You should know by now that I am going on a trip to Colombia in January with 5 other women, to build relationships and encourage women affected by prostitution.
A few weekends ago we had a training in SF. We were dropped off in the “tenderloin” district,for exposure and team training experience, otherwise known as the Red light district, full of violence, homelessness, and substance abuse, and of course prostitution, . We were given the assignment to walk and pray for this area, and be open to having conversations with prostitutes. Not necessarily “preaching the gospel”, but instead being it. Listening, loving, asking questions. Here is an excerpt from my journal entry after that activity.
“The five of us were walking up some street between leavington and ellis. The Tenderloin. Men and women sell their bodies for some more coke, a nice pair of boots, get a little attention.
We saw Delores sitting against a car looking like she was trying to sleep. We asked how she was doing. “Tired.”she replied. Her lips were puffy and scarred, her breasts were sagging down to her stomach, which was bulging from the cancer. Her legs and arms were twitching, from withdrawals or years on the street. We talked. I could barely make out what she was saying. She dodged our gaze. I wondered what was wrong with her eyes. We prayed for her, touching her. How long had it been since someone lovingly touched her, expecting nothing in return. Jenny reminded her how beautiful she is, and was created to be. And the tears just broke loose from my eyes. O God, do you see her? she is a woman. Some people say that a woman’s body is the most beautiful out of all the art in the world. But this body has been beaten down, attacked by cancer, abused by the street. And her soul has cried out so long and hard for you that it has forgotten what its crying for. It accepts anything that promises comfort. She has forgotten that she is beautiful. Or maybe she was never told. Because she is beautiful. worthy.pure.and worth dying for. She lives in this world of deceit, greed, and evil. Never resting. Never feeling safe. She sits here on the urinated sidewalk, as if its her rightful spot to lay down. She never asked us for anything.
We let her be and walked around the block into other encounters. But we found ourselves near her again, as we neared our pickup spot. She was standing this time. We stopped and talked some more. I still couldn’t quite hear what she was saying. But I noticed how her eyes never met ours. I questioned why, some physical condition? not interested in talking to us?
Then they lifted, even as i was wondering. All the sudden she looked each one of us in the eyes and asked our names. and repeated them.
I realized what was wrong. Shame. It was weighting her eyelids down. But somehow we communicated that she was more than that. She didn’t need to feel shame when talking with us. We weren’t going to “save” her, condemn her, use her, or judge her. When she looked at me i saw her humanity, right along with mine. She thanked us for the conversation. Our bus pulled up, and we left.
I am lying here in the hostel bed, unable to release my thoughts into slumber. I can’t stop thinking about how Delores used to be someones little beautiful 2 year old girl, full of energy and life. And now she is here.
Lord, restore her true identity. Take her form this place. Make her know her beauty again.