40 Days–Day 1
Darkness fell over the motel like a heavy blanket. One that threatened to smother instead of comfort.
One that I would wish I could cast off.
We went room-to-room, bags of food in hand and hearts heavy for the souls living in such squalor. Paint peeled off the walls in odd patterns. Ceilings sagged where they had leaked again from the last downpour. King-sized beds were piled with dirty blankets, food wrappers strewn around the room and the smell of rancid carpet rose in the summer heart. The leader knew most of the tenants by name and, judging by their expressions, they were glad to see her. At the sight of her familiar face, relief washed over theirs. Today, they would eat. One-by-one they poured out sad stories of job losses, bills unpaid, husbands drunk and violent, boyfriends who had been sleeping with someone else again.
The stench of poor plumbing hung in the air. Flies darted in and out of the rooms freely.
She always gave them a pat on the arm or squeeze of a hand. And smiles. She never forgot a smile, forced through sadness, knowing their stories and trauma ran deeper than they could convey in the few moments we spent on the stoop of their filthy rooms.
A fifty-inch flat screen hung on some walls. Several glanced compulsively at iPhones as they spoke to her.
I struggled to understand.
She walked ahead of us, the teams having divided by now, and chatted through an open door with a thin and weathered woman who appeared to be exhausted. Calling us over, she explained that the woman was a prostitute and needed us to take her children for the weekend. My mind raced and my heart shattered as four small children emerged from the room and melted in our arms. I held two and another woman held two. They clung to us, sensing we were lifelines, safety. We held and rocked them like babies as our maternal spirits broke. Their mother signed papers granting temporary guardianship to the family who would care for her children over the weekend so she could rest.
Then a man sauntered across the parking lot, money in hand. He smiled a seedy smile and placed a folded wad of cash in the prostitute’s hand. He thanked her and she nodded, casting her eyes downward.
He had no shame, but she did.
And her children. Her babies. I realized they had been there, in the room, likely witnesses to their mother’s “work.” God only knows what they had seen and, honestly, what had been done to them. She was so thin, so unhealthy and clearly addicted. Barely coping. Hopeless.
I was no longer appalled, I was broken. SHE was broken.
What do we do with this?
How can we help her and the millions just like her that suffer all over the United States and the world?
And what about the kids?
Ash Wednesday is a day focused on repentance and prayer. It’s a day where we seek to see things through the lens of our Savior. Today, we can pray to see people like this woman as He sees them.
I don’t know her back story, but I do know she has one. They all do. I can be 99% certain that she, herself, was a victim of sexual abuse. That’s what breaks down the boundaries.
When a child’s natural boundaries are shattered and trauma rewires their brain, they no longer know what is normal. They become at risk for many harmful behaviors, prostitution being just one. Traffickers know this. They prey on it.
No one dreams of being a prostitute when they are a child.Tweet
Despite what Hollywood has depicted in movies like “Pretty Woman,” prostitution is not work, it’s slavery. I grew up with an inaccurate image in my mind of what they do, looking down my nose at the women who walked the street corners downtown. But that night in the motel parking lot I saw a mother: sickly, used, abused, and weary. I saw a woman caught up in darkness that she didn’t know how to escape, a woman whose eyes met mine for a moment and searched for compassion.
So, today I urge you to examine your heart. When you see or read about a woman being arrested for prostitution, what goes through your mind? Judgment? Disgust? Pleasure that she is sitting in jail where she belongs?
Or do you feel compassion? Do you realize she must be in indescribable pain, miserable, sick and addicted?
Would you welcome her to your church or small group?
Do you realize she likely loves her kids and longs for them to be safe?
Do you realize that she probably doesn’t even know what safe feels like any more?
Examine your heart, then pray. Pray for God to bring more people like my friend into the neighborhoods and motels where the trafficking victims live. Pray that the Church will equip it’s people to serve as missionaries in our inner cities. Pray for traffickers to surrender to Jesus. Pray and be willing to be the hands and feet you are asking God to provide, yourself.
Then speak. Be a voice. Share this post and others like it, shining light on a problem that is only growing in intensity.
Because Jesus loves the prostitute, and so should we.Tweet