Somaly Mam, Pushing Trains, and the Temptation to Lie

by Laura on July 24, 2014

The past three months for me have held a whole lotta running-hard. We’ve transitioned an office in Colorado, hired staff in two countries, packed up and then rented two houses, said hard goodbyes and made more decisions than I can count, packed 14 suitcases and three kids and made the trek back across the globe again.

If that didn’t make us tired enough, we walked into some unexpected chaos here in the field, in addition to hosting people for six weeks straight, Matt starting a new position leading coalition strategy in Bangkok, and transitioning our kids to a new, but old, culture.

And then our precious friends here had a 6 year old daughter whose heart was attacked by a virus and met much Jesus earlier than anyone expected.

We’ve been through the wringer these last few months. And we. are. tired.

Too tired, I’m afraid, to write too many words here in this space, though I promise I have things I want to tell you, and I promise they are coming.

Until then, read something I wrote about the importance of honest, non-dramatic storytelling in the nonprofit counter-trafficking world?  I’d be grateful if you liked/shared the post or left a comment.

Thanks for your patience and grace as I try to breathe a little.  Promise there’ll be more soon.

charities and hollywood


“One nonprofit posted pictures of rescued sex slaves that were actually just normal village children from the community. Another organization raises thousands of dollars to support an after-care shelter for twenty-five children. (The children have not been trafficked.) Organizations use the word orphans when they really mean “poor children from poor families”; or the term “sex slavery” when they mean “prostitution.”

And so with an ocean or a continent typically separating the work itself from supporters who help fund the work, communicators stretch the truth to raise funds, feed egos, or push the train farther up the mountainside. I’ve seen this type of fundraising deception practiced by missionaries, Christian charities, and nonreligious NGOs. We fool ourselves into believing that the end justifies the means.

The people we serve become commodities that are put to use to advance our goals. Ironically, this is a practice we fight in traffickers who prey on modern-day slaves.”


Read the rest over at Convergent Books. . .



{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Julee July 25, 2014 at 2:05 pm

This is a subject that makes me so upset. Though not always deliberate on the missionary’s or organizations part, like all deception it is terribly destructive. Just one of the things it does is lead to unrealistic expectations both in congregations at home and in the missionaries themselves. Congregations hear “Hundreds respond to the gospel”, “Children going without food”, or “a people movement started”. Someone hears this and feels that they are called to missions. They go expecting to be part of those hundreds responding to the Lord or saving people from their poverty, instead they arrive finding something completely different. They find that one, they can’t even communicate in such a way as to make the Gospel known and won’t be able to communicate well enough for at least 3 to years. Those people they want to save from poverty either are not starving like they heard or can’t be saved from poverty without changing their worldview, which isn’t going to happen soon. This can lead to depression, burn out and the temptation to continue the cycle of deception as they struggle to communicate their experience to people back home.
These unrealistic expectations that are created also make it hard for missionaries to be honest. Because if they write what is really going on, like people are really resistant, or the person they thought was saved and that they had been working with for the last so many years just turned their back on God, then people back home question their ability. They think maybe they could get more “bang for their buck” with a more successful missionary or organization. This isn’t always the case, but it has happened to us.
I could go on an on about this because it is such a complex problem, but I will stop with a plea to missionaries to be careful and thoughtful about what and how they communicate and that churches be discerning and caring readers.


pastordt July 27, 2014 at 12:23 am

I’m so sorry, Laura, for the pain and confusion of these past months. Praying for you and your family tonight. Kyrie eleison.


Karissa Knox Sorrell August 10, 2014 at 7:58 am

I’m fairly new to your blog, but I had to comment on this one. My parents were also missionaries to Thailand and lost a child there. My brother died in a motorcycle accident in Phuket when he was 17. I am going to try to connect with the family you mentioned via facebook if possible. It is devastating when you are doing God’s work, and then you feel like He doesn’t protect your children. It certainly changed our faith and our lives. My family has gone through a lot but over the past few years it seems that everyone has finally found healing.

I am sorry for the difficult time your family has had lately. I will not try to encourage you with words like “God’s plan” and “God’s will” and “trust God” because I just don’t believe that way anymore. In times of pain I always think of Gethsemane Jesus. I love Gethsemane Jesus. He was tired, weak, scared, in despair, and alone. He was wrestling with doubt and confusion. That image of Jesus as a broken human actually helps me. Because I feel like broken human sometimes, too. I will keep you in my prayers. Thailand and SE Asia are so close to my heart. I am so glad you are working in that area.


Rachel Monger September 9, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Thanks for sharing. It is such a big issue you raise … one which needs to be communicated! It is hard to share what is real when you are competing with the larger than life “headlines.” Keep up the good work! I took encouragement from David Livingstone who fought the fight against slavery in his time … and encouragement in some mango trees. A slave route here in Tanzania is marked with mango trees. But we have a slave redeemer who marked the way to freedom crucified on a tree.
Rachel Monger recently posted..Under the Mango Tree. “Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?”


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post: