Being Baptized into the Red Light District - Sarah Mae
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Being Baptized into the Red Light District

Trigger warning: sexual abuse, sexual content.

That’s what Matt Parker of The Exodus Road told us.

We were going to get baptized into the red light district. We were going to go out and walk the famous “walking street” where thousands of people come from all over the world to see and touch and taste a vast menu of sexual options.

Whatever you want, you know.

Signs being handed out every couple of feet; just pick what you want. One girl, two, ten? Yes, she’ll do anything you want. What do you want? Oh yes, bring your friend along. Pick a number, buy a drink…go ahead, feel her up and down and don’t worry, you’re safe here. See, they are smiling, they want to be here. She’s making eyes at you, do you want her? Go ahead and test her out first, it’s okay. So many to choose from. Just pick a number.

And here I am sitting and watching, maybe 20 girls, on two stages at the first bar. They look bored. Some are dancing, some are barely moving to the loud music, some catch my eye and smile. I look over at the old man next me and the young, beautiful girl next to him. Her hand is on  his leg. His shirt is unbuttoned and white hair curls out. I look at her face and she is looking down. She’s sad or maybe resigned, I don’t know. Both. He pulls out his money and she just stares at it. Yes, sad and resigned.

Matt calls a girl over for me so we can talk. Of course we can’t talk because I don’t speak her language. But I smile and she puts her drink up to mine. “Cheers!” She smiles. We sit. Matt talks with her and he tells me where she’s from. She is wearing a bikini and a number. We just keep smiling.

Next bar.

This one is the dive; it’s dirty and unkept. But the girls are more aggressive. Two come up to us with shots and are giggling. They want to know why myself and Alece are with Matt. He must be a strong man to have two girls. He tells them we met in a hotel and that we wanted him to take us to walking street. They giggle. They speak some English. They keep trying to give us shots. They like to try and guess my age. One says I look 39. I laugh. We ask questions and giggle with them, but the veneer is thick. We move on.

Third bar.

More naked bodies. But by the third bar the bodies are just bodies and it’s true what Matt says: “You have to look past the skin and see their soul.”

This is a nice bar. It’s clean and the vibe is cool and the music is thumping. The girls are trying harder. I look around and see lap dances and sex acts. Over in the corner I see one man, early 30’s, shoving his head into in between a girls legs. She keeps pulling away, trying to laugh. He stands up and forces himself to her face, pulling money out. Another girl is on his other side and I watch her smile and then look angry. She is not happy with him. He turns to her and starts kissing her and then turns to face the other girl and she is visibly disgusted; she wipes her mouth off. He keeps trying to get his kicks for free, but the one girl finally gets up and goes back on stage. She does not like that man. He gets up and I notice that as a last act of power he grabs her rear end as he walks out the door. She just keeps on, dancing on stage, moving along. This is just the way it is. Matt calls over the other girl, the one still in the booth, the one who had been groped and pushed and kissed and assaulted. He buys her drink and we give her at least 20 minutes of relief.

More girls come over, one for each of us. They try to give us lap dances. They want to know if we like ladies. They giggle and I say, “Can we just sit? Let’s just talk.” We fumble through. I try to tell them they are beautiful. One girl is at University studying to be a lawyer. She says this land is the land of smiles, “happy happy all the time.” I look into her eyes. I don’t say anything. She says, “Well, not happy all the time.” No, of course not.

We pay for our drinks and we go back to the hotel. We are supposed to debrief, share our feelings, talk about what we saw.

I feel nothing.

I don’t know why. I feel like maybe I’ve just been to Vegas and this is all just so normal. It’s not. But it looks like a big party. Everyone is just having a good time.

This is the narrative. It’s all good, these girls choose this, we’re all just having a good time.

I’ve been baptized into the red light district, but I feel like I’ve only just had my toe in the water.

There is an ocean to go. But I’m not afraid anymore to look. I’m not afraid to see. And that’s the beginning, to know that I can look and see and I am stronger than I think I am (by God’s grace). I can do this work. I will do this work because it’s holy work and Jesus is here in these dark places and the Kingdom is on fire here.


The Exodus Road needs monthly partners to keep on in this really awful, deeply good work. Will you help? For $35 a month you can fund an investigation that will help free girls from sex slavery. Learn more HERE.


Want to be a part of this work? Keep following along with me. You can learn more about The Exodus Road and become a partner, helping to free slaves, HERE.


Superheros are real. I met on.

Learning to Not Look Away (and the gift of the burden)

When Life Has Killed the Dream You Dreamed

I Said Yes

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  • SHAWNA Heidenreich

    Praying for you Sarah! Have you ever watched Furious Love, or Father of Lights?

    • Sarah Mae

      Thank you, and no I haven’t. I will check it out!

  • TruthSeeker

    Wow. You’re brave. I’ll be praying for you lady…along with all those poor ladies that long for Jesus and don’t even know it. <3

    • Sarah Mae

      Thank you.

  • Kate @ A Ringing Bell

    Just prayed for you, your efforts, and the ministry you are working with in the red light district. So wild that you aren’t just reading about it or watching it on TV, but that you are there – REALLY experiencing it first hand. Lord, give Sarah Mae her assignments in this. Do a mighty work of the Spirit through her in this cause. Yes and amen.

    • Sarah Mae

      Thank you so much for that prayer. The light is here.

  • Andrea Stunz

    You are doing good and hard Kingdom work. I’ve been to Pattaya visiting friends who lived there. My stomach still turns from what I saw even during the daytime hours. I’m praying for you.

    • Sarah Mae

      It’s crazy. Thank you for praying.

  • Marie

    That was extremely hard to read. I’m amazed that there are Christians willing to see these people as souls instead of vile sinners. I shouldn’t be surprised. We serve a mighty God and His Spirit lives in us. Why wouldn’t He send someone to the red light district. I bet they are so thirsty and hungry for Him. Praying for you as you sow and water.

    • Sarah Mae

      We do serve a might, kind, God who goes to the dark places to redeem. Thank you for praying!

  • Erin

    Wow. I cried as I read this. Praying that you & those you’re with would be filled to overflowing with the love of the Father, so that those you meet would be drawn to Him & would want to know Him & would see & experience His kindness. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it”

    • Sarah Mae

      Yes, the darkness can never overcome the light.

  • shawnsmucker

    Praying for you, friend.

    • Sarah Mae

      Thank you Shawn.

  • JenReyneri

    Donna Shenk just shared this… I’m praying for you and your team. I’ve been there, too. Oh, how they need Jesus.

    • Sarah Mae

      Thank you. And yes, so much.

  • Kendra Fletcher

    I don’t even know what to say. I see the girls in my hometown and my heart aches an ache I can’t fix. You must be feeling ten times that, Sarah. Praying.

    • Sarah Mae

      Yes, but there is so much hope here. The Exodus Road is doing such good work. They are slowly changing the system.

  • Shanna Leigh

    I’ve been there myself, to Pattaya and Walking Street, twice with my church. It’s the darkest place I’ve ever been. Actually, just going to email you now….

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