The Trade

It’s a beautiful night in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. There’s a slight breeze – welcome after another blazing hot day – a perfect evening for dinner or drinks at a street-level café like the one gracing our little hotel just a few blocks north of bustling Sisowath Quay.

Andy and I spent our last afternoon and evening in Asia playing with kids, splitting our time more-or-less evenly between our four local orphan homes. We ate a late dinner at Prek Eng 4 courtesy of Ravi and his wife, and returned to pack for tomorrow’s long, long journey. After stuffing our suitcases far past their normal carrying capacity, we retired to the hotel’s restaurant for a drink and some peoplewatching. 

The scene that played out was one I’d witnessed countless times before, but it seemed more poignant having just said goodbye to about 90 of the sweetest kids in the world. As we sat sipping our drinks and munching aimlessly on the ever-present sugared peanuts, we watched a seemingly endless stream of ugly, paunchy, past-prime white in Khakis and polo shirts guys ogle, then grope, then leave with beautiful, slim, young Khmer women in tight blouses and miniskirts.

I see prostitutes every day in Asia. I get propositioned on a regular basis. But it’s still a bit shocking to see The Trade up close. As in “at the next table” up close.

I wanted to scream.

I also wanted to punch each of the guys, or at least flash him an obscene hand gesture. I settled on simply glaring at them, but I was dying to grab one by the shirt and sneer, “She hates you, don’t you know that? She’s doing this because her family is destitute. She’s laughing at your stupid jokes and pretending to find you attractive, but your rolls of fat and the thought of your foul nakedness disgusts her. You’re going to pay her, but you it could never compensate for what you’ll take from her. With every filthy thrust, you destroy another piece of her waning sense of humanity. You’re no better than a common rapist. You’re a modern-day slaver and you’re exactly what’s wrong with this country.”

Of course I didn’t say any of that. But it’s all true.

I don’t believe that my anger and disgust are based on prudery or a sense of my own personal moral superiority. It’s just that I can’t look at the girls in the restaurant without thinking of the girls at our orphan homes, many of which would have had a very good chance of becoming one of Cambodia’s 60,000+ prostitutes, 25,000 of which are minors – some as young as 6 or 7 years old.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am that God has allowed Asia’s Hope to engage the horror of human trafficking in Cambodia and Thailand by providing loving homes for children at risk for sexual and economic exploitation. I pray that God will give us the money we need to rescue many more children.

In short, I pray that we have the resources to reach children on the brink of the abyss before these dirtballs do.

John McCollum3 Comments