You’re The One We’re Looking For

Friends

“You’re the One We’re Looking For”

In the red-light district a block from our ministry center, there are 500 beds.  As we do every Christmas, we enter each of the fourteen brothels there donning Santa Claus hats and proclaiming the gospel through Christmas carols. The administrators were, as always, remarkably accepting; some even genuinely enjoying the cheerful invasion.
One administrator in particular pulled us aside and told our staff, “I’ve got a girl who’s not doing well. Think she’s about to die.”  We weren’t able to meet the woman then, but we promised to return to check on her.  Two days later, I returned to the brothel with our social worker in search of this mystery woman to see how we could support her.  We arrived before sundown, and waited inside for the women to arrive for the evening shift.  A friend of ours entered, and we asked her if she maybe knew anything about a woman working in this same brothel doing so poorly.  She was puzzled; she couldn’t think of any woman like that there. Our social worker gave her the physical description we had received from the administrator, but as she spoke, she began to arrive at a sinking realization: the woman we were seeking was none other than the woman in front of her, our good friend.

The unexpected turn of events left my stomach turned over.  On my way home, I wondered at the purpose of the encounter, and could only conclude that our friend Julia* needed to hear the truth: she will indeed die soon, that is if she doesn’t find help for her alcoholism, protect herself from her abusive ex-partner, and discover her own worth enough to find a steady home.

But the purpose of this bizarre encounter was perhaps also so I would be reminded of the truth: intensive, long-term intervention with these women is worth it.  We could provide a single service: just skills training, or just Bible studies, or just medical attention – and there are certainly groups called to do such specialized work.  But as an orphan and a long-term victim of violence, Julia needs and deserves something holistic, something relational.  She needs somewhere to hole up and read her Bible while she hides from her armed ex-partner, she needs someone to confront her when she drops out rehab, she needs some place where she can feel useful and wash dishes after a tea time for new women.

The longer I am in this work, the more I appreciate Jesus’ example: while he seemed to have little patience with those who had it all together, he was known as a friend of sinners. He announced a new Kingdom open to anyone who didn’t believe that they deserved to be there, an invitation to those on the fringes.  In this Kingdom, Julia is cleansed of every sin: her own and those committed against her.  And it is our honor to introduce her to this Kingdom, through persistent love, even when she’s not doing well.

*Her name changed for her privacy and protection.

 

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