A spiritual workout from the heart of the red light district
Ashleigh Gibb on how she’s learnt to maintain her spiritual health as she shares God’s love in the bars and brothels of Bangkok’s red light district
They seem contradictory: strong spiritual health and Bangkok’s notorious red light district. But for BMS World Mission worker Ashleigh Gibb, who has been serving there for the last two years, staying spiritually healthy is one of the most important parts of her calling.
Ashleigh works with BMS partner NightLight. She goes into bars and brothels to provide the women working there a safe space where they can share their stories and be themselves. She spends every day with victims of human trafficking. She is surrounded by women who sell their bodies because they have nothing else to sell. Understandably, it takes a toll on her spiritual strength. So Ashleigh takes action to keep her spirit healthy, so she can get through every day serving these women in the best way she can. We asked her to talk us through a spiritual workout, so you can keep your spirit as strong as Ashleigh’s.
Ashleigh Gibb stays physically and mentally strong while working in one of the world's most unloving places.
1. Don’t skip leg day
Your physical and spiritual health are two parts of one whole – make sure you’re working on them both. As personal trainers (like Ashleigh used to be) will often say: “Don’t skip leg day,” meaning: don’t just do the things you find easy or fun. For Ashleigh, discipline has paid off. “God has blessed me with a phenomenal gym,” says Ashleigh. “I’m able to work out physically, but it’s also a good outlet for me to get all that trauma and anger out on a barbell.”
You don’t have to go to the gym as often as Ashleigh does, but why not try out something like Pilates or a fitness class? It’s a great way to strengthen your physical body, as well as keeping your mind focused, so you can spend some time in prayer without distractions.
2. Stick to your exercise routine
It’s easy to say that you’re going to spend more time focusing on your spiritual health, do it for a couple of days, and then forget about it. Ashleigh knows all too well how difficult this can be. “I have to be so intentional about prayer and about being in the Word of God,” she says. “Because if I take myself away from that, then that’s when the enemy starts to feed me lies.”
It might be difficult at first. But if you create a routine and stick to it, you’ll soon find that it becomes a natural part of your daily life. Try to find a regular time when you can work on your spiritual health in whatever way you find helpful.
Ashleigh keeps her spirit healthy, so she can always support the women she meets in Bangkok's red light district.
3. Find a workout buddy
You don’t have to do this alone. Let other people into your life who can encourage you and who can hold you accountable. “I’ve got some spiritual mentors,” says Ashleigh. “They love me, they guide me, and they aren’t scared to ask me difficult questions about where I’m at in my spiritual journey.”
Find someone you trust and who you can rely on as your spiritual mentor. Be open about your spiritual journey with them and encourage them to be open about theirs with you. Hold each other accountable when you make commitments in your spiritual lifestyle and tell each other when you are struggling. It’s easier to do it together.
4. Use your mistakes to bulk up
Ashleigh is open with the women she meets about the struggles she’s had in the past. She tells a story of an African woman she met on the streets of Bangkok, and how shocked she was at how similar their lives were. “We just stood on the street and wept,” says Ashleigh. “In that moment, she needed to be loved. And she needed to know that she was loved by Christ and I was able to offer that to her because I was vulnerable.”
Be open about your mistakes and learn from them. You’ll only hurt yourself more if you keep them shut away and refuse to grow from them. Use them to improve your spiritual strength, and, like Ashleigh, you will be able to help others improve theirs.
Ashleigh couldn’t be where she is today without your prayers. Please continue to pray for her:
Pray that Ashleigh’s spiritual strength continues to grow as she continues working with NightLight and serving the women in Bangkok’s red light district.
Pray for a brothel Ashleigh goes to regularly. It was recently raided and all the women who worked there were put in prison. Pray that these women are treated fairly.
Pray for the Thai Government, that they will be able to crack down on human trafficking while still preserving the dignity of victims.
Pray for victims of human trafficking worldwide, that they will receive justice and be liberated.
This story was originally published on the BMS World Mission website and is used with permission