He stood out to me from the moment I walked into the church’s meeting room a few minutes before the service began. His simple jeans and teal short-sleeved scoop neck top paired with heels made him seem put together, but I saw the pain common to the transgendered or “ladyboys” in his eyes. “Can I sit with you?” He nodded and introduced himself. I was not certain what else to say to Shae Shae, but the worship service began a couple of moments later, saving me from an awkward silence. As the music played, my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude to God for His faithfulness to pursue that city in Thailand during the previous week’s missions school. Shae Shae and I kept brushing against each other as we worshipped, and each time I silently prayed for him. After bumping into each other yet again, Shae Shae grasped my hand and I squeezed back. He held on for quite some time, seeming to just enjoy this innocent display of affection.
The speaker that morning shared about how God was birthing something new in this city. After his message, he asked the school participants to come forward to pray for anyone desiring ministry. Even while praying over the few that came forward, I kept feeling drawn to pray for Shae Shae. I returned to my row and with Shae Shae’s permission I began to ask the Father to release His heart over my new friend:
“I see a thunderstorm inside of you. You are full of the power of God because the Holy Spirit lives inside of you. You carry the power of lightening and your voice shakes things in the supernatural just like the thunder shakes things in the natural. You carry the healing power of rain. Just like rain washes over the earth and heals the ground, you have that power inside of you. But I also feel like this storm is a picture for what you are feeling. I feel like you are very angry and sad. Why are you so sad?”
Shae Shae paused, then said, “I am a victim of illegal trafficking.” Shae Shae teared up as he described how the promise of good work had lured him from his home country. His tears choked back the words for a moment, so I tried to fill in a few details by asking, “And they took you to this city?” Shae Shae nodded, “They took me to one of the ladyboy bars and said, ‘This is your work: selling yourself.’” After a year of working in the bar, Jesus had met him the previous night. He gave his life to the Lord and left the bar to follow Christ.
Shocked and saddened by my new friend’s story, I told him that our God is a God who restores and heals all the broken places and began praying for restoration of all that had been stolen. Shae Shae hugged me and thanked me with tears still clinging to his long dark lashes, “I will never forget you. You are the first person to pray for me.”
Over the next two weeks, Shae Shae and I met up at church. The church members from his home country had welcomed this one in and were doing their best to love on him. Despite that, during my last weekend in the city, Shae Shae told me that there was so much pressure on him to become like a man again outwardly: to get a masculine haircut and begin dressing in men’s clothes and stop wearing makeup. “They want to change me,” Shae Shae said each time he brought up this pressure. I feel that a part of him knows he was created to be a man, yet because he has been a ladyboy for so much of his life, asking him to give up the feminine parts of his appearance and behavior was asking him to give up his identity.
A friend who had also befriended Shae Shae, told him that the most important thing was not to worry about changing, but to fall in love with Jesus and let Jesus bring transformation. “And the best way to fall in love with Jesus,” I added, “is to let him show you how much He loves you. He loves you because He loves you because He loves you, because He is love. You can’t do anything to make Him stop loving you.”
That day Shae Shae also told me that he was unable to make rent and was considering returning to prostitution because his illegal immigrant status made it impossible to get other work. My heart broke when I heard this. “I don’t want you to have to go back, Shae Shae. I don’t want you to be hurt again.” Shae Shae teared up again. I knew he didn’t want to go back either. Over the next couple of weeks, I worked one of the organizations in Shae Shae’s city via email to try and find other options for him. Because Shae Shae is a ladyboy, however, many of the options available to women who are seeking to get out of the sex trade are not available to him. I recently discovered that despite efforts to get other work since May, Shae Shae is still occasionally prostituting himself. Will you stand with me in prayer that viable work opportunities will open up for Shae Shae and others seeking to leave prostitution?