Eleven months ago, Cara moved her life across the world.
After graduating with a degree in Hospitality Business Management, she accepted a job as the manager of the cafe connected to Dton Naam, a ministry in Bangkok. She left everyone she had ever met and came to a country she had never been to. The contrast between college life in Pullman and her new life working with former prostitutes in Bangkok was indescribably different.
The variations between a small town compared to a metropolitan city, western society compared to Asian society, Christian culture compared to Buddhist culture, and English compared to Thai barely scratch the surface of the drastic changes Cara has faced over the past year.
Despite the challenging transition to life in Bangkok, Cara has been able to experience God’s power over the city she now resides in.
Bangkok is notoriously one of the darkest cities to serve in, and can feel oppressive and discouraging for missionaries. However, God shines so much brighter in a city plagued by darkness.
In a Buddhist society focused on finding peace within oneself, resulting in numbing oneself to the needs of other people, Cara has gotten to see just how much light Thai Christians bring to such a dark place, severely contrasting those around them. Cara has glimpsed God’s heart for the city and His desire that the people of Bangkok would begin to see and care for the people around them. Cara has also experienced unity in the Spirit in a new way. Despite the vast array of Christian denominations, the Christians of Bangkok put differences aside and focus on what is important: bringing glory to God.
Through her job, Cara has seen the power God has to transform lives. Dton Naam serves ladyboys and men working in the red light districts, allowing them opportunities to leave the bars and receive training for legitimate jobs, along with caring for their physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
The ministry is able to provide job training to students by allowing them practical experience working in the cafe run by the ministry, empowering and enabling the students to get legitimate jobs in the future. On paper, Cara’s job involves overseeing employees, training staff, planning events, and doing marketing and accounting for the cafe. However, her true role lies in her unique position of spending hours of one-on-one time with these employees, allowing her to build relationships with each of them and learn their stories in a casual and friendly way.
These relationships are not always easy. Knowing how to balance being a boss and a friend requires a great deal of discernment. Working with the boys can be frustrating and demands a lot of patience. However, these relationships have taught Cara a lot about the lifelong difficulty of loving people like Jesus loved people.
She gets to ride the rollercoaster of loving people who don’t feel they are worthy of being loved and often don’t love themselves or her, showing them an unconditional love they have never before experienced. Despite the challenges, Cara has been able to build unique, beautiful relationships with each of the employees, who have in turn shown Cara the heart of Jesus in so many ways.
There is a lot of joy in the work that Cara gets to do, but the last eleven months have contained an abundance of darkness and tribulation as well.
Working in the cafe is often emotionally and spiritually exhausting. Cara’s faith has been challenged unlike ever before, leading to a lot of doubt over whether God was there, whether He was good, and whether He cared about anything she wanted.
Cara pushed God away, but the more she pushed the more she realized that her soul is actually bound to the Spirit, and the more she could see that He actually is who He says He is. Although she was shoved down by doubt and insecurity, she also experienced immense peace.
She knew that at the end of all her doubt her Savior would be there, graciously allowing her room to figure out what she actually believes and who He actually is.
One of the funny things about God is that sometimes the more we run away, the closer we feel. Through all of this darkness, she has been given the gift of defining her own faith, resulting in a faith that was far more real than it had been before. She realized she wasn’t in charge of carrying other people’s faith, not her mom’s, not Resonate, and not America’s - only her own. Through this, she has been able to truly experience God for who He is and the freedom He allows.
Cara is uniquely able to fulfill the calling God has given her. Whether ministry is overseas or in the States, whether it’s your occupation or you do it within your workplace, life is hard and following God is hard. God has asked Cara to do something uncomfortable, scary, and exciting. But that is no different than what He has asked every one of us to do. However, the sacrifices Cara has made are insignificant compared to the glory God receives from her service.
Cara’s story of her journey in Thailand is beautiful and certainly part of God’s redemption of the city of Bangkok, but it is no more important than anyone else’s story. Cara was open to what it actually meant to give God her life, and He chose to let her be part of His story in Bangkok. Ultimately though, all “people are people who need Jesus.” Cara’s call to the people of Resonate, the people of America, and the people of the world is simply this: “Be open and true to the story God is writing for you.” Even when she struggles through life in Bangkok or her work seems fruitless, there is nothing that gives Cara more joy than glorifying God by following Him wherever He leads and loving anyone He puts in her path.