"We are asked to carry light, to hold the hand of one of His beloved, to tell her she is remembered."
I went to the red-light district with Sarah and Beth for the first time Tuesday night. I don't quite know what to say. I think the first thing that struck me was how "normal" life appears in the midst of a trade that violates thousands of girls each day. Men selling fruit. Corner stores with soda. Children running from house to house. A neighborhood. Yet reality quickly returned with the sight of the girls--two rows lining each side of the street. Beautiful women. Old. Young. Some in saris, some in tight Western clothing. I am amazed by the human endurance for horrific siuations. In the first brothel we stepped into, I looked at these young girls--16 or 17 years old but who told me they were 25--and wondered, "How do you live? How are you still alive?"
Beauty hides in unexpected places. In rooms where bodies are sold for sex. In hovels where men sustain their lust with the price of young girls' dignity and wholeness.
Sonny, our resident Greek expert, says that the word compassion is the marriage of two roots: suffer and with. I struggle with this thought: is visiting these girls enough? Is it enough joining in of suffering to sit in that room, on that bed, and drink a small cup of tea? Easy for me. A brief reprieve for her. But I get to leave and she does not. It is easy to impose my reality onto her. For me, this is a chance to chat, a few minutes of building friendship, a tea break. For her, this is one spot of distraction from the ongoing flames of hell.
I have the small chance now to remember these girls on Tuesday nights, for a few hours. To love them. To honor them. To let them know with as much as a smile and my broken Bangla can offer that they are worth abundantly more than the label of "whore" that the world has slapped on them.
But, Jesus, He remembers them always. Jesus, a man of no reputation, a man who chose to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. When the earth wears out like a garment (and it will), all threadbare and stretched to its limits, He will endure. He stays with them through all the pain, and He will outlast all the pain.
"And He does. He remembers her. He comes for her, to her, into the darkest of nights, into her darkest of rooms. He stands with her there and holds her hand."
-Heather Coaster, WMF staff working in the brothels of El Alto, Bolivia