Welcome to Mae Sot, Thailand.
After a week in our home city, we are finally getting settled in our homes, adjusting to Thai culture and life, and learning about the people we’ve come to serve.
Beggars. Refugees. Prostitutes. Crime bosses. Orphans. Soliders. Immigration Workers. Pastors. Students.
These are just a few of the people who live here in our city. This place is full of Burmese refugees, some who have come here illegally and some who have found a way to be accepted on some legal basis into the country of Thailand.
We encountered a young boy, maybe 5-7 years old, who was dressed like a girl, and sold by his parents to a beggar for $50. Now the beggar is using the young boy to beg and make more money. He’s dressed like a girl because little begging girls make more money. You’ve seen the movie “Slum Dog Millionaire” right?” It’s like that. Only this is real and I’ve looked the cute, innocent little boy in the eyes.
If you’re Burmese you can get a temporary passport that will last about two years and will allow you entrance in to Thailand. Some of these people have scraped enough money together to buy a temporary passport to a safe country with opportunities. But when they use their passport to cross over the “Friendship Bridge” to Thailand and they get a job, all of the security and opportunities disappear like a mirage in the desert.
They might get a job in a factory, but the boss of the factory will demand that they hand over their passport to work. The Burmese worker will give over their passport, work for a week or two and when payday comes, there is nothing for them. If they approach the boss, all he will say is, “There is no money. When there is money, you will get paid.” The Burmese worker can’t go to the police because without their temporary passport, they are illegal. So they work and wait on a paycheck that comes few and far between. They become slaves to a new master.
Our team may have one conversation with a contact about the immigration system and laws and come away with information that is contradictory to all the other reports we’ve been given. Nobody seems to know how the real system works because there are so many places where the system is exploited.
So for now, we’re researching, investigating, and interviewing as much as we can. We’ve made lists of all the people who we could potentially help and all the roadblocks that seem to stand in the way of us making a difference in the area. Yesterday we started cataloging all the people and organizations who are already at work here in Mae Sot. We are writing down what they do, the people on whom their services are focused, and how they are set up as an organization. The goal is to figure out who isn’t being served and where we can find a niche as a business and ministry.
This is phase one. It looks like a lot of internet time, some phone calls, some meetings, and some awkward conversations in restaurants with other foreigners as you introduce yourself to them over their meals. It’s not your typical missions experience. This feels different already. What we’ve started already gives you a view of the long-term road ahead.
Pray that we overcome any feelings of being overwhelmed. Pray that we have divine encounters with people in town that give us the information that will lead us to finding out how we can serve the people. Pray that God brings the right candidates that we can build relationships with and start to serve through our endeavors. Pray for creativity to flow. Pray for unity and depth in our group. Pray for intimacy with the Lord.
Thanks for following along on The Journey. Don’t forget to get our updates on Twitter and Instragram. Just follow us @onegreatjourney or #onegreatjourney. We love hashtags and we love pictures. I hope we keep loving rice and noodles because we’ve been eating a lot of that everyday.