Sorry for the long bout of silence over here. This series has been a most interesting experience to put to words. I’ve never been a huge fan of the news because it always seems too depressing. Story after story highlight tragedy, pain, loss, hardship, etc. When I set my heart on being a photojournalist, it was with the intention of sharing hope, life, and love, because I believe that there is ALWAYS a light in the darkness.
As it is always my intention to share hope, and expose the light in the darkness, I have come to realize that the darkness can’t be overlooked as invalid, or not real. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” -Ephesians 6:12. Evil is real. And it’s ugly. But my hope is in Jesus, the Light of the world. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”. John 1:5.
It’s taken me a while to put this post together because it’s hard. I’ve cried, a lot. I hoped the tears would wash away the reality and rewrite a new ending. But, hard stuff and all, this is how it went.
American Girl: Part Four
This is the story of another girl I met during my visits to Nana. Her name was A. A wasn’t a young girl like many of them, she was in her mid 30’s. She was one of the first people to catch my attention. At first, I thought she was coming onto me, but then she came and sat next to me and whispered in my ear (in perfect English), “I know who you are. You aren’t like the rest of them. You are safe”. Her words were the breath of life. I knew I wasn’t alone in that place. I knew that God was with me, and He was there for her. A and I spoke on and off most of the nights I was there. She would sit with me between her dances and talk to me like we had been friends forever. One night, myself and a couple friends were able to take her out of the bar for a few hours. We payed the pimp a “fee” and took her out for a girls night of innocence and fun. We went bowling, had fro-yo, walked around the mall, and had as much fun as we could possibly squeeze into a couple hours. Right around 10pm, A told us she needed to go back. She said she had to try and get some customers before the night ended or she would be in trouble and it could put her daughter in danger.
That’s when she told me her story. A had been in the industry when she was younger. She met an American man who told her he loved her. He took her away and married her. They had a daughter, who shared the same birthday as me. She was 13 years old at the time I met A, she would be 20 now. At some point A’s husband left her and her only way to survive and protect her daughter was to go back to the industry. She said she had been there once before and she could do it again, as long as her daughter would never have to go. She hadn’t seen her daughter in months. Her eyes welled up, and she walked back into the bar.
I came back every chance I could. I always saved a seat for A, and she always came to sit with me. We took her out for dinner at least once more. I knew our time in Thailand was coming to an end and I thought this might be our last chance to visit with her. I sat and watched her eat a meal in the company of people who really loved her. I could hardly speak. I just watched her smile. I memorized her laugh. I soaked in every moment with my sweet friend. I wanted to stop time. I didn’t want to take her back. I didn’t want to say goodbye. I was scared that I would never see her again.
I hugged her tight. The tears rolled down my cheeks. I told her I loved her and I would never forget this time together. I told her that every year on my birthday I would remember her and her daughter, and I have. And then I just stood by and watched her walk back into the darkness.
It turned out I was given one more chance to visit A before we left. I printed her an album filled with pictures from our adventures together. We both promised never to forget, and then we said our very last goodbye.
And that was it. No heroics. Just me, an American girl, living freely. And A, a slave in the world of human trafficking.
Seven years later, A is the reason I put this series together. I couldn’t change her circumstances then, but I can hope that her story will change the future for others. And because of A, I am encouraged not to abuse my freedom, but to live this life with radical purpose!
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
For those of you following along, I can’t thank you enough for being a part of this journey. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below! This isn’t just my story, its ours!