I spent my 35th anniversary with my wife in a brothel in Phnom Penh. Cambodia. That’s something not a lot of people can say. We weren’t there for perverse recreation but to learn more about trafficking. We knew about trafficking in a dry, statistical, infomercial kind of way. But our Asian partner, Pastor Adrian DeVisser wanted us to know more. The brothels in Cambodia masquerade as karaoke clubs. Arriving at a club a young women led us to an evaluator taking us to the second floor of the five story building. Leaving the elevator we passed a series of wooden doors designed to conceal small bedrooms. Each had a red light at its apex. The red was glowing over the closed doors and dark over the open ones.
Soon after entering a reception room several thirteen or fourteen year old girls arrived. They were dressed as our daughters would be before attending a high school prom. Overly made-up faces shined above prom dresses adorned with numbers. The girls smiled and flirted with us. We asked for a song and were greeted with confused faces. A song. Well this is a karaoke club right? A manager was called. Puzzled, he found a microphone and some background music, but none of the girls could think of a song to sing. Finally one girl reluctantly and haltingly worked her way through a song. We thanked them, left money for the use of the room and left.
On our way back to the hotel our partner told us that each floor of the building held increasingly younger girls. I sat in the hotel lobby for some time after we arrived. I thought of those teenage girls in their prom dresses and how much their nights varied from the excitement and pageantry of our own daughters’ proms. I couldn’t shake the images from my mind. For the first time in my life I wanted to kill someone. I wanted to return to the brothel and wreak havoc on everyone who ran it. As fulfilling as that would have been, it wouldn’t have changed much, and change is needed.
For the past two years we have sponsored conferences with local pastors and NGO leaders. Our partner developed a five part long term plan to combat trafficking: (1) a school education program teaching children their rights (2) a media campaign designed to change the Cambodians worldview on child abuse (3) coordination of church and NGO attacks on trafficking (4) establishing rescue and rehabilitation sanctuaries for children (5) political activity designed to gain government support for anti-trafficking measures.
Now we are ready to build a rescue home supported by coordinated partnership efforts. Through this plan my prayer is that someday no one else will have an anniversary story like mine.
(For more information about trafficking in Cambodia please view the adjoining video.)