International Ministries

Lost Boy Ayumi (Part 1)

September 5, 2010 Journal
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Dear Friends,

I invite you to read the following journal about a 14-year-old boy transvestite we have been trying to help the last few months. I share this story with you because it is an honest reflection of the challenges in finding help for people who fall between the cracks of both government and non-profit organizations. I invite you to share in this journey with us and to pray for Ayumi as well as the many others who struggle like him to find a place of belonging, shelter, and love.

Mystery Boy Dancer

  "Ayumi,"a 14 year old boy, was dancing on the street in a skimpy girl's dress, when we met him. His face was masked behind heavy make-up, making him look like a Geisha. "Child, what are you doing?" I asked. He stopped dancing, "I don't want to do this but I need food." I glanced around. We were right outside an open beer bar. Men were sitting with bar girls, drinking beer. No one seemed concerned. "What's your name?" I asked. "Ayumi," he answered. "That's not a Thai name. Do you have a Japanese father?" I asked. "Where's your mother?" "Is she Thai?" "She's Korean," he answered, and was vague about her whereabouts. "Do men bother you?" I asked him. Ayumi had some choice words in response and showed us the fresh bruise on his face. We bought him some food and chatted a bit longer. The image haunted us.
After the month of violent protests ended, we went back to the bars for outreach. When it started to rain, however, we ended the outreach early. Heading home, I glanced across the street and saw a familiar figure; there was Ayumi, dancing. I ran to him, "Ayumi, what are you doing back here?" "It's raining and I have no place to sleep," Ayumi said somberly. I realized with horror that he was very vulnerable at that moment. I couldn't walk away. I glanced at the volunteers and they nodded, so I asked him, "Would you like a safe place to sleep tonight?" Ayumi clapped his hands and jumped up and down. At the center he began to jump on the cushions. He saw the guitar and started plucking and singing the Korean hit song, "Nobody, nobody but you." We tried to get him to eat but he was too excited. He jumped up and hugged us one by one. We gave him a children cartoon Bible and he began to read aloud, page after page. He was a mystery. We didn't know where to even begin finding help but at least he was safe for the night.
Ayumi's intelligence was evident. He had an incredible memory and made a note of everyone's name. He was able to read English and Thai fluently but the only Korean or Japanese he knew was what he mimicked from Korean girl bands. He was evasive about his family. As the days passed, we began to get glimpses of the severe abuse he had been through. In sudden unguarded moments he would let out a rush of graphic information. Once he began to act out the poses he had done for a photo shoot. He knew too much. Ayumi has a vivid imagination and we learned not everything he says is true, but the details of his abuse at the hands of men, was too real to ignore.

Desperate Search for Assistance

Our frustration grew with each day that passed, as organization after organization turned us down. Shelters for abused children were full or refused to accept a young transvestite. He could not stay with boys or he risked further abuse. They couldn't put him with girls for fear that he might abuse. We knew by law we could not send him out of Bangkok. We couldn't keep him in the red light area, but neither could we put him out on the street. We were very discouraged and losing hope. Keeping him entertained and occupied so he would not take off down the street was becoming a challenge. He began to have mood swings; one minute he was happily play-feeding a stuffed bear and the next minute strangling it and throwing it to the ground. When asked, "Ayumi, how does the bear feel now?" he answered, "He feels bad." He picked the bear back up and cuddled it in his arms. He was only acting out what he had experienced. The bear rarely left his arms during his stay with us.
A couple days later, our team was weary. We had not expected it to be so consuming. I encouraged the team to have appropriate boundaries and organize shifts so that none of them would burn out. I was feeling pressure to find a place but coming up with nothing. How easy it is to come starry-eyed, ready to save the world, "God, I want to rescue the children and women. Use me God!" We are not prepared, however for the full time responsibility and the challenges that come once the exciting rescue is over. Desperately, I accepted a board member's offer. She knew someone who might be able to help. "Give her a try," I said with doubt. The woman, she told me helped write the laws for child protection and anti-trafficking in Thailand. I reached out for the last straw.

(To be continued...)

Thank you for your prayers and support for Ayumi (not his real name) and for all who seek to help him.

Annie Dieselberg
NightLight CEO