Is there a certain country or a group of people that you find yourself drawn to for some reason? With two friends about to visit the land of my heart, I find myself thinking a lot about Ethiopia. And a very special woman I met. She was standing in the doorway of her tiny residence like many other women that afternoon, waiting for a visitor. As I walked down the paths in front of these doorways - rows and rows of doorways - I looked at numerous faces, waiting for some indication that this was the person I was searching for. Mostly I got blank faces in return, a few smirks and occasionally a point and a laugh. As I came to the last row, I asked my guide to walk through the area with me once more. I knew there was aperson I was supposed to meet. As we made our final trek through the rows of doorways, one woman waved and smiled at me - an open, welcoming smile. I hesitated and then stopped in front of her. I asked through my interpreter if we could sit down and talk, and she warmly invited me into her place, pulling the curtain closed over the doorway. My eyes took in the elements of her one room "home" - a small cabinet for personal items, a bucket for washing tucked under it, a small stool, and a bed that took over most of the space. I sat down on the stool with my interpreter on the floor beside me as she took a seat on the bed. I introduced myself and told her that I was interested in finding out about her life, asking for permission to interview her.
She was from a small village but had been sent to the city to work as a maid. Though the job provided much needed money for her family in the village, the master of the home began to mistreat her. Unable to endure it, she ran away from the house and found the only job available for a young woman with nothing: renting a room to live and work in close to the bustling marketplace. She faithfully sent money back to her parents but could not bring herself to tell them about her new situation. She hated it but knew there wasn't another option. She told me her story without any bitterness for the way things had turned out and treated me like an honored guest in her little abode, concerned for my comfort. Her bright eyes revealed an open heart and a joyful spirit despite her circumstances. Once, when a man came stumbling through her doorway for an "appointment," she jumped up quickly to intercept him and insisted firmly that he return later. The raw reality of her life hit me then so forcefully - to daily wake up in this place and have to go through what she did...
It was time for us to go, and we made plans for another visit. I had to go to my Father to talk about this and find out what He would do for her. I knew that I had connected with the right person and that God had a plan.
A few days later, we met again. She was waiting for me with a friend. After my first visit, many of her neighbors had warned her against me, saying that I was going to deceive her into an even worse fate. To prove them wrong, she invited this friend along to meet me and see for herself that I was sincere. I invited both ladies to lunch, and we walked to a traditional restaurant close by. I was angered by the catcalls and rude comments as we passed by, seriously wanting to thrash the brutes who acted in such a vulgar way.
After lunch, we walked to the church compound where I worked, and I introduced the ladies to the associate pastors when we ran into them. Thankfully, they were received in a respectful, kind manner - I was feeling very protective after what we had already experienced. Plus, I knew that the church generally avoided any contact with ladies who were involved in this kind of work. We ended our visit by having tea together, and I was able to share with my new friend another option for her life. God had opened some doors in that short period of time, and there was a real way out for her if she was ready to take that step. A Christian owner of a beauty salon was willing to take her on as a student and help set her up afterwards with a job fixing hair. The money for the tuition had also been provided, and she was able to start in a short period of time. I shared about God opening this door for her as an answer to prayer and how His love was what compelled us to meet.
There are no words to describe the joy in seeing someone set free, whether it's an emotional or physical prison. Even after I returned to the States, I received word that she was doing really well. God sent us to the one lady with an open, responsive heart and totally transformed her life. He alone is able to do such wonders - nothing is impossible for God, and no one is beyond His care and attention. God cares deeply for each one of us. His love is passionate, fierce, and protective and also tender, gentle and so very kind. That we would love one another, especially the least of these, with the same love as our Father.
I have always had a special place in my heart for ladies of the night. I don't know when it started, but it's been there for as long as I can remember. When Sean and I flew to Amsterdam several years ago, I was seething and ready to pounce on some businessmen on the plane who were flippantly discussing the Red Light District. Even when we walked around Amsterdam, I couldn't setfoot on the path that went through that area - I couldn't bear the thought of appearing like a gawking tourist to the ladies in there. I wanted them to see love and compassion from me but walking by just like the others wouldn't set us apart. So we avoided the area and prayed instead.
My heart was moved deeply when I visited the home and learned about the life of a prostitute in Alaska. She was born in the Midwest to parents who adored her, especially her father. But he died suddenly, and her mother remarried in order to provide for the family. She ran away from home at the age of twelve after suffering severe abuse at the hands of her stepfather. She made her way to Alaska during the Gold Rush, saving enough money to buy a little home to live and work in. She was a working girl way into middle age, passing away in a senior's center in the late 1970's. My heart ached walking through her house - she tried so hard to make her home cozy and pretty, though she had to go through such difficulties to afford everything. She tied ribbons to her shower
curtains and had a floral tea set in her dining room. Her closet was filled with beautiful dresses and feminine accessories. She wanted a normal life with all the comforts of home, something she lost in childhood, and she tried hard to create that for herself.
It's so easy to remove ourselves from someone whose life is so foreign to us. Thank God that our circumstances haven't forced us to turn to such desperate measures, but we are not so different. Basic human longings and needs are the same all over the world. And the ladies we don't think about, avert our eyes from, dismiss and judge are somebody's daughter, sister, mother, friend... They matter to God, and He wants them to know His tender love for them. He alone can heal the deepest parts of a heart and soul and transform a life into something good and pure and wonderful. And He needs us as His hands to reach out with compassion and kindness to others, especially those who are treated so roughly. It's not my intention to sternly preach at you or demand a response. It's just that my heart grieves for those forced into hell on earth as their dignity is stripped from them, young and old, hurt, terrified, and feeling so very, very alone. This is the group God has given me a special love for - is there a group of people that touches your heart?