Knowledge of Pattaya

by Laura on August 15, 2010

We found ourselves there by accident.

By miscommunication.  And ignorance.  And impulsively hopping off the taxi-truck too early.

We thought we were headed to a pedestrian walking street, with ice cream shops and t-shirts for tourists.

But one wrong alley later, Matt and I found ourselves with our three little children in the heart of potentially the

worst red-light district in the world.

We clutched little hands tighter, and we started walking faster.  Matt and I talked-cheerful to our three blondes, but we caught each other’s eyes, and we both knew. We felt the weight, the oppression, and we prayed desperate-God-you-have-to-rescue prayers, as we navigated the maze of alleys and bars, searching for another taxi or a safer street.  But, the further we went in, the harder it was to find our way out–dead-ends and more alleys that only lead to more bars.  It was waking up in a nightmare–exposed, vulnerable, trapped.  Cheap sex dripped from everywhere– billboards, music, people, clothes.  It was evident that we did not belong, and so they all stared.

Short-skirted asian women, applying makeup, on tall bar stools.

Overweight white men, drinking beer, on leather chairs.

And we left as quickly as we could manage, physically sick to our stomachs. We took a taxi back to where we started, bought icecream on the beach with our kids, and prayed.  We had only spent a very-accidental 15 minutes in Pattaya’s red-light district, famous for it’s blatant sex industry, but it had left both Matt and I shaken and marked.

And today I cried on the beach.  While my three little ones shoveled sand, I cried for the injustice of it all.  I sunk under the knowledge that we humans can be such an evil bunch, and I wept for the realities of women in this country.  I cried for the understanding that just blocks away from where I sat under an umbrella, precious souls were selling themselves for eight dollars a night, and I cried for the men who were paying for it.

And honestly, I just wanted to bury my head in the sand at my feet. The knowledge so heavy and sickening,  I found myself wishing I had never seen, had never understood in the first place.

And the sea breeze floated in, and I wondered afresh what it must have been like for Jesus to walk dusty earth–

to see the blackest evil,

to know the details of each Story,

and to understand fully what could have been.

And I marveled at the weight he must have carried from the knowledge of it all.

The weight he still must carry from the knowledge of it


Carrying the weight of any knowledge right now yourself?

Comment here

  • Sharon O

    wow… I would cry too. What a scare and an awesome burden to desperately try to get away so that your little ones eyes did not see ‘the evil’. As parents we want to protect and never let them SEE the darkness.
    I am sad for your experience but glad that the small amount of time was enough to burden your heart for the broken in a very different way.
    I am glad you were protected and stayed safe.
    What an experience… I am sorry you had to be there.

    • Laura

      Yes, Sharon, having the kids there definitely added a more desperate dimension for Matt and I. It’s one thing for US as adults to manage a situation, but it makes you feel so much more vulnerable when your kids are with you.

      Thanks for commenting, and thanks for stopping by today!


  • Pat S.

    I have just recently subscribed to your blog and love it. I saw this entry and was so flooded with memories. I went with a group of friends from my church to Pattaya in February to minister there. It was an incredible, life-changing experience. I walked down that very street one day and prayed like never before. The heartache of such a huge problem was overwhelming and yet the calling by God with such clarity to pray in certain ways was so humbling. The very small bits of information I could gather from what I saw was heartbreaking. I can’t imagine the heartbreak of our Savior who has the knowledge of everything.

    Thanks you so much for sharing your journey and for your faithfulness to God calling.

    • Laura

      Wow, Pat, thank you for your words and for sharing your experience in Pattaya, too. Isn’t it heartbreaking and overwhelming? I agree, the call to pray because you can do nothing else struck me, as well. The magnitude of the issues and the poverty, physically and spiritually, is completely only God-understandable.

      Glad you are on the journey with me, friend.


  • Marla Taviano

    Oh, Laura. When we were in Cambodia, we visited a village that is known for being one of the biggest hubs of child sex trafficking in the country. We spent time with “Pastor” who lives in the village and is doing all he can to shine the light of Jesus into a dark, hard place. We sat in a renovated building that used to be a child brothel (and still has stall #9 untouched, to remind them of what was) and prayed and prayed. As a mom of 3 girls, I just cried and cried and cried over the horror of it all. Yet there is hope. Brothel owners are coming to Jesus. Families are learning how to make $ in other ways besides selling their daughters. There is HOPE.

    Thank you for sharing about this in such a beautiful way. God has given you such a gift for words.

  • emily freeman

    Oh Laura. Just, oh. I know it was the last place you wanted to be. I also know your eyes are windows for all of us who will never see with our own. I don’t want to see, but I need to see. So thank you.

    • Laura


      Thanks. And I don’t want to see either. But, thanks for being willing to see with me.


  • Elizabeth S.

    Hi Laura,

    It’s Lisa Schweizer’s friend again. : ) I’m sorry to hear about your horrible experience. I pray that God will use it for good. I have only heard how nasty Pattaya is and never plan to visit other than for ministry purposes. For your next vacay, do you know that Air Asia has non-stop flights from C.M. to Phuket for about $40-50? I know it’s the rainy season right now. My husband and I are planning to visit Krabi before heading up to C.M. to start working Oct.1. Looking forward to meeting you and your family sometime after that!

    • Laura

      Elizabeth, Thanks for the tip! We actually figured that out . . . but too late. The kids wanted to ride a train, which was cheaper, but a complete disaster, so we ended up taking a one way flight back. UGH. Live and learn.

