Flower Girl

I have spent the past 6 weeks in Chiang Mai, Thailand. There are several ministries to partake in but one of my favorites is bar ministry. We go into the red light district and go to a couple bars a night. We typically sit in a bar and order a coke and try to engage in conversation with a girl in sex slavery. Sometimes the conversations are heavy and sometimes they are light. Either way we are there to be their friend and shine some light into the darkness. Something that surprised me most about the bars is that there are children there. The little boys and girls can't go home until they sell all their flowers or flower necklaces. They have to grow up in that environment and see the red light district as nothing but normal. This blog is just a glimpse into a little girls life in the bars.

           The sunset is indescribable as I walk hand in hand down the streets of Chiang Mai, Thailand with my mom. I see other little girls running and skipping and playing with each other as we pass them. Part of me longs to join them, but another part of me knows that I have to provide for my family. My younger siblings are counting on me to work and bring home money. I spent all day making flower necklaces and now I have to go into bars and sell them. My young eyes never get used to all the bright lights of the red light district. I take the basket of flowers and let go of my mothers hand. Taking a deep breath I put on a big fake smile and start my job. I walk from bar to bar and ask customers if they want to buy flowers from me. As I step into each bar I try to smile big and do my best to sell my flowers. I have to look and act cute so people will want to buy my flowers instead of someone else's because I can't go home until all my flowers are sold. Most eight year old girls at this time of night are being tucked into bed and being read bedtime stories about magical princesses, but not me. Working in the bars is my version of normal. I look around at all the girls and know that one day I will probably be one of them. My life is in the bars and that is just a fact I have to come to terms with. As I try to find someone to sell flowers to a man stops me and buys a couple flowers from me and tries to engage in conversation with me. I nod and smile as I only understand some of the language he is speaking. A few minutes into the conversation I start to get uncomfortable. I can't understand all the words he is saying but I grab my basket of flowers and start to back away because I don't like the words I do understand or the way he is looking at me . I give one last fake smile and dart away to the next bar as I try to brush off my encounter with the man.
          I spot three western girls sitting at a bar. As I get closer I can see them smiling and laughing amongst themselves while sipping on a coke. I tap on one of their shoulders and she smiles down at me. She immediately digs around in her purse for 20 baht (less than a dollar) to give me as I hand her a flower necklace. Her friends smile joyfully and touch the flowers around her neck. They all three turn to me and one at a time ask me questions about my life. I speak limited English and they speak limited Thai so there is a language barrier. However we get to speak about the basics: school, my job, my favorite colors. They touch my braided hair and the flower necklace around my neck and say I am a beautiful flower girl. Their words make my heart happy and I beam a genuine smile up at them. They make me laugh as a song they liked came on and they started dancing. Their dancing is fun and lighthearted and pure. Very unlike the dancing all around them. All the Thai girls working in the bar dance with limited clothes and very provocatively. The dancing the western girls do give me hope for my future. Maybe one day I can be like them. I want to hang out with them for hours but I know my mother wouldn't want me wasting time when I could be working. I put a flower necklace around the two girls heads that didn't buy one. They quickly start to dig around their wallets to find money to pay me for the necklaces but I wave them off and say "for you". I grab my basket and walk away as their faces light up with happiness from my simple gift. I glance over my shoulder as I leave the bar to see if my mother had seen me give away my flowers for free. She was nowhere in sight but I caught one last glimpse of the western girls at the bar. They look beautiful and radiant with flowers around their necks and joy emitting from them. The western girls probably didn't realize it, but they gave me so much hope. Hope that they would come back and visit me again. Hope that they would buy more flowers from me. Hope that I won't have to work in the bars for the rest of my life. Hope for my future.

"The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it."
John 1:5

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