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Cassie Dodge is from a farm in upstate New York. She graduated from Granville High School in 2008 and had no idea her life was going to take a turn that would see her working with prostitutes in one of Thailand’s red light district.
It was after two years at Gordon College near Boston that Cassie Dodge felt it was God’s will that she should put her life to better use and instead of finishing school she became a social worker. This 23 year old felt that there was so much she could do to help others.
Cassie works with global Christian organization Youth with a Mission that began in 1960 and has 18,000 members that work in 180 countries. The group focuses on evangelism, training and mercy ministry.
Cassie and her group work with thousands of young prostitutes in Bangkok as well as ladyboys. The mission here is to present Christianity as an option to help them escape from their current circumstances.
Only 1% of Thai people are Christian, the rest being Buddhist. Cassie and her team go onto the streets every night and see up to 2,000 prostitutes in over thirty bars, six of which are lady boy bars. Cassie said that because many of her team are American and the prostitutes can speak English they open up and some of the missionaries pay the 600 baht required to buy one of them for the evening and then take them for dinner and a movie and talk about what they are doing and have seen some success in getting them out of the business. One of the success stories saw a girl go back home and become and became in English teacher and another gave up her trade to join the mission.
Friends and family back home are obviously very proud of this young girl on a mission. Beth Moser-Kashner, director at the Pawlet (Vt.) Public Library, gets Dodge’s ministry newsletter and knew Dodge when she was in high school. “She’s made some amazing changes doing her ministry. She has had an exciting life,” Moser-Kashner said. “She’s fully developed her Christianity. She radiates, and I think that’s because of her faith.” Dan Poucher, assistant principal at Granville High School, knew Dodge as an elementary school and high school student. “I have the utmost respect for her,” he said. “She is a great young lady who is doing work that is needed. She’s doing the right thing.” Bill Blatz, who is on the board of directors of Youth with a Mission in Charlotte and helps run its East Coast trainings, has watched Dodge work for three years. “She has real heart for the work she is doing with the trafficking trade over there,” he said. “She’s the perfect example of what it’s like to get involved. It’s been interesting to watch her go back and forth and develop her vision.”
Todd Hedgepeth, director of the youth mission group in Charlotte, said much the same thing. “She’s the real deal. She’s as good as it gets,” he said of Dodge. “It’s a privilege to be part of what she is doing.”
Dodge said she became a Christian when she was 17, after attending Granville Assembly of God Church with a friend. While she was at Gordon, she roomed with another woman who was involved with the youth missionary group. “We went to Guatemala for 10 days, and my heart started being drawn to that work,” Dodge said. “It was a real breakthrough for me. I said, ‘Wow, there are people who need help.’” When Dodge told her family she planned to leave school after two years and go on missions, they reacted with surprise, she said. “They were really surprised. I have great, incredible parents. The most important thing to them is that I am happy,” she said.
Her work has taken her to Thailand and for two months to India, where she worked in an AIDS orphanage. At the end of October, Dodge will go to Charlotte, N.C., where her youth missionary group is based, for further training.vShe will return to Granville and stay through Christmas, then return for at least six months in Thailand.v“I have a longing to be in Thailand. The people need hope, and they need to be loved.” Dodge’s mission also works with students in the Bangkok slums. “There are at-risk children there. Children who could wind up as prostitutes, and we are there to help them,” she said. When she first arrived in Thailand, Dodge was unsure about the whole trip. “For my whole life, I always had this kind of fear of the Asian culture, and when I found out I was going to Thailand, I prayed and asked God why they were sending me there,” she said. “I got there that first day, and I just felt that it was where I was supposed to be. Until that moment, I had never felt a calling to be somewhere.”
While she is home, Dodge is hoping she will have a chance to speak at churches, youth organizations and to other volunteer groups. “I just want to share my story and ignite passion,” she said. Dodge was the director of summer recreation in Granville at one time and is now summer working at Hicks Orchards. “I know I was not born to live the American Dream,” she said. “I can’t see myself not doing ministry.”