3: The Light in Darkness
It can be easy to see only the broken here: whether it’s in the form of decayed buildings, strewn trash, impoverished people, or women being used as commodities.
This evening we saw all of the above as we were taken on a tour of the city, driven by brothels where young women were sitting out front, waiting to be purchased. There are twenty one brothels just in the near vicinity of the Safe House. But rather than close their eyes to the women who have been forced into prostitution, Leik and Irene (the leaders at the Safe House) reach out to them with love, caring, and understanding. They reach out as sisters who are aware of the struggle and compassion for the difficulty the women endure physically, mentally, and emotionally. We were privileged to have been able to witness it firsthand.
The entire month of October is Thanksgiving here and as a way to reach out to the young women in the spirit of the holiday, Leik and Irene bring bags of treats (fruit, toiletries) to some of the women they’ve been reaching out to as a way to stay connected to them and let them know that they’re not forgotten, so we set out with them to do so. Some of us were in the back of a truck, others in the back of a tuk tuk but afterwards, when we all came back together to talk about it, we found that we had similar thoughts and feelings about the experience.
Several of us were hesitant to go into the brothel at the first stop because we didn’t want such a large group to surround the women, as if they were an exhibit at a gallery. But after further coaxing we acquiesced at the second stop. On one hand the concern was realized: It did in fact feel like we were surrounding and watching them. But in addition to that one downside, we were able to see how pleased they were to have the visit. It was proof that they are remembered, that they are loved, and that there are people who want to help them. Sarah was able to pray with one of the women she knew from the past and it was truly powerful.
There’s a lot of darkness here. It’s palpable. It sometimes feels oppressive and can be overwhelming when you see the truly vast reach of the problem. But there’s an amazing light here, too. It’s piercing the darkness. Jesus is here. Jesus is moving here. He’s using the Safe House and the people it touches both as a church and as a place of sanctuary. He uses us when we’re here to show his love. He’s here.