Kind of like something shifted in me the night we got held at gunpoint in Johannesburg, South Africa, something shifted in me the night I found myself on the rooftop in Phnom Phen, Cambodia yelling freedom over the city with my brother Matt. Most of our squad is in Cambodia working in the slums, but 8 of us are back in Bangkok, Thailand for the next 7 days... back in the bars.
The World Race ends for me on November 21st. Just when I thought I was near done... nope! We're going to pump it up a notch at the end of this thing here. No fizzling out. The word 'autopilot' means nothing.
Its hard to describe what it was like being back in the Nana Entertainment district again, except to say that I knew I need to be there. Not just last night. Not just tonight and tomorrow night. But in the future. As I sat sipping my water, God told me, "Kim, you belong in the strip bars."
He made me smirk at that one. I like it: I work for Jesus in the strip bars.
We went back to Nana for the first time since GATO left Thailand 2 months ago. I'd felt intense all day, and it culminated especially as I stepped out of the taxi and laid eyes once more on the chaos of the downtown scene. The lights. The pounding music. The men. The women. The beer. The smell...
Once I get into intense mode, it takes the jaws of life to pry me out. I wanted to just get in there. I walked fast, fiercely praying through the downtown streets, blessing little kids and speaking limbs into cripples. I tend to feel the physical weight of spiritual atmospheres; it manifests itself in extreme aches in my body, headaches, nausea, stomach issues, etc etc. Over the last couple of months I've recognized it as hell's pathetic ploy to keep me at home. So whatever. I say no to hell. "Hell, no."
Caroline, Andi, Matt S, Mark, Gretchen, Patrice and I split into smaller groups and headed into the 3 story entertainment center, which read "Nana Entertainme". The 'nt' had burnt out. Caroline, Andi and I went into a bar on the 2nd floor that was hidden behind a green curtain.
As we sat inside, drinking our waters, a random man named Lonny (that's what we'll call him) came in and sat down. After about 3 minutes of trying to hit on me, he realized that getting hit on was not what I was in this bar for and started to ask some different questions and listen to mine. We talked for about an hour.
His was a classic story: He'd come with his two friends from Australia to Thailand to 'do what the Thai people do' after his 3 year relationship with his girlfriend had ended. Basically, he was here because he was angry, felt rejected, and was in the mood to dehumanize others and make them feel worthless because he felt dehumanized and worthless himself. Behind me were Andi and Caroline, praying. Behind him were his two buddies, making out with the almost naked women.
He asked why I was in Bangkok. I said, "Those girls up there", motioning with my head and turning my eyes to the girls on the poles. He followed my gaze and looked back at me. "Those girls are somebody's sister. Somebody's mom. Somebody's daughter. No matter how they ended up here, none of them are too far gone. Basically, I want then to know that they CAN get out. And if they won't yet, I at least want to tell them that their intrinsic value has nothing to do with their outward beauty or how much men will pay to sleep with them. Most of these women have never ever heard that in their life."
He played along with that for a while, saying things to make me think he agreed. I saw that he hadn't let it hit him yet, so we kept talking. I asked him, "So, Lonny, can I ask you a question?" With his yes, I said, "If you really think all those things about the girls- how sad it is that they are doing this, and how you don't think it's right- then what are you doing here?"
He looked down at his beer bottle, smiled and nodded his head as if to say, "You caught me." He said, "I'm here with my buddies. They know I don't agree, but I didn't want to be alone, so I came. And I have a pretty screwed up life, ya know Kim. Probably nothing like your's. I've been really depressed and almost killed myself a few times. I've lost the love of my life and lots of my close friends and family have died. I've had near death experiences, and have been on and off of all kinds of drugs for years. I bet you don't know very much about that."
