I am in love with Thailand. I have been since before I even went there, which is probably why it didn’t take long for the “land of smiles” to feel like home to me.
This love affair began in 2004 when I was studying abroad in Germany. I flew to London, England for my birthday weekend in December to meet up with my high school friend, Lisa, who was back packing through Europe at the time.
Lisa bought a British magazine and I flipped through it lazily while I sat on the top bunk of my bed at our hostel. I stopped when I came across an article on sex tourism in Thailand.
Thailand was barely on my radar at the time. Never thought of it and I hardly knew where it was. But when I learned that it was quickly become a sex tourist capital – a country for foreigners to visit and pay for sex with men, women, and children – I was heart broken.
These thoughts from Thailand were fresh in my mind when the tsunami hit just three weeks later on December 26. I was staying with my relatives in Switzerland at the time, safe and cozy in a chalet in the Alps, wondering how I could be enjoying such luxury while watching footage of dead bodies being pulled from the wreckage.
It was then that I committed to praying for Thailand, and interestingly enough, it seemed that the more I did, the more this country began to cross my radar.
I moved to Abbotsford, British Columbia in 2008 work work for MB Mission, the global mission agency of the Mennonite Brethren Churches in North America. As a reporter and magazine editor, one of the first stories I covered came from Thailand. It was about a little girl named Bing Bing, an HIV positive orphan who was rescued from the streets. (You can watch her video here).
That summer I shared an office with Ricky and Karen Sanchez, directors of the Abundant Life Home, an AIDS orphanage in Chonburi (east of Bangkok) who were on furlough for a few months. With each story they told I grew more certain that I wanted to be in Thailand!
Following my time with MB Mission I spent one year touring as a speaker and journalist with a ministry called Beautiful Unique Girl. One of my assignments was to do an investigative report on sex trafficking in Canada. This is how I become acquainted with ECPAT International. ECPAT operates as the international secretariat, overseeing more than 80 affiliates in 78 countries to protect children from pornography, sex tourism, and trafficking. And wouldn’t you have it – the secretariat was located in…Bangkok.
Unfortunately I was unable to continue my contract with Beautiful Unique Girl because of budget cuts, thus launching me into a season of living with my parents. When I started looking back at my story and figuring out what I really wanted to do, it seemed like Thailand was the common thread woven throughout the past few years. I was also becoming more involved in trafficking work in Canada, and I was eager to glean a broader view on the issue on a worldwide scale. That’s when I decided to check the ECPAT website for job vacancies…and the rest is history.
Less than 2 months later I was in Thailand. I woke up every morning feeling nothing but gratitude. I’m thankful every day for what I got to experience.
And I can’t wait to go back.