      And, yes, we definitely re-thought that spot as a vacationing spot, too.

      And, yes, can’t wait to meet in person!

  • Alyssa

    I cried too, when I read this. It seems like the more I get into life in America, the more Thailand seems to bury itself in my heart. Even in Chiang Mai, there were a few small reminders of what goes on behind the scenes, and it’s so hard to understand.

    One thing I’ve been asking myself- is where are we going? Where are we leading? What consequences come from our ignorance and blindness and apathy (as Americans, but also as Christians)? It’s an overwhelming question.

    I’m so sorry you and Matt had to walk through those streets, with your precious kids in hand. I’m sorry those streets exist for you to walk through. I want you to know that I’m praying every day for your family, for the girls, and against the desperate oppression I just barely tasted while there. I know I’m just seventeen, and still in high school, but this has become hugely important… I want to come back. I hope that’s okay with you guys:)

    I love you:)

    • Laura

      Alyssa, thanks for your sweet response and your commitment to pray. I think it is so easy to see and then forget, but I am so thrilled that that apparently will not be YOUR story.

      And, of course, come on back!

      Love, L

  • Tamara

    I could feel your hands tighten around your kids’ little hands as I read this . . . so thankful you and Matt are parents who hold tightly to your children’s hands and hearts to guide them! What a great reminder for parents all over the world because there is evil all around – yes, even in our precious US – even though it may not be as in-your-face as what you’ve experienced. The evil of money solving problems, of position in society being exalted, of “pretty” being a commodity, and humility being viewed as weakness. Thank you for the reminder that Christ DOES know all about this and FEELS all of this – the HORROR! – and He loves us enough to let us in, let us work for Him, and love us through it all.
    I’ll be seeing you out of the corner of my eye at the gym tomorrow and say my prayer for your peace and strength.

  • Laura

    Thanks Marla. I can not imagine your experience in Cambodia. Isn’t it just sickening to sit in a place and try NOT to imagine the realities for children in it? My word, it’s just overwhelming, especially for a mother to girls. It just strikes home on a whole new level.

    But, so amazing to see redemption in even such a place.

    Thanks for the encouragement . . .


  • Laura

    Tamara, Yes, a good reminder that evil is everywhere–even in cushy US. It just wears different faces. No one is immune to the crappy things we humans can do to each other.


  • Tamara

    Oh, oh, oh . . .just came across a great quote regarding our world
    As the eagle was killed by the arrow winged with his own feather, so the hand of the world is wounded by its own skill.
    Helen Keller

    My old bones missed you at the gym today!

    • Laura

      Oh, great quote Tamara. How true that we hurt ourselves often more than help ourselves from our knowledge and wealth and power.
      Missed the gym today, too. :(


  • Lauren Alissa Hunter

    I recently had an experience like this, sans the accompanying children. Its one thing to know that its going on around you (while living/traveling in SE Asia) but another thing when you’re standing there, just feet away from a teenage girl (or a woman of any age, for that matter) who has been caught up in this cruel lifestyle… it is weighty, but it should move us to try and help in some way, to be faithful in whatever little way we might have an influence.

    Enjoying your site, btw.

    • Laura

      Yes, Lauren. I agree the weightiness of the knowledge of the day-to-day reality for this person you could literally reach out and touch is so heavy . . . and humbling. Thanks for tasting the journey of this, too.

      And thanks for stopping by . . .


      ps–oh, and I think your name is cool.

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  • Abbe

    Hi Laura-
    I just read your post via {in}courage: I understand the heaviness. I understand the burden it bears, and how ugly it feels.
    Unfortunatly- God chose to expose me to this through my own child. Who fell under the hands of evil. It sickens me to know that not only do the exist in the dark alleyas or Pattaya, but also in our church homes.
    Evil lurks everywhere, and the so does the spiritual war that rages behind it.
    I have no choice now but to be a voice, hands and feet, and a warriour for change. I don’t know what God has yet, if it be the broken hearted mother who labors in prayer on her knees, or the out spoken mother who lobbies for changes in the laws against pedophiles. Either way, I am changed, I am burdened, and I am glad to know women like you who feel the same way.
    Abbe in Kansas

    • Laura

      Wow, Abbe. Words can not say the ache in my heart right now for you, and for your child. And you are right, evil doesn’t just happen overseas by any means. It can and does happen everywhere. I just can’t imagine the heartache, the pain, the places you have had to go emotionally as a mother with your daughter/son.

      Oh, heavy, heavy, heavy. Weighty knowledge. I can not even begin to identify with that level of hating and being impacted by the evil of others. Tears are in my eyes, and I can only pray, friend.

      For you. For your precious child. For hope. Or redemption. Or Something, somehow, good.

      I hurt across the many miles, sweet mother.

      Broken, too,

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  • heather

    Can you please email me. I am the sister of a friend of a friend of yours in WP, CO :-) and I need to talk to you :-) Thanks.

  • Alena@TheHomemadeCreative

    “Carrying the weight of any knowledge right now, yourself?”

    Yes. The knowledge that, having been a victim of child sex slavery myself (in the form of paternal incest), I cannot turn a blind eye to this issue, no matter how scary it is to me. And the knowledge that I married a good man who is willing to make a difference.

    It’s weigh heavily on me, tonight.

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