An accounting of Face of Justice

God does not ask us to do great things.
He simply asks us to obey so He can do
great things through us.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Can't let them walk away.


The ugliness of sexual brokenness and exploitation is something we see quite often in this kind of ministry. Our hearts break repeatedly as we build relationship with the people caught in this tormented life.

And even though we do not see the rawness of exploitation every day, we see its effects.  We see the vulnerability that preys on it. The brokenness that it leaves in its wake. 

But there have been only two situations which have moved the core of my being and served as a call to action:  a young girl being carried off by her trafficker and six 9-year-old boys living on the streets, sniffing paint thinner.

Then Friday night happened.

While our small group was busy praying and visiting with people during our prayer vigil, two young girls passed by me. Such under age girls typically catch my attention because they are so young. While prostitution is legal in Costa Rica for adults, underage prostitution is not.

But these girls caught my attention for another reason. It was not the fish net tights, stiletto heels or the tiny black dress falling off one of them.  Or even their age. It was the fact they could not walk in a straight line down the sidewalk.

Dolled up for a night on the street and high on drugs to cope, these girls were not able to navigate themselves through the mass of people in front of the brothel without falling over each other in their attempts to help each other.

I knew I needed to get to them. After one failed attempt to get their attention, I pulled back to my group, hoping I would get another chance to talk to them.

It came.

About 20 minutes later, these two beautiful young girls walked passed me a second time. This time I gently caught one of their arms and said, "Hola chicas! Venga. Como le va?"

As these girls turned around, they looked at me and said the one thing that could move me the most, "Oh, momma! Muy linda. Una mamma!" I hugged them and, in my broken spanish, I worked to keep their attention while I called my friend and co-worker Einas to help me.

Meanwhile, their hungry eyes kept drinking in every smile we gave, their ears listening to every word we said. We asked them about where they live and what they are doing on the streets.  They told us they are from CR, their families are no where to be found, they are prostituting themselves.  One told us she has a husband (which is what they call their pimps).

One was much higher on drugs than the other. Her random, loud talk was evident of that, but she was so excited to be there with us. The other one was quiet and withdrawn but eyes that told us something was not right in her world.

After a while, we prayed with them. As the four of us huddled together, they could not get enough of the hugs we were giving them. