Today's story is from one of our missionaries in Thailand (*the photo above is a representation, to protect the identities of the young ladies she serves)-
For 9 months I have been teaching at a home that rescues and works with girls affiliated with sex trafficking (identity hidden for safety). It has been a continuous blessing to be in relationship with the students and staff. After months of building up rapport, it's so good to feel known. When the gate opens for me, I nod to the security guard and am quickly greeted by the housekeeper, Mami, who shouts the few words she knows in English, “How are you?” She has the sweetest smile and admitted to me this week that even though she speaks Thai and her native tongue, Lisu, she really can't read Thai all that well. She has such a desire to learn English and has been faithfully attending the girls' English lesson and the staff English lesson, back to back (3 hours of only English speaking). As she sits in the back, sweating because of her level of focus, I can see in her eyes how much she wants to learn. The staff around her speak in English to me and she eagerly awaits a translation from them. The other day, the staff and I talked about our families and I was able to see the heart and beauty behind these women and how much they care for and call the girls that live at this home their own. I am often taken out to lunch by the staff after our lesson and am reminded that they see so much value in the relationships we have been building, as they ask me about lyrics to popular Justin Bieber songs and how long I am going to stay in Thailand.
Today, I had two new students. For protection reasons, I'll call one of them Sun. She is 13 years old. I did a lesson on seasons and weather and after class, Sun remained in her seat, taking much longer to copy down all of the vocabulary words than her peers. She waved me over and I translated the words from English to Thai for her to have in her notebook. I asked her (in Thai) how long she'd been at the home because I had never seen her before. She said she had only been here for 1 week. Then she said (in English), “Homesick.” My heart fell as her face grew sad and I realized she wasn't asking me but telling me. I could have taken this moment to say all sorts of things, but I looked at her and nodded slowly, knowing that even a relocation from terrible situations doesn't fix everything. There is still hurt and pain etched onto these girls' faces. Every morning, when the girls stroll into the classroom, they seem less than thrilled to be back in “school” again. So I put on my best smile and make them get up and do stretches with me. I've begun to build up trust with them after repeated times of teaching and me showing them that I can speak and understand in Thai. And after coming up with ridiculous activities to teach conversation (such as a fashion show, to get them to memorize clothing terms), I begin to see hard faces turn soft and lips curve up into a smile. While we play games to practice English, I feel continuously blessed to be able to hear these girls laugh.
It is not always easy work, but it is always worth it.