We have visitors in town right now. I like them. They are kind and gentle and intelligent and thoughtful and thorough when they speak. They are quick to listen, eager to learn, willing to get their hands dirty for the King’s glory — whatever that may entail. It’s safe to say that I have already been blessed by their time here in Cambodia, and I still have about a week left with them.
These new friends have never been to Cambodia, but they play a crucial role in the future of this organization I’ve come to love. I’m excited to be working on the same team as them, and I’m even more excited to see how their hearts and service impact RH and the Kingdom at large.
Since they have never been to Cambodia, it’s only right to give them a proper introduction to the culture. They have walked the halls of Toul Sleng in Phnom Penh, been introduced to local cuisine, sent on a tuk-tuk tour of the city (and outskirts) where they learned about rice paper making, sticky sweet rice cooked in bamboo shoots, and a local killing field. I’ve watched the wife twirl little girls like ballerinas, and I’ve seen the husband pick up and play with a tiny one that couldn’t stop giggling.
The other night, we took these folks on a tour of a part of town that’s a little off the beaten path. We drove down a bumpy dirt road that led back to another bumpy dirt road, which seemed more like a long stretch of potholes. The area is dark – there are no streetlights – but the roads are splashed by lights shining out of karaoke bars and beer gardens.
I’ve never been down this road. I’ve never seen this area of town, littered with neon signs, beer bottles, and precious little baby prostitutes.
What they are seeing for the first time, I am too. I am silenced by all of the darkness that surrounds me as we drive, and the night suddenly gets a little chilly as I weave around the gaping holes in the road, glancing at the girls in mini-dresses and big heels.
I came here to work with rescued girls. I see the girls who walk the streets at night. I see the women who work in the bars, who spend their nights in massage parlors. I see them. All the time.
What I didn’t expect to see, just ten minutes from my apartment, was a whole jungle of back roads devoted to the kind of sin that makes me want to take a shower — as if I am the unclean one.
And it’s that mentality that gets me into trouble. It’s that finger-pointing, blame-throwing, name-calling that humbles me back to my spot in the same crowd of sinners that pinned that Man to those wooden posts. It’s that exact thought – that I am in any way more clean than another – that sucks the life out of me as I attempt to elevate myself above those people.
As we keep driving, I shake that thought of somehow being any better of a person than the men in the bars, I go back to taking it in with my eyes and trying not to think.
It’s not long before we’re turning around, going back the way we came for double-looks. That, and I get the sense that we’re done with the darkness and ready to be back somewhere that is relatively safe.
At least that’s how I feel.
It’s not long on our way back out that I glance to the right where there are some older girls sitting outside a bar. There is nothing out of the ordinary, but then I see her and I lose the breath in my lungs.
There is a little girl. She is maybe six or seven. She looks at the ground, or her feet, and her face does not look an ounce happy. She is wearing a pretty, clean dress. In my mind, it would be a dress that maybe she would wear to church — dressed in her Sunday best.
I’m not one to jump to conclusions. I am a peace-keeper. I like to hear both sides of the story before making a decision. I don’t like to assume. I like things black and white, right and wrong.
But what the hell is this little girl doing on the side of the road in the middle of the night in her best dress outside of a beer garden? What the hell is going on? What kind of shit does Satan have this girl trapped in? Who the hell does he think he is? Is the really for sale right now? Is this girl really sitting here? Am I imagining this? (Insert about seventy thousand more expletives and racing thoughts and angry things and conclusion-jumping.)
There was this girl. Sitting there. In her prettiest dress. Outside of a bar, late at night, on the side of a potholed dirt road.
I don’t jump to conclusions. I take my time to look at facts and be fair and… but what the hell?
And I am wrecked. I am undone. I am angry. I am breathless and heavy-hearted and all sorts of emotions because this girl is ten minutes from my house and I can’t do a damn thing to save her.
I can’t do a damn thing. And I’ve never felt this level of helplessness before. I’ve never been so consumed with a mental image that made me want to cringe and lash out and curl into a ball and cry my eyes out all at the same time.
And I don’t know what to do with this right now. But I had to tell you. Because there is a little girl who lives ten minutes from my apartment and is maybe sitting in her prettiest dress on the side of the road tonight. She’s maybe up on the auction block tonight. She’s maybe keeping some skeezy man company tonight. She’s maybe being raped and beaten and abused tonight, right this moment.
And I had to tell you because you can’t not know about her. You need to know about her. You need to know that there is a little girl there who no one is protecting.
And she isn’t the only one, you guys. Open your eyes. She’s the little girl who lives around the corner from you. She’s the woman who works in the massage parlor in Miami. She’s the teenager being sold off Backpage in Orlando by someone who labels her “sweet,” “fresh,” “new in town,” “exotic,” or “hot & young.” She’s the girl in your youth group being exploited by an online predator.
I don’t know what I want you to do now that you know about her. I just want you to know about her.
Don’t forget about her.