Often times, the day-to-day of life in ministry can become meetings, budgets, endless reports… I often struggle, especially during the first couple of months of the year when our programs are slower, to remember the real issue at hand. But it has a name. Several, actually. So let’s call it what it is: Exploitation. Slavery. Human trafficking. Manipulation of vulnerability. Injustice.
This past Friday, I joined our outreach social worker and a local volunteer to visit some of the private “clubs” in downtown La Paz, as we often do. But for whatever reason, I needed to be shaken up. I needed to be reminded of the real issue at hand. Because lots of times, brothel and club outreach can be fun, even! I love to greet the women with a smile, to make them laugh, to see how their kids are doing since the last time we talked, and most of the time I almost feel like I’m in my element. But here we are, in the lounge area of a private club I had never been to before, talking casually with our friends, and the doorbell rings. The girls quickly ask us to go into another room and wait for just a moment. We do, but we can just see around the corner that a man, probably a businessman that you would never expect from off the street, comes in and sits on the main lounge couch. All of a sudden, the women we had just been laughing and talking with walk into the lounge again in a single-file line, this time their robes and towels off. The man takes a look at each of the seven women, and within a matter of 15 seconds chooses which one he wants. They go off into the room next to us, and the other six women tell us that we can come back out. I do my best to pitch them our spiel as if all was normal – “In March we’ll be doing jello art! Have you ever seen jello with a flower in it?! And we have a birthday party coming up, too!” But internally I was shaking.
This can never be normal or casual. We have to remember why we’re here, what we’re fighting for. I’m fighting for the 18 year-old I saw that day, smoking a cigarette, her face unmoving with disinterest. I’m fighting for the mom we met whose abusive ex-husband had gotten her kicked out of her last three jobs by manipulating her employers, and who was in her second day on the streets, because she didn’t know where else to go. I’m fighting for Ruth,* who’s working so hard to not return to the brothels, running her own salon and putting forth all of her effort to keep up in psycho-educational groups, even though she never made it past sixth grade and doesn’t know how to read or write.
Worth it. Despite the bad attitude I might have jumping through hoops, writing reports, and pushing budgets; it all seems so small when I remember what God is up to here. Thank you, sincerely, for being part of it.
By: Kara Chambers – WMFB Women’s Program Coordinator.