Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Catching Coins

 There are a group of people in Bangkok known as "beggars." They are the people who sit by the BTS stations and in the alleys with cups held out, asking people to drop a few coins. In America, we have beggars too. I have sympathy for them and the people who minister to them, but this is NOT the beggar we see in Thailand, so go ahead and scrub away that image from your mind.

In bangkok, beggars are slaves. They are owned by the mob or other shady organizations who take every cent of their earnings. They are the most shockingly disabled, mangled, abused, and beaten people, paraded into town to make a profit. One grandmother sits with her grandson on the corner of our BTS stop. In the past year, I've seen him grow from a baby into a toddler, sitting every day for hours in the hot son, in the nasty street. I've seen a blind young girl, probably 16, who sits in front of my grocery store singing the most beautiful songs with her cup held out. There is a man with no legs, whose "owners" lay him face down in the rain. Day after day in rainy season, he lays in the mud -- wearing the same rags, laying in his own filth, catching coins from pedestrians. There is a lady who seems to have had acid poured all over her. One woman with no arms and no legs is dropped off with a jar placed in front of her. These people are worse off than the dogs that walk the soi streets.

When we first moved to Bangkok, I was horrified by this spectacle of humans in front of me. I cried more than once -- especially when children were involved. I dropped coins into their jars. Then I learned what was really going on. These beggar slaves make their owners thousands of baht an hour. One day of begging makes them a fortune. Every coin dropped in the cup of a beggar lines the pockets of very evil men and encourages the industry. The more shocking the deformity, the more money they make. They play on the emotions of people, like myself, who think that dropping a few coins can help someone less fortunate. They also prey on the Thai belief in karma, that dropping coins in a poor man's jar means something good will happen to them in return. Not once cent goes to the needy person. It's a giant scam.

So I stopped dropping coins and started to give them water. Then a friend gently told me that many beggars are beaten if they get food and water instead of coins, so I stopped giving water. I pass these people every day and I literally dont know what to do. Their eyes are lifeless, they are like animals. I feel helpless.

There is one blind woman who holds a microphone and sings by our BTS. Josiah loves her. Every time he passes her, he stops and dances to her music. The people around us laugh, but the lady never sees him. She doesn't know that her singing brought joy to a child.

It's such a broken system. There are no government institutions for the poor. And there is no one preventing the exploitation of these people. Everything that happens to these people is legal. And if it wasn't, whose going to stand up for them anyway?

One day I was walking home with josiah and I passed the man laying down in the rain and I just make a silent, deliberate prayer to The Lord. "Lord, I see him. I am not passing by unaware. I see this man. I see his misery, and I just don't know what to do." From that day, I sort of made the decision that I would see these people. I really don't know what to do for them, but I will see them. I won't be just another one of the hundreds who pass by and forget. I have learned that there are churches and Christians who have ministries to help these people. I'm not sure how those ministries are going, but I pray for them too. These people are not animals to The Lord. He made them and they have value. I believe jesus saw people. He had compassion. He saw worth in the garbage other people had tossed aside.

Another thing these people have taught me is the depravity of my own desire for luxury. I whine and complain every day about something stupid. I cry about my rich man problems. I have the audacity to say that I had a bad day. Why does God not strike me dead?

Even if I have no earthly clue what do to for them, I will see them. Because one day a long time ago, God saw me. He saw me ugly, miserable, covered in the filth of my sin and "catching coins" for my slave master. He saw me and he rescued me. Lord, please give me eyes to see the people in front of me, from the rich lady at the mall to the teenager on the BTS to the old lady begging in the street. Let me see them because you first saw me.


  1. Jen, I'm moved by every word you share with your readers. God speaks loudly to me through you. Thanks for sharing the stories of these people. Though we don't know their plight here, I'll pray for those with whom you come into contact as well as for those people here in the US that I've never really seen before. Blessings to you, friend, for opening my eyes.

  2. Thank you so much Stacey. Those prayers are so powerful. Praying for your ministry in the US as well. God is so big and able to help us see. :)

  3. This is the best article...thank you for writing it. I needed to hear this, especially on this Monday morning where all I seem to do is complain and whine. I am ashamed of how I act and I ask myself the same question you did, "why does God put up with me?" I"m so thankful He does. Praying for you and your ministry.