Our schedules finally matched up. I had the chance to sit down with Djae and catch up on life after a good few months. It was completely compelling to see what God’s been up to in our lives. Before even getting into his story, I was so encouraged by his wisdom and how tuned his heart is to the direction God has for his life. I was in a place of confusion: wanting to leave the country, maybe wanting to start a new job, wanting to do a lot more with photography besides weddings. Want, want, want, but not really any strong tugs. He told me about the times where it was clear that he had to be called out of certain places to make room to grow elsewhere. In the recent years, he left his hometown, old church, relationships, and reminded me that all of us are in transition and have to be attentive to where we are called and obey that call.
For a while now, I’ve had this list of people who’s stories I’ve been wanting to delve deeper into, whether they are artists, entrepreneurs, or small-business owners doing great things. Djae was on that list and I got to learn so much about what his long-term goals are and what he’s doing right now in order to execute them. First of all, his photography is unparalleled. It’s amazing. His consistency with colors will make you appreciate how much time and care goes into it. He tells a story so easily with a simple expression or angle. He also has fun and has an eye for landscapes. In conjunction with a magazine that shares stories related to the mission field, he recently took a trip to Thailand in order to document the life of a missionary who is working on training rangers in the forests of Burma next door. The rangers strive to provide care to the villages affected by war zones. “The Free Burma Rangers (FBR) is a multi-ethnic humanitarian service movement. They bring help, hope and love to people in the war zones of Burma. Ethnic pro-democracy groups send teams to FBR to be trained, supplied and sent into the areas under attack to provide emergency medical care, shelter, food, clothing and human rights documentation. The teams also operate a communication and information network inside Burma that provides real time information from areas under attack.” Djae told me that this missionary told him, “the next time you come, you will have to be ready to train with us and run through the forests for miles.” Good luck man, let me know how that works out. On this adventure, he also got a first-hand opportunity to experience the gut-wrenching reality of sex-trafficking in what is considered the world’s sex tourism capitol, Soi 6. Maybe you’re like me. Familiar with these stories. However, I’ve always heard about human-trafficking and red-light districts, but having never been able to grasp that reality first-hand, the story he told me came to life and I realized how numb I was to the gravity of that truth. How women and lady boys will throw themselves at tourists and mostly any man. How there are menus where you can go into a cafe and “order what you want.” Djae even showed an iPhone photo of the street. It was filled with vendors, people casually cooking food, tourists walking around with their families so blind to the reality of the abuse going on. The photo looked like a Mardi Gras celebration in the middle of the street.
Djae shared that one of his friends that works in Thailand long-term has a goal to rescue girls out of trafficking by giving them jobs at a hair salon. She teaches and trains them and gives them work so that they are able to use that money to get an education or provide for their family. One girl in particular that they met with at a bar every night told them that her parents sold her into slavery when she was young and that she isn’t happy there: she wanted to get out, wanted a better life, yet it was impossible to just get up and leave.
It was heartbreaking hearing that a lot of those being trafficked feel very safe and cared for with their bosses. Some of these pimps genuinely believe in their whole heart that they are doing a service to these girls and taking care of them. Another very dark aspect is how many tourists come to this part of the world to do what they do and use the money they have for exploitation and have no shame. It’s a truly clear example of how broken this world is and how we have to do our part.
Nonetheless, it was a lot to unpack. Now the question being asked here is the same that Djae asked himself on the streets of Pattaya. “God, what do we do? So I’ll leave it at this for now. Why do you do what you are doing? At the end of it all, will it matter? To quote Djae, “Time can be cruel to those that think they can waste it.”