She was 28 years old. Stabbed multiple times all over. Died alone.
Never once has the pain of ministry hit home as much as it did yesterday.
This weekend we lost a dear sister. Her life was snuffed out by a nameless man in the confines of a room that she worked and slept. Reading her name on the screen of my phone in a news article and knowing who she was took the wind out of me. This woman that was just a fact in a news story was a sister and dear friend.
She was well known where she worked. All the women we spoke to described her as friendly, outgoing, caring and a smart woman. She helped women plan their finances so they could build homes and even purchased her own car. She was industrious and saw a life outside of the streets. This work was just a necessary means to an end.
She had just asked for us to come visit two weeks ago. Pursued was making plans to get her son gifts for Christmas. Her voice echoes in my mind, “You can come man, just keep on your mask and stand off and pray.” She relayed how the women we serve were asking how we hadn’t been out to pray for them. I remember thinking on it and telling my team but making no real plans to go out. I didn’t want to force anyone to endanger themselves and I knew I couldn’t go out on my own. So I didn’t.
Last night all of that didn’t matter. With a pounding headache and tiny cohort we went. With these few members hugs, and tears flowed freely as we joined in the mourning not as elite bystanders but as fellow human beings united by a common experience. All the fears and logistics that kept us away, melting in the face of real terror, grief, guilt and loss.
Isn’t that what Christ did? He came down in the sickness of our sin and the pain of our sufferings, and joined into our reality and touched us. He mourned with Mary and Martha, he held contagious lepers, ate with tax collectors and looked into the eyes of prostitutes. He turns to us as believers saying, “do the same.” Because whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done for Him.
REAL LIFE REAL PAIN
As we sat, stooped and stood the ever present reality of their pain yet again became evident. I was sitting on the curb as a her close friend cried and shared her pain. Her face showing signs of being far away while replaying the events of the night. Up walked a gentleman, standing right at my side. She looked up excused herself and went to work. I thought about her having to let a man lay on her, touch on her, be intimate with her, use her body for his pleasure with no regard for how she was grieving.
This is their life.
I remembered texting to ask one of our ladies if she was working that night. Her matter of fact statement bolted me to the floor. She told me she was terrified but that she must work, she had to feed her kids. Do you hear that? Do you see what is reality for our sisters?
Have you ever driven down a street and tried to quickly turn your eyes away? Have you laughed and planned a strip club night for your bachelor party? Have you clicked on that porn site to experience self pleasure from a video? Have you seen them as other?
Have you considered that as they stand there on the road, or slide across the stage or perform in a video they had to find a babysitter for their child that night, drug themselves, and compartmentalize their pain so their clients could have a good time? I just want you to consider.
The Work of the Cross
I considered. I not only considered I took again another look at the work of the cross. I wanted so badly for our sisters to see that. I wanted all of the sisters to get it. I wanted to be like “LOOK its this. this is what you need. Jesus is what you need. Please get it.
As this sister walked away I turned and inhaled the potent weed, engulfed in the sad music that blared from the speakers across the street at a vendors stall, and in the dim light of the candles that lined the sidewalk I saw her. I walked over thinking she was a lady I knew. She wasn’t.
Her drugs of choice in hand to numb out the pain I watched her inhale and steady herself as I walked towards her, putting on her mask of “I’m fine”. But there is nothing like a person making themselves present. What started as small talk quickly devolved into tears and pain, questions and heartache. The truth of the gospel message and the charge to go out playing out in real life.
We surrounded her and prayed. We listened and we encouraged. We shared God’s love and made plans to get further help. It was hard to leave that night. We saw the time; the many more girls we hadn’t spoken to, but we had to go. Police had just driven by and we needed to be responsible.
I came home and read the Luke version of the prostitute Mary washing Christ’s feet with perfume and tears. This time I thought about Mary and how Christ’s love and His compassion must have impacted her. Men had used, abused and broken her, but Christ’s love did such a work in her life that she could make herself so vulnerable before a Man. Are we making it clear to the lowly and exploited that there is a God you can be broken with?
The least of these.
I don’t have a nice closing to this. I am just processing “out loud” so to speak. This is the reality of the pain of the down trodden, the broken and we simply need to keep doing God’s work and showing His love to the least of these.