t help but see the pattern of 4 friends who went to that church with me and once they return home that’s when the real test comes of who has not fallen back to their old lives or backslid in their heart towards God. It’s easy to love life and be on fire for God when there are many people who are also journeying with you within a church community and encouraging one another. What happens when you need to face your past demons and cling on to God even more when there’s no one in your church back home to come along side you? I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to go straight into ministry in the Philippines after my time in Australia. It gave me something to hope for and work towards in God’s Kingdom. I can’t imagine how life would be if I returned home and neglected to act on the call God has for me. My life would not be fulfilling in the least. I had something to look forward to in the future.
The ministry that was in charge of hosting in partnership with a Malaysian ministry that invited me are my friends from when I attended other consultations they’ve hosted at their place. This was one worth waiting for.. we listened to founders from different ministries on what were the highlights and hard times from when they first started out, understanding the trauma that many girls and even men have experienced that might have led to their life choice of prostituting themselves.. the topic that interested me the most was understanding the background of ladyboys (boys dressing up as women toservice homosexual or curious customers) and what their story looked like.
It was shocking to hear that in India, they would practice it as a religious act to castrate a baby boy in a temple. Making him a ladyboy without a choice. In the slums of Thailand, to become a ladyboy was considered lucky and dubbed as the provider of the family so someone would appoint the child as a ladyboy and from then on the family has to treat him as a girl. But in the higher social class of Thailand they would be looked down on for being a ladyboy and rejected by the family. Crazy contrast depending on what region of Thailand you’re from.
The research done was very recent and there’s great need for more research on the psychological trauma and issues that even boys face when it comes to being trafficked. Society needs to know that boys are equally affected by this as are girls and cannot be neglected of the needs they have.
We had a time of outreach to the 4 places of prostitution in Kuala Lumpur. I got put with a group going to Chinatown where there are many hidden brothels made out to look like hotels. Unless you know the area you wouldn’t know there was anything taking place in such a tourist attraction. It threw me off cause I was eager to talk to some girls and even a bit disheartening that we couldn’t go into the brothel/hotel to have a conversation since only men are allowed inside. I got to talk to a ladyboy in Chinese even and encouraged him to come have lunch with the ministry we were working with. He had already met some of our delegates who are from Safe KL who is in partnership with a church near the area of their focus, which is also Chinatown.
I had an opportunity to connect and street evangelize with Safe KL since I was staying longer after the conference. I am amazed at the girl who was in charge of evangelizing everyday to the bar girls of her passion and in awe that she spoke 4 languages: broken but understandable English, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Malaysian. So literally we could come across anyone and she could still find a way to communicate with them regardless of their ethnic background. This girl had also been a drug addict and I could see the heart the Lord gave her for these girls on the streets of Chinatown.
After the consultant, I also went to check out a club which had girls there working voluntarily. They aren’t even employed by the club manager or a mamasan.. they just want fast cash. I was so shocked to see so many international girls just waiting for customers. I saw Chinese, Nigerians, and I even talked to a Russian girl. We needed to be discrete on what we were there forcause the ministry I was with dealt with many trafficking cases where they had to rescue girls from abusive situations. I would hear of stories of girls coming overseas to be a “domestic helper” but when they turn up it’s working in a brothel. There are even restaurants that have girls as waitresses and by a certain time the establishment becomes a brothel. Even work agencies have sent girls to places where they weren’t treated properly.. either emotional, sexual or physical abuse. They would even threaten or withhold payment from them. As a result, the girl would escape and the agency would find them and punish them. In one case. a girl got caught escaping her employer and the workers from the agency took a screwdriver and scrambled up her eardrums so she can’t hear anymore. Another was when the girl was found by the agency, they forced her to stand in a full blast air conditioned room with nothing but her underwear on til she was sick.
The alternative that this ministry used was basically asking if the girls wanted to learn english or take up a jewellery making class with them. Kuala Lumpur is a dangerous place so I can’t imagine how difficult it is sometimes to try to be unnoticeable by the club owners. Their shelter was once full but now all the girls have gone back to their own countries after being mentored and receiving healing from God.
I am worried for my bar girl friend cause the last I heard from her was when she told me she was leaving for Malaysia to work as a hotel maid. Her employer does not allow her to talk to her coworkers, to have a cellphone or receive pay for a time. I’m still hoping to get a hold of her somehow so that the ministry could check up on her.
When I came home after 2 weeks of being away, I heard that Princess had left to take care of her uncle who had a stroke. He had no one to take care of him and so she felt obligated to be there for him. This occurs a lot in the Filipino culture where it does not matter if you are in the immediate family or not.. they will sacrifice all they can to help. So along with her 3 sons she also wants to provide for her uncle even if it takes working overseas to do it. I’m praying that someone else could take care of her uncle so she could return to the ministry and just focus on earning enough for her sons to live on.
On a happy note, one of the former bar girls who’s actively looking for a good job has signed up for the card making project as well as the sewing training program. I bumped into her at the mall recently and she was looking for work since she’s on a waiting list for those programs and wont start the sewing until April. I have known her since my outreach in DTS 2009.. and so proud of her drive to get out. I asked if it was okay to connect her with Melinda, a lady who has a testimony of leaving the bars and serving the Lord. She said it was okay since she had so much time to herself. She ended up going to the worship service at the Barretto church that very night! I was so blessed with the connection to Melinda to help shoulder the burden and followup with the Spiritual progress of the girls.
I texted Sylvia the former mamasan, who also came to the church on the strip of Barretto before I left to find out she has been attending church with Melinda. And the last Sunday she couldn’t make it so some congregants of the church including Melinda came by to share their testimony, bring gifts and fellowship with her. Melinda thanked me for connecting Sylvia up with them cause they were so blessed by her life story. Sylvia told me she was very blessed by them as well.
So now I’m back to the routine and looking forward to getting the bar girls we meet connected up with Melinda so that she can be the next ring in the chain to properly disciple the girls into a new life, hope and a future.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
Happy Chinese New Year everybody!