Monday, December 17, 2012

Sex Tourist For Coffee and What You Can Do

[Parents, this covers a sensitive topic. Use discretion when sharing with your children.]
A bar on Pedro Clisante for sex tourists.
Pic from GoMAD Ministries.

Rookie Missionary Move #1: Inviting strange men to coffee who are traveling to a sex tourist destination.

Rookie Missionary Move #2: Realizing what you did, acknowledging the potential for awkwardness, and going fully forward to engage the conversation anyway.

I am still unsure if these rookie missionary moves were mistakes or not. That remains to be seen.

The motivation for this blind coffee date was a) that I was suddenly curious about what goes through the mind of someone who travels at great expenses and causes such immeasurable harm, and b) how they react when they realize that we work in the ministry trying to repair the damage they cause.

Mind you, I did not create this moment.

$25 RD pesos to anywhere in Sosua.
It was quite serendipity that Marissa and I took one of the public buses, the gua-guas, at the hour we did. And that, on instinct, I closed the door, causing all of the Dominicans to laugh at my gringo move. Which opened the bus-ride conversation with the two blancos.

They were obviously American. The main gentleman had traveled extensively, several times to the Dominican Republic. Regardless, his knowledge of the Spanish language or appreciation for the culture were somewhat lacking.

He was nice enough. We jumped off the gua-gua at a coffee company in town and chatted on the way to the counter.

What tipped me off that he and his quiet-yet-amiable traveling companion were sex tourists was when we introduced each other. “Hi, I am John*. This is my friend, Steve*.” (*Not their real names.)

“Hi, I am Grant and this is my wife, Marissa.”

(Without missing a beat,) “Wow. Its not often someone would bring their wife down here,” said John quite boldly.

People will tell you what their own motive is by projecting their motive onto you. 
This is what John did.

In the moment, my mind asked:
‘Why wouldn’t someone bring their wife down here? It’s gorgeous. There is so much to see.There is so much good people can do. You could help the poor with sustainable housing. You could help with the sex touri...ah. 
Now I get it. HE wouldn’t bring HIS wife down, not because what people do, but because what HE does.’
Cabarete Coffee Company, a locally grown,
organic coffee shop off the choked main road.
It partners with the Mariposa Foundation.
“So,” I blurt. “We will be having coffee on the patio. Please join us!” [Internal glare from Marissa.]

Somehow we managed small talk for a while. I was wondering how to bridge the conversation toward why John and his quiet friend, Steve, would involve themselves in sex tourism when John offered it up quite blatantly.

“Well, I am sure you can guess why we are here.” 

He looked at his stoic friend, Steve, for someone to back him up, to tease about the topic, or chuckle as chums about it. Steve looked back at him with empty eyes.

John accepting the implied need for privacy, added, “well, you could guess what I am here for at least.” He looked down at his breakfast seeming to feel suddenly exposed.

I let the moment pass without saying anything, smiling and waiting for the explanation.

He went on to explain and unload his desire to find a companion, his continued disappointment to be able to build “lasting, trusting” relationships (the longest time he had spent with one of the local girls was 3 days), and how (give me some room here) he felt victimized by several of the girls who had stolen from him or asked for more money.

These are quite difficult things to hear. Let’s be honest. We all know the paradigm we generally have as a culture regarding the sex tourist trade.

Women are victims. Men are predators.
Women the oppressed good. Men the oppressive bad.

Yet, listening to this John, I began to see the depth of complexities and structured violence transpiring between all of the Johns and all of the prostitutes.

During our coffee, we shared that we were missionaries, that we worked with a group that serves to help women out of the sex tourism trade (GoMAD Ministries), and that we felt that many of these women were trapped in their situations.

John offered that he was not like the "normal" sex tourists. 

He took the woman’s children out shopping. He cared about building trust with the women; this he proved by sharing with us that some nights after they were quite intimate he would offer to simply sit together instead of having sex.

