It was somewhere over the Pacific Ocean over a year ago that I realized that the flight I was on would change my life. And it has. I often lay at night and think about what if I had not boarded the flight. What if at the very last second I had said “Wait, Stop! I am not going.” I think about that a lot. I think about how each and every event leading up to my departure could never have prepared me for what I have seen. Yet, I have seen it. And at this point there is no turning back. I often do not talk to others about the complexities of my job, often speaking in vague terms leaving out all the details. I think to myself “ It is to protect them.” Once they know what I know they will be troubled as I am – yet at the same time more people should feel troubled. They should be upset about what is happening. If everyone just became upset for five minutes a day – wow – we could actually change something. There are moments when I wish I had never got on the plane, never seen their faces, never heard their stories, because living in ignorance is so much easier then living with truth. But I have seen their faces and heard their stories and I cannot just ignore that.
The fact of the matter is it is happening. Men, Women, Girls, Boys all are being exploited daily. Notice I did not use an “and” in my list. No that was not a grammatical mistake. That was a conscious decision to include all people and that no one should fall last on a list, because falling last on a list makes you less of a priority. The traffic is happening. Here, there, everywhere. Sometimes it feels like for every small step that we take, we take giant steps backwards. Every time we close a case or refer someone we hear stories of more exploitation. How can people do this to other people? How can a living human being look at another living human being and view them as a commodity – something that can just be discarded, something that has a price? How? It is a question I ask a lot. I used to ask why. Now, after seeing all I have seen, I cannot ask why anymore. Instead, I ask how?
I walked into a bar the other night and the things I saw can never be described or articulated into words. Often times we hear and read so much about how trafficking is like this or like that “over there.” Well I can say I am “over there” and the images that are painted are nowhere close to the truth. Many people would like you to believe that the situation here involves your typical view of trafficking. You know, the one with images of exploited children with locks and chains. Sure, this might happen and I am not discounting that. But that just simply is not what one sees here. Yet, this bar was different. The boys were different. Their faces were different. They did not just want help – they needed help.
And who am I to offer help? That is a question I struggle with a lot. I could be anyone, yet there are not many of us out there. I often think that for every tourist that explores Thailand could just take five minutes out of their trip to think about those that are taken advantage of, how different the situation would be. There is nothing special about me, I just happen to have got on a plane, and once I got off that plane I saw something, something that bothered me, something that I could not sit back and watch.
We all have life changing moment, moments that we look back on and think “What if I had never done that?” What if I had never got on that flight? I would be living a carefree life, never thinking of the faces that I cannot get out of my head, the stories I can never forget. Take a minute out of your day and just realize there is a whole world out there you have no concept of, any idea about, and know that once you do – it is something you can never forget, something that will eat away at you until you finally do something about it.
Adam Royston serves as a Global Mission Intern with the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and is based in Thailand. His appointment is supported by Week of Compassion, Our Churches Wider Mission, Disciples Mission Fund and your special gifts.