Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: brothel

Lydia’s Song

This novel on child sex trafficking in Cambodia is written in three parts. The first section focuses on Lydia, an English woman in the year 2036. She reminisces about her expat life thirty years previously: fostering a homeless child called Song and falling in love with Radha, a local man. It was a life of contentment until tragedy struck.

The second section is all about Song, the young Vietnamese refugee child in Cambodia who was fostered by Lydia. The two met when Song had run away from an unhappy home life. Lydia took her in and the pair settled into a comfortable life together. Then Radha came on the scene. He worked as a receptionist at the English doctor’s practice. Charming, pleasant, full of fun: life seemed perfect.

But then Song was trafficked into the child sex industry. Bought and sold. Lydia tried frantically to find her but it was impossible.

The third and final section brings both Lydia’s and Song’s stories together to a satisfying conclusion.

The book is well-researched and highlights the plight of many young children in this part of the world. Song’s story is particularly well-written and gives enough information without being brutal with gruesome details.

Personally, I didn’t warm to Lydia as a character but liked Song who, despite a rocky start and horrific experiences as a girl, turns out as a lovely, balanced woman.

I think this book would be a useful place to start for anyone wanting to learn more about child sex trafficking.

Instant Apostle provided me with a free Kindle copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review.

I, Daniel Blake

I’ve just watched a disturbing film I, Daniel Blake.

It’s based on true stories, and reminded me of things I’ve seen and heard – and experienced personally to a certain extent.

My brief synopsis is that Daniel Blake is a 59-year-old skilled carpenter who has worked all his life until having a heart attack. Despite doctors telling him he’s not ready to go back to work, he falls into the black hole that sometimes (often?) exists in our flawed benefits system. He spirals down through frustration, unfair sanctions, and trying to get his appeal heard. Through all of this he meets Katie, mother of two, who is new to the area. She too falls foul of the system through no fault of her own and ends up being unfairly sanctioned. After starving herself to feed her kids and having no electricity or heating, she eventually turns to sex work out of sheer desperation.

I heard similar stories so many times when volunteering at Grace Church’s food bank. I meet women through the Jericho Road Project who feel they have no alternative to provide for their families. These are good people. They are not monsters. They are not undeserving poor. They are people. Just like me.

Me in ChiChiI’ve learned that anyone can end up on the street. Everyone has a story to tell. I’ve met people who were well-off and had their own business, but through various circumstances – including sudden serious illness – have found themselves needing to be referred for a food parcel.

I was briefly in the benefits system myself and although my experience was largely good (a safety net), it was still a scary place to be. What came out tonight was that people on benefits are treated as guilty until proven innocent. That was true in my case, though quickly resolved.

I, Daniel Blake reminded those of us watching tonight of the harsh reality faced by thousands in our country. We were uncomfortable inside. It made some angry. There was emotional pain. We wanted to do something. Because how can such things happen in the UK in 2017? How?

God used the film to reopen my eyes to what I’ve forgotten or become used to.

At the entrance to the car park sat a man wrapped in a grey blanket. He’d given up asking for money. He just sat. And my heart broke for him. I only had 27 p on me. But I couldn’t walk past and do nothing. As I looked into his eyes and touched his dirt-grimed fingers, I saw someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s grandson.

My God has a big heart for the poor. Jesus was adored by the homeless people and sex workers of His day. May God break my heart with what breaks His until His streams of living water flow out through me and make a difference.

Gather

Rethinkchurch has suggested a photo challenge for each day of Lent, using set words as prompts. Some of my Facebook friends and I thought it would be fun to adapt this and use the word prompts to write reflective posts. The first word prompt is GATHER.

Last summer, my friend Elizabeth and I planned a holiday together. We were excited at the prospect of having a few days without home and work commitments to talk non-stop, chill out and pray. The times we share with God are vibrant and thrilling, and we were giddy at the prospect of unhurried time with Him.

We thought we had planned that holiday and we were the ones inviting Jesus to join us.

Right.

Think again.

Sea ThistlesAlmost before we’d finished breakfast on the first morning, the presence of God fell in the room and we had to race to the loo so as to be ready for whatever He wanted to do. We realised that Jesus was the one who’d planned that holiday and He was the One inviting us to join Him.

When Jesus died, He did so willingly because of the joyful outcome He was anticipating. He is a God who gathers people to Himself and makes us His friends. A tiny part of that joy He was looking forward to was being able to invite Elizabeth and me to gather to Him for a few days in a chalet on the Norfolk coast.

 

The Lord builds up and raises us high above our status;
He gathers the outcasts –
the ones picked last for netball and hockey,
the lonely and invisible,
those addicted to social media or alcohol or drugs,
the prostitutes and trafficked,
the pimps, brothel-owners and traffickers –
Daddy God heals the broken-hearted
and bandages their wounds.
He calls us by name and brings the outcasts into His family.

My adaptation based on Psalm 147:2-6

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