You are a 25 year old woman. Once upon a time, you thought you found true love. A foreigner came and promised you a grand life. And for a moment in time, life was everything he promised. You had a child together, but without notice his bags were packed and he was gone. Desperate to provide for your young child, you go to a bigger city to try and find work. On your quest for a job that will provide, you meet a man who offers you a job as a waitress in his resteraunt. You arrive at your first day of work, believing that this was the answer you were searching for, this is the golden opportunity to make a living for you and your child. Upon your arrival, your boss asks you to go serve a customer. With a nervous feeling in your stomach, you go to attend the customer in the back room, however, within moments you realize this job was not what you thought it was. As the man moves towards you, he begins to force himself on you. Filled with fear, you run out of the room in hopes to be saved. However, instead of finding refuge, your boss yells at you demanding you go back into the room to serve the customer, or else you'll be fired. Convinced there are no other options for work, you stay working at the restraunt where every night men come in, expect you to serve them, and for a small chump of change they can purchase you for the night, allowing them to have their way with you. This is your life.
A little inhumane, wouldn't you say? This scenario isn't just a scenario, its the story of 50 women on a 136th street in Phnom Phen, Cambodia. These women are desperate for someone to rescue them. They are desperate for someone to love them for who they are. These women are desperate for a night of refuge.
Friday night the Go Team moved with purpose as they went into the Red Light District of Phnom Phen, determined to give 50 women a night of refuge. Determined to be a light in an industry that is full of darkness and to create change in the lives of women who have lost all hope. 9 o'clock on the dot, the team showed up at the beginning of 136th street, with their hearts beating fast for what was about to happen, they dispersed throughout the street fearlessly. The street that was previously filled with men wandering the streets lusting at women, was now overtaken by a team of people who were radiating the love of God. As the team went into the bars where the women were, the men sitting at the bar were left utterly confused as the women who had seconds before draped themselves around the men's necks left them as soon as the women heard they were invited to a party by the Go team. Bar after bar, the Go Team invited these ladies to an extravagant party, leaving the men sitting alone at the bar with no women to service them for the night. Although the men's plans had been completely ruined, the women left with excitement, they knew that this was not going to be an ordinary Friday night, this night was special.
These women knew that there was something different about the Go team as they watched members of the team whole heartitly "fight" for one of the women. After hearing about the party, a precious young girl left the man she was with so that she could attend the party, yet, shocked and upset the man threatened her placing fear in her. Members of the Go Team pleaded with her not to stay with him, with passion in their voices they told her "He doesn't own you, you don't have to stay with him. You are valuable. Come with us". This was the first time for many of the girls that they had seen someone fight on their behalf, telling them that they were valuable. Tonight, would not be just a regular night with the normal clients, and the women were fully aware of it.
After inviting fifty women from the Red Light District to an evening party on the river, the Go team headed to the boat they had rented for the night in order to host this life changing event. As the team and the women walked down the street, the women moved proudly down the busy street with an excitement radiating from them, they had just been invited to what seemed like a party of a lifetime by a group of Americans. They where hand picked and selected for the party, and their genuine smiles were showing it.
The atmosphere was filled with excitement as you could hear squeals from the women as they saw the boat they were about to get on for the party. Little did they know that they were about to have one of the best nights of their lives. Anticipation built amongst the group of 80 as they waited to load the boat, their cheers grew louder as the rest of the groups arrived at the dock. The time had finally come. Christa Baca, co-founder of Go International, welcomed the women to the party as the gates opened. As the men helped the ladies board the boat, the women were were left in awe as they saw rose petals flooding the lower deck of the boat. Making their way to the top deck of the boat, some of the women's eyes welled up with tears as they saw the details of the decor that was done all for them.
As the women took in their surroundings, the Go men stepped up to the plate and began their side of the ministry: serving these girls. The women took their seats, and within the blink of an eye, the men from the Go team were bringing the women drinks and desserts. The men were setting a new standard for these women on how man ought to treat woman. These women have never been treated with such respect. It was a beatiful sight to see the men rush back and forth with smiles on their faces serving the women from the bars. Their faces lit up as they came to the realization that these men did not want anything from them. Tonight, they were not being asked to service customers. Tonight, they were going to find a place of refuge. Tonight, they were going to be treated like queens.
The music turned on and in a matter of moments- all the ladies from the Go team and the women from the bars intermingled and began dancing the top deck of the boat. As popular tunes from Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus came over the speakers, everyone cheered with excitement as they danced and sang their hearts out. The girls were loosening up and beginning to taste freedom. On a boat that was drifting down the Mekong River, these girl were given the opportunity to be themselves and rest from their nightly routine. At various points during the party one could see girls taking in the moment as they stood at the edge of the boat catching the river's breeze and looking at the city lights. Tonight, was unlike any other, it was better than the movies.
After dancing the night away, the time had finally come to let the girls know why we were having a party in their honor. As everyone sat down in their seats, Christ Baca took the stage voicing the fact that tonight was different, tonight was a night to give these girls a safe place. A place of refuge from their nightly routine and customers. Smiles appeared on the faces of the girls as you could hear a few of them saying "Yes, Yes. This is true." One could see the Cambodian women connecting with the Go team as they squeezed their hands and smiled as a gesture of "Thank You". Christa continued speaking to the girls as she shared part of her story with them, letting them know that we are all the same, despite our backgrounds. As Christa continued speaking to the Cambodian women, she saturated them with truth; letting them know that they are special and created in the image of God for a purpose.
The hearts of the girl's were softening as they were realizing more than ever that the Go team was here to love them as they just as they were. After sharing the vision of the night, the team performed a drama for the women called "Bondage". The drama illustrated a girl who was wrapped in chains and held in bondage by the devil. The devil brought her through bad relationships, greed and money issues, hurt, pain, rejection, and alcohol abuse. Yet the whole time, Jesus was reaching out the the girl in bondage, trying to save her. As the women watched the drama one could see tears streaming down their faces, they were connecting to the girl in the drama. After all, they were in bondage, trying to break free. At the end of the drama, Christ saved the girl who was in bondage, freeing her from the chains that bound her. One could see it on their faces, that these girls were longing to be rescued.
The women were finally understanding the purpose of the party. Their deameanor competely changed as they let down the walls and were exposing how they truly felt. Their whole lives no one has ever cared about them or showed them love. No one has told them how valuable they are or how they have purpose. As Christa got up one last time to speak, she poured out her heart to the girls telling them that all of us women are the same; we are no different. She expressed that we are loved and valued by the Creator. Christa then told the girls about Jesus, who came to rescue them from bondage. There was hope in the women's eyes, they had heard truth and were clinging on to it.
The opportunity was now before them, to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That night in the city of Phnom Phen, lives were changed as many of the women gave their lives to Christ. Looking around the boat, one could see clusters of American and Cambodian women connecting. There was an overwhelming peace in the atmosphere as the women from the Red Light District began telling the ladies Go Team how much they disliked their jobs and what forced them to being an industry that is so inhumane. As the Cambodian women told their stories, all around you could see compassion filling the eyes of the women on the Go Team; their hearts were breaking for the Cambodian women. Yet, in between the tears, one could see smiles appearing on the faces of the Cambodian women as the grasped the hands of the Go Team and said "Thank you for coming, I so happy." The lives of these precious women were forever changed as they were given the courage to leave this industry.
On an ordinary Friday night, a group of 27 Americans made the descion to be obssessed with doing the will of the Father. Going into a district that is known for it's "darkness", this team of American's knew that the light that shined in them was greater. As they stepped onto the scene, light came into existence; and with it rescue, relief, and hope. Something extraordinary happened that Friday night:
For the first time in a long time, these women were treated with the respect they deserve. For the first time, a glimmer of hope had entered their world. For the first time these women had a Night of Refuge.
Written By Lindsey Clark Photos By Dodge & Bel Pangburn