I smiled. "Actually, Lonny, I know about all that. Our circumstances are different and I won't ever assume to know exactly what your life has been like. But I do understand depression. I was in it deep and heavy for years, and I understand the suicidal thoughts that go along with it. I get death-- my dad died suddenly of a heart attack and I've had quite a few friends die in the war and in freak accidents. I get loosing the "love of your life", and how excruciating that can be. I've been held at gunpoint; that's a near death experience if I ever heard one. And the drugs, well, I've never done pot or coke or smoked, but I was on anti-depressants for so long that it began to alter my personality. There are whole chunks of my life that I don't remember because of those doctor prescribed drugs. But your illegal drugs and my legal ones both have the same origin: using human re-doubled efforts to feel better, or to numb pain. Neither one of those ever works."
His eyes were glued on me. He said, "What are you really doing here?"
I told him about my Hero, who said that you have to loose your life in order to find it. And so I left everything behind, gave Him my life, keep giving Him more of it, and apparently it's led me all around the world.*
He told me about his Catholic background, and how it just never really worked for him and he couldn't figure out why. I asked him if he ever felt boxed in, like there were a bunch rigid standards that he could just never live up to, a list of do's and don'ts that he was supposed to keep and always found himself missing the mark. He said yes, and so his response to it all was "Forget it. I can't measure up anyways" and concluded that he was just a bad person and that God was really angry at him.
The law had brought him death.
He told me that he hated religion. And I told him that I hate religion, too. His eyebrows raised... "Wait, I thought you are a Christian..."
"I am," I answered. "But I'm not about religion. Religion sucks the life out of me and makes me want to whither and die. I'm not about a system that tells me how to live a nice life. I'm about the God who raises the dead and still makes all things new, who is also the same God that doesn't judge me on my performance or love me with condition."
That's when he broke. I watched his eyes change. They softened and then deepened, and he looked really vulnerable all of a sudden, like someone had just exposed his child-like innocence from a facade of pseudo-man pretending to be tough and calloused.
"What do you see when you step inside of Nana, Kim?"
"I see the Matrix. We're in the Matrix. Have you seen that movie?" He nodded. "Everything we see right now is not the real world. I can touch this wall, and I'm sitting on this stool, but these tangibles are not the reality of what is really going on in this bar. I've taken the red pill, and now I'm so deep into the truth of reality that I can never go back. What I see going on here is a battle for these girls' souls, and for the men's souls, too. There are lies here, accusations, greed, depression, hopelessness, lust, all things manufactured by hell. But there is also Light, and Life, perfection and beauty, restoration, hope, truth, and freedom. What I see when I step inside of Nana is it drying up. I see it not existing. I see the whole strip-bar scene going back to hell where it came from and Nana becoming a place that reflects the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven."
His eyes kept softening. "...I want what you have. If I could have whatever this is, I'd scoop it up with both hands so quick..."
"Hey, good news then. Its for you..." I said. "Jesus is especially fond of you..."**
I saw that facade begin to whither, but then something like a black sheet dropped over head. He stood up all of a sudden and got really flustered. I was surprised at how abrupt it was... He said, "Okay, um, I don't know what this is", motioning to his chest and stomach area, "I don't know whats going on, but its really unfamiliar, and... I just need to go. I'm just going to go."
I saw the discomfort in him... I saw that he'd been stirred and it freaked him out. But I smiled, thinking Oh, boy, God met you in the bar tonight. You came for sex and left recognizing your hunger for Someone else... You're much closer than you think... "Okay" I said. "Wherever you go, look for truth. Real truth, Lonny. And don't settle until you find It."
I watched him walk away quickly, his head down, oblivious to the girls all around him. I knew that God had gotten a little too close for his comfort zone.
That's part of my dream for Thailand. It's not just for the bar girls, it's for the men here, too. That they would travel halfway around the world thinking that they'll dive deep into pleasure and ignore the pain that drives them here... but instead of meeting girls for sex in the bars, they meet God instead. Because God's Kingdom invaded the bars incognito, and they didn't even see it coming. And in the very place that they thought they'd play Jonah to keep running from Him, they crash into Him.
*Quote from Matt Snyder's mind
**"The Shack". A must read.
Friday, November 14, 2008
God Loves the Predators... Could You?
A phenomenal post by World Racer Kim Daniels, about her encounter with a man in a Thai strip bar.