I (Sarah) looked at *Blessing a beautiful and courageous young African women sat in front of me, as she told us her story, fighting back tears of how she came to be in Thailand. “She was my manager and ‘my friend’; I had been working in her shop for 4 years selling clothing. So when she offered me the opportunity to go with her to China to buy new stock, I said yes. I had no money, so she was paying for my airfare and all other expenses; this was my first business trip a chance in a lifetime. I had never been on airplane and never been outside of Africa. I saw nothing bad in her inviting me to come on this trip with her.”
After hearing the first part of her story, I sensed that Jennie, Annie & I were a bit confused as we reviewed what she had said. At this point it all seemed quite harmless. Blessing continued “My manager then informed me that she had to return back to Uganda, but I should stay in China and continue to buy stock to send back to Uganda. At no point did I think there would be any problems. She told me she would send me money for my return airfare”. Jennie, spoke up “She hadn’t brought you a ticket to return to Uganda?” or “Left you with money to buy a return ticket to Uganda?” Blessing answered with a low “No.”
“My manager had never treated me badly in 4 years, I ‘trusted her’, she was ‘my friend’”, Blessing paused. “She never sent the money! Each time she phoned I asked when it would be sent. When can I come home? Only to be given excuse after excuse. With my visa coming to an end, my manager told me my best option would be to go to Thailand to extend it. Then she would send me the money for my airfare back to Uganda”, Blessing paused again. “She only sent enough to get me to Thailand. However I continued to ‘trust her’ she was my manager and ‘my friend’.
From Uganda to China to Thailand, the calls from her manager occurred less and the money she sent her began to run out. Blessing began to realise that she was stranded in Thailand, with no money, no job, nowhere to stay, no phone number to call her manager (since she withheld her phone number each time she called). Through tears, Blessing said “Do you know what my manger, ‘my friend’, said when she called? She said told me that I am a grown woman and I should know what to do, to make some money. She was referring to me selling myself on the streets. Me – selling myself on the streets – I have degree in teaching you know!” Annie, Jennie & I looked at each other in amazement; Annie asked “Was it not possible to get a teaching job in Uganda?” Blessing replied, “There are no jobs in Uganda, you have to take what you can get and that’s why I was selling clothes in a shop.”
I couldn’t stop my mind from wondering, reeling, hearing my own thoughts: This is not how a friend acts or treats you! Blessing, please, please stop calling her your friend! How could this women do this to her? Deceiving her in this way? Taking her from the known to the unknown? Leaving her stranded in a strange country? Her life pulled apart in a matter of weeks due to deception?
Blessing exclaimed, “I didn’t want to sell myself. I have a degree in teaching; I have skills and so much ability. So I headed to North East Thailand and managed to get a teaching job with an agency. I tried to earn my keep. I enjoyed my job and most of all I enjoyed working with the children.”
I wish I could say this was then end of Blessing’s ordeal, however unfortunately due to the expiry of her visa, the agency took advantage of this and deceived Blessing paying her for only 1 month after having worked 3 months. Again she was at a loss, unable to fight her case because of her expired visa.
“I tried,” Blessing said, “I tried to do what was right, but it all seemed to go against me. With my money running low I headed back to Bangkok. I didn’t have enough money to rent somewhere on my own, so I was introduce to some ladies who rented a room together. They were streetwalkers who went out every night. Some of them knew I didn’t have much money and were encouraging me to work the streets. I just couldn’t do it at first, but my manager started calling again and demanded I pay her back for the ticket to China and to Thailand! My family also did not know of my circumstances, so they were expecting me to send money as well. Especially for my daughter; yes I have a 4 year old daughter, who I love dearly! I saw the ladies come back on many occasions counting all the money they had made for the night, as I watched my money disappearing away. I was encouraged by them to work the streets again. By this stage I felt I had no choice – with no money for rent, food or to send to my daughter and no-one to turn to for help. I was completely torn and broken. One of the girls told me the area I should go to, what to say and do.” As she wiped away the tears rolling down her face, Blessing sobbed, “I will never forget that first time going with men. I didn’t want to do it. I expected none of this to happen to me. My desperation had brought me to this moment. I need help; I want to go home, I want to be with my daughter!”
Blessing’s situation is not uncommon, but it still is so hard to hear and comprehend. Over the 2 months I have gotten to know Blessing very well. Our friendship has bloomed; I have seen her face light up when she speaks excitedly about her daughter and what she hopes for her. I heard about the things she hopes and dreams of for her own future. In the midst of all of this is a deep pain of how being on the end of deception and mistrust has worn her down, lowered her self-esteem and trust of people. For example when we paid her rent for the first time, she was convinced that we were not coming and that we were not going to be true to our words. She thought we were fake! She needs continual reassurance, and I keep encouraging her that her past experiences do not have to dictate her future.
I share in her pain, I cry when she cries; I share in her joy, I laugh when she laughs; I hug her when she needs to be held. I know my prayers for her have not gone unheard; she can put all her hope and trust in God. He is faithful to his words.
Psalm 25:3 – No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.
Blessing recently sent me a sweet text message recently that read. ”I am so blessed and proud to know you, thank you for all your help”. I feel so blessed to know her to, that’s why I called her “Blessing” in this story.
*Name has been changed to protect identity
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