Sparkling Christmas lights, tinsel, elaborately decorated Christmas trees, neon lights, Christmas carols playing loudly and men and women wearing Christmas hats fill the air with laughter.
This could be a scene from any country at Christmas time, but add beer and go-go bars competing to entice their international customers to the traditional Christmas scene, and this is what the sex industry looks like at Christmas in Bangkok’s red light area.
The Christmas merriment looks so real on the surface, but underneath the mask tells a different story.
It's all Christmas wrapping: most people in Thailand have no idea of the true meaning of Christmas. Being a Buddhist country, the only part of Christmas that is celebrated is the partying and present giving. Christ is left out.
In Bangkok, there are always opportunities to display or share Christ. At NightLight, an organisation reaching out to women caught in the sex industry, we choose to demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas by showing love to our neighbours.
On the afternoon of 16 December, we will be hosting a Christmas party in our outreach center, located near the red light area. We are inviting women from the streets to come in for food, a safe place to relax, do fun activities and have conversations with those who just want to talk.
During that same week, in the evening, the outreach teams will be distributing 500 - 1000 gift bags to women in prostitution. We will also visit a brothel and sing Christmas carols in the lobby where international women are prostituted. Everyone is given a gift - even the pimps, because God loves them, too.
The response we receive when we give these gifts out is one of great surprise, even tears. We are generally asked over and over: “This is free I don’t have to pay? thank you so much.”
The women currently working at NightLight and the bakery, where they learn life skills and a trade, have so much to give back. They will be going out in teams to visit the sick in various hospitals, a slum community and giving out gifts paid for with money they have donated. They will pray for many and help some lonely, hurting people feel valued.
There is a Thai song ‘คริสต์มาสเป็นเวลาแห่งความรัก’ (krit-sa-mat bpen wee-laa heng kwaam rak), which translates as 'Christmas is the time for love’. The women at NightLight and the bakery are preforming not just an act of celebrating Christmas, but demonstrating Christ, His love and freedom at Christmas to others. Putting ‘Christ’ back into Christmas.
You can find out more about sharing Jesus with women in the sex trade at NightLight.