Nearly 15 years ago, WMF Bolivia began renting a building in the red-light district of El Alto. It was our dream to offer hospitality to women caught in the sex trade. Our relationships in the brothels had reached a plateau, mostly because of the environment and the quantity of men on the streets. Soon a friend from the streets suggested Casa de Esperanza (House of Hope) as a name for our drop-in center.
Four years later, WMF Bolivia was able to purchase the House of Hope with the support of several friends. For years we didn’t know what was on the ground floor of our building, as it had always been rented out to an auto parts store. We knew the approximate size of the space, but we could only imagine what was inside. Many of us had dreams for the space until we opened that door.
I remember the day vividly. We pried and pushed and eventually made our way in. Before us was a damp, greasy storage room. What was once the focus of our dreams and imagination soon became known as “the dungeon,” a place in desperate need of transformation.
Walking the streets of El Alto and the red-light district has a similar feel. One’s initial reaction to the streets is heavy, a startling slap of oppression and spiritual darkness. The brothels are filled with the profanity of men; their search fueled by lust is blatant, an attack on all of one’s senses.
But after walking into brothels on a weekly basis, we often find ourselves feeling numb—we’ve developed a sort of spiritual coping mechanism. The music, the images, the reality all create defenses within us. The transformation of this place seems like too lofty a dream. So we have learned to ask for spiritual sensitivity to the reality around us, for God’s “eyes to see” and “ears to hear.” Developing God’s eyes and ears are a part of our journey as we minister in Christ’s name. And we’re beginning to recognize that our journey is a process of transformation, and one that must be rooted in submission.
Transformation is the result of repeated submission over time. It welcomes the process of life and not just the end goal. Transformation allows us to walk through fire, to be tested and tried. It is much less something that we do and more a relinquishing of that which was undoubtedly false anyway. Transformation gives us new eyes to see and new ears to hear.
When Christ exhorts His followers to hand over their lives, He is essentially offering them the gift of transformation. He is inviting them to embark on a journey toward something much greater and more beautiful than that which is tangible. Today, we, too, are invited into this same process. But we are slow to submit to this process of transformation. Caution or our egos often trumps godly wisdom, and there is an apparent clash between our knowing and our doing.
Even as “missionaries,” we WMF staff are not exempt from the process of transformation in our own lives. Many of us started as young idealists ready to change the world for Jesus, and we have found over time that it is our submission to the message we preach that allows us to be transformed as well.
The irony of the Christian story is that Christ offers both love and suffering on the cross. It is a crucified God who gives us the opportunity to submit to and embrace the process of transformation in our own lives. When we move from a fear-based life, which for many is overwhelmed by suffering, to a life of love, we become human. We begin to feel, we begin to see, we begin to live and love.
All of us started this journey looking like a greasy old cellar. But just as our building was transformed into a House of Hope, we can be transformed. As God’s love begins to make its way into our dark hearts, we are given life. When the darkness is overcome by truth and when we submit to transformation, our true self begins to shine. Transformation is God’s continual loving gift over time to His creation. May we find courage to embrace the journey and humility as we offer love to others.
Andy grew up in northern Pennsylvania. Raised in a Christian home, his testimony is one of God’s grace. His parents modeled a relationship with Jesus Christ, and at age six Andy made that decision personally. Also at a young age, he attended mission conferences where God began to open his eyes to the global need for God’s love. Following high school, Andy attended Asbury College where he earned a BA in Psychology and a minor in Christian Ministries. Andy met Andrea at Asbury College, and they married in 1997. In 2001, they moved to El Alto, Bolivia to begin their service among the poor. After researching the area, they decided to focus on women in prostitution, where they found a gaping need. They live in Bolivia with their four sons Elias, Luke, Owen and Asher. Andy Serves with the International Office as Regional Coordinator for South America.
Connect with Andy: firstname.lastname@example.org