Next to be sold

Tags: Asia, Thailand, Story

By Troy and Cora Roberts, SEND missionaries in Thailand

As we walked the streets of a Shan village, one of our SEND teammates hit me with this: “One of the major issues in this village is prostitution. Most of these people own their houses because they’ve sold their daughters.”

His words slowly sank into my brain, my heart, as we viewed each little home, one right next to the other. We rounded the corner and saw a woman weaving in her courtyard. Another SEND missionary spoke to her and she welcomed us to watch her work.

This woman sells scarves wholesale for six baht to a distributor in Chiang Mai, who then sells them for 35 baht each (just over one dollar). She makes 15 of these scarves a day. Her daily income is 90 baht, or just under three bucks. Three dollars a day.

And then I noticed her—a gorgeous little girl in an orange skirt. She’s just adorable — I wish I had a close-up of her curious, deep eyes. And as I stood there, I started connecting the dots, and the future of this precious child looked pretty bleak. Would she be sold in a few years?

The Shan people originate from Burma and don’t have legal citizenship in Thailand. This means they can’t get good jobs. Many are illiterate. So, their primary sources of income are opium, human trafficking, and manual labor — which clearly pays pittance compared to the first two.

Only 0.04% of Shan are known to be Christians, and it has been said that “To be Shan is to be Buddhist.” But even their religion contributes to their poverty. Just down the road from the weaver’s house was a large, two-story house with a grand view of a mountain. This is where the fortune-teller lives. The locals can earn a lot of merit by visiting him, but it’s at a steep price. The cost per visit is 2,000 baht. For the woman who makes scarves, that’s 22 days of work.

If the average American makes $137 a day, then 22 days of work to us would be $3,021. Would you pay that much to see a fortune-teller? What if you thought that was the only way to tip the scales enough in your favor so that you won’t be reincarnated as a lesser being?

But enough of numbers. Back to the girls … the real reason I’m writing this. The reason God won’t let my heart rest until I share this with you. As we left the scarf-maker’s home, a group of early adolescent girls walked by. They stopped to greet Pastor Wi Wan, who has a church plant in their community, and it was explained to us that they were new believers. They had bright, beautiful smiles and seemed shy but interested when we were introduced as teachers.

Pastor Wi Wan’s church is also a community development center where these girls are learning agricultural skills such as raising strawberries, mushrooms, and catfish. If their families see that they can work to help earn a living, maybe they won’t be sold into the sex industry. That’s the hope, at least.

Later in the evening we were back at home when I found out that the tallest of those lovely young ladies will probably be the next to “disappear.” It’s just a fact. It happens with such regularity that the next girl can be easily pinpointed. But I can’t accept it as just a fact. She’s not a statistic. She’s not just another prostitute caused by poverty. She’s a precious young lady, made in the image of God. And I came face to face with her. We greeted each other with the traditional wai. My heart rejoiced to learn she is a sister in the Lord. (Silence.)

There are no words to adequately describe how this whole situation makes me feel. But I have to cling to hope. I have to trust our Lord, who has sent a few faithful workers to this village, that “He who began a good work in [her] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

And I will pray. I must pray. I will pray for this girl, her family, her village, the fortune-teller, and Pastor Wi Wan, and the missionaries who work with the community to reach them for Christ and teach them trade skills.

And I will pray for you. I pray that your heart will be moved to prayer, as well; that your mouth will be moved to tell others of their plight to solicit more prayer; that your hands and feet will be moved to action to fight for the cause of these oppressed children of God. 

Read more about the Shan village outreach 

Full class
The scholarships were offered — but would their parents let them accept?  

Nina’s story
How one Shan girl — and now her whole family — came to trust in Jesus.