A sex tourist in Boca Chica.
Pic from
His biggest reason for “looking for companions” abroad was his age. “I am 58,” he complained. “They type of women who I can date in the States are all too old to have kids. I wanted kids with my last wife, but she didn’t want anyway. Now that we are not together, I still want kids. But who in the States could I be with?”

So, he searched abroad for a younger companion who he could possibly be with who could bring him children. He was just caught in a loop, he suggested, where he had trust issues between him and the women he, well, frankly, bought nightly.

We continued to try to bring the conversation around, positively, to the fact that it would be very nearly impossible to build trust in 3 days. I shared stories about building trust with our ministry in Haiti which took years. I suggested moving to the island, being involved in the community, serving and building relationships with people, and seeking a companion that way.

However, we never came to any reconciliation. He never recoiled at our work in ministry; quite the opposite. He got more transparent. It was not rebellion as much as confession.

But the words that Chantz and Renee Cutts shared about the ex-prostitutes they worked with resonated with me throughout: you cannot judge or condemn them. You can only love them into the right way and serve them.

Somehow we passed the entire time with even-headed talks, without anger or frustration and parted amiably enough considering the divergence in ideologies.

I figured that, even though we demonize the Johns (and Janes) that make the sex tourism trade possible, they need to be reached as well.


We were riding with Chantz Cutts as he drove us down Pedro Clisante, the well-known road that was home to the majority of the bars which target sex tourists and prostitutes.

He pointed out one bar owned the leader of the Hell’s Angels was opening a bar with rooms on the premises. We drove by another bar where they were opening a live strip show and, since there were no walls on this bar, it was effectively a public strip show.

He stopped in front of one hotel. “Look inside. Just above the check in desk. Do you see that wall plaque that looks like shoulder badges?” he quizzed us.

“Sure,” I said.

“Those are badges of American police officers, fire fighters, government workers, and all sorts of officials who have bought sex here. It is appalling to know that we are contributing to this that much. It is much more appalling to know that the American’s are bold enough to allow it.” He said.

I just took it in my stoic way, wanting to joke away the heavy reality but not wanting to be cavalier about the plight of the locals trapped in the trade.
Women also travel as sex tourists.
They hook up with men called 'sankies',

Throughout the night he unraveled the different “degrees” of the sex trade. Girls start at age 12 - 14. Boys and men are involved, called sankies. There is a dynamic with “reputable” pornography companies to transition men from watching porn to attending sex tourist events. There are dynamics of locals selling each other because of medical treatment bills or market debts they cannot pay.

Chantz and Renee have committed their lives, their families, their futures, to making a difference here. They have a home to receive women who want to escape the sex trade, a girls group to help the girls before they enter prostitution, an community building.

Chantz & Renee's awesome family.
They are doing a huge work here. And, as Marissa and I realize how much MORE needs to be done, we are considering diving in and helping their ministry that already has so much momentum.

But there is something that we are already doing.

We are in the process of developing 'The Top 100 Dream Igniter' goal-setting system. We wanted to make this available to you to give as a gift for Christmas in preparation for the goal-setting New Year. We may miss the opportunity for you to give this as a gift for Christmas; life on the field, Dengue Fever and lack of solid internet have challenged our ability to deliver it on time.

But Chantz and I have agreed to also develop a Spanish version for the women in their transition house (called Oasis) and for future ex-prostitutes developing a vision for their life.

Every copy sold will help us to deliver a Spanish version to women attempting to escape the prostitution cycle. Let us know if you are interested in being notified when we launch the 'The Top 100'.

Though the Dream Igniter is still being completed, you can make a difference in helping bring prostitutes out of the sex tourism trade and prevent young girls from being sucked in.

GO MAD! Go Make A Difference in a young girls life this year.

If you want to be notified of when 'The Top 100 Dream Igniter' is ready, fill out the information below.

If you just can't wait to help, you can Pre-Order the Dream Igniter by clicking the Buy Now button in the sidebar.


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