Saturday, March 6, 2010

That problem of Grace - again!

OK so I have been trying to upload a video for ages on Facebook so as to avoid having to write a blog! I’m tired and the prospect of a blog is not so appealing.
Anyway I have given up on the video so here is a short text version of yesterday. (Today was just meetings so I wont bore you with the details)
As you know there were many challenges the first couple of days of this trip. The spiritual issues were huge and we all felt we were experiencing hostility at every turn. It became very clear from many of your emails that you were observing a spirit of fear developing in me. I was not backing down but I had become worried about where the next attack would come from. I was certainly not proceeding with joy and confidence despite the circumstances. So yesterday I took the morning off and just stayed in my room and prayed through the issues.
That was a wonderful time of experiencing the God who runs Ratanak. Putting four hours aside for this is not easy for me. I am a “just do it” kind of guy and being silent and waiting on the Lord when I have a thousand things that need to be done right now is like pulling teeth for me. But I did it and it was the recalibration I so desperately needed. Since then things have been much better – thanks for all your prayers.
At 1:30pm I went for training with an NGO based out of Bangkok. They work with sex tourists. (Not pedophiles who are a much more complex problem but rather the “normal” sex tourists who hunt for older girls and young women) This was a very challenging afternoon. While I know everyone deserves grace in theory, lets face it; these guys are not top of my list. They are, for me, the enemy.
How strange it was to sit being taught to love these guys. The position of our trainer is that we need to love them for they are victims. What he does is do retroactive aftercare – about 30 years late! Let me explain. He views sex tourists the same way I view the little abused boys in our boys foster care program. I have no trouble loving them that are just so ‘the victim’. But these damaged little boys if not treated counseled, loved and blessed in a good aftercare project will turn into, you guessed it, the sort of men who will go on to abuse others and assault potentially hundreds of girls and women. Thus we need to provide “aftercare” a long time after they themselves were broken by something in their lives.
I get this but still did really not believe how approaching such guys in love would change them. They taught us that on many occasions these guys will respond by telling you all about their brokenness if they are approached in a way they would NEVER expect – with compassion and love. Ok so I listen to all this wonderful theory but have trouble bridging the gap to the reality of those men walking into the brothels of Phnom Penh right now.
I figured approaching them even with care and compassion would generate only insults and abuse. So after many hours of training and preparation the newly trained teams hit the streets of the Phnom Penh brothel districts at about 11:PM. I really wanted to go out with them but decided to stay with the prayer support team. It was not that I was unwilling to express grace to these guys nor was it that I feared being insulted and/or ridiculed but rather I was concerned about my role as a Christian witness to such men while still being involved in investigations. It seemed to be a bit of a conflict of interest for me. So I stayed back with the prayer team as the text messages came in telling us what was going on. Short texts like “talking with a Korean – he has given us one minute”, “Three guys walked by” would launch us into prayer for these men. That the Korean would give them more than a minute that the guys that walked by would return. This was followed 20 minutes later by… “Still talking to Korean!” “one of the guys came back” etc etc. it was very exciting to see our prayers answered over and over and over again. At about 2:30AM we all gathered for a debriefing. As the training had indicated these guys would be polite and engaging if treated like normal human beings. Not all, but some, would be very open about their brokenness and why they felt the need to buy sex from poor Cambodian girls. I was stunned by the degree of success and by the excitement of the teams both male and female who had directly engaged with the sex tourists. They had done the unthinkable, been respectful and caring towards such men, and left greatly encouraged by the process.
There were no dramatic conversions, no visions were seen and no men were found weeping in the streets but there was clear and meaningful dialog and those rarest of all commodities in the male world– honesty and vulnerability. It became blatantly clear that there is a desperate need for such a ministry in this country and that it could change lives. Quite clearly we had accomplished in only a few hours way more, for both victims and perpetrators, with love and respect, than others could have achieved by days of waving placards, hurling insults or, as I preferred to think before, the judicial use of a baseball bat! It should not be a surprise to me that God’s way is not my way. And so, once again, I find I must learn the lesson of forgiveness and conform my will to that of the God of grace. I don’t feel this is to be a particular ministry for Ratanak – we are too committed to the victims to work effectively on both sides of that fence. But I am thrilled others are called to this work. I finally got home to the hotel after 3AM exhausted but greatly encouraged that there was hope in an area where I had previously seen none.

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