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Women in Thailand Choosing Business as Mission over Prostitution

By Tiffany Ladebat - (Phuket, Thailand – August 2009) –It’s Tuesday night and the Biddells have just entered their second bar of the evening on Bangla road in Patong, Phuket, where over 1,200 girls work every night. In the entrance to the bar, there stands a young lady with an inviting smile asking them to sit down. She starts to tell them how she wishes she didn't sell herself and then she enumerates all of the reasons why she feels she can't leave the lifestyle in which she is now trapped. The Biddells have already prayed over the conversation they know is about to take place. Darkness weighs heavily on every word coming out of the young ladies mouth. She has her parents to take care of, as well as her children. She needs to make money quickly and pay her debts. It's only for a short time. It won't last forever. This is only one version of the same story they have heard too many times to remember. Now is the time to give her God's truth and hope.

Young women trapped in prostitution are invited one by one to lunch with Mark and Sharon Biddell and to visit the Thai ladies of SHE -Self Help Empowerment. They would probably make more money working in the bars, but is it worth selling themselves to make that money? Sadly, for too many of these girls and women, the choice is prostitution... but for a growing number of them, SHE provides a choice they didn't know they had. SHE opens the door to a new identity, life and one with a better option to earn their livelihood.

“My wife Sharon and I cried out to God for a way to help these women and He answered with SHE,” according to Mark Biddell, co-founder of the SHE organization. “The beauty these women possess is now being cultivated through their handcrafted jewelry and chocolate.”

SHE was established in 2007 as a (not for profit) Christian business giving temporary work to those women seeking to escape the sex trade. At the SHE house, the women learn artisanal trades making things like jewelry, handcrafted paper boxes, chocolates and baked items and get paid a salary with which to support themselves. All the funds generated from the jewelry and baked goods go directly to helping more women get out of the sex trade. This ministry provides not only employment, but friendship, community and a realization of their own value for these women.

SHE never turns anyone away, and simply trusts that if another girl takes this leap of faith, God would certainly provide the money to support them. The center also provides a safe place for them to live temporarily if they are in need, as some of these ladies come from desperate situations including physical abuse. Most beneficiaries of the program come to know Jesus as they live and work around those who display the love and hope of Christ. It is a Christian work environment where they have daily morning devotions and Bible study once a week with the entire staff. To date, over 50 women have come through the program and only one of those has returned to working the bars. Presently there are 19 ladies at the center and several SHE “graduates” have decided to train in Bible programs and become ministers, thanks be to God.

"Many of these women have children and for them to be able to go home equipped with a transferable skill to start their own business and care for their family, would be the goal. Let's say they start their business and employ some people, they will naturally be church planters sharing the gospel with their communities. This is the opposite flow of what their communities usually see, which is people taking and using their women and not giving anything back. " Mark explains.

The business side is simple. The jewelry is designed by volunteers and women at risk, using materials such as Swarovski crystals, fresh water pearls, and semi-precious stones packaged in an eco-friendly handmade box. These pieces are then sent to ministry partners mostly in the UK and USA, to sell in home parties. The growth in sales is small but steady and God has been providing for each expansion. SHE has recently tapped into the local market through baked items and chocolates, which have received a warm reception from the local business community and residents. The short term goal is to be able to self sustain without donations and the long term goals are to be able to provide aid for the poor in their community, to start a missions training fund for graduates of SHE, and to provide seed loans to those wanting to start businesses in their communities. It would be a vision come true to see these ladies in turn give a hand to others in similar situations.

Volunteers come from around the globe to help support the business according to their personal talents. These contributions also help with the funding and staffing of the business. The volunteers are continually striving to find new supportive markets and are appreciative of ideas. Please remember to lift them up in your prayers, especially for favor, protection, blessing, strength, discernment and direction from the Lord.

Hope is such a simple word, but without hope we die. These girls need hope to come alongside them in a very practical way. SHE helps them understand that they have eternal value, that they are loved by God, that they are a unique and individual work of art, not simply someone else’s property to do with as they wish, but that they have a choice over what happens to them and their bodies. And most importantly, that they can have incredible hope for their future. This is the heart of Jesus.

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posted by Justin Forman | 12.27.2010 - 5:55 AM


This is so wonderful! How can I be involved? I would love to buy SHE products.
commented by Blogger Nicolette, 4:01 PM  

I would like to know how to partner with SHE to sell products here in my home church.
commented by Blogger Gary, 11:14 PM  

How can I buy SHE products? Do they have a website?
commented by Blogger Marianne Woodward, 1:15 PM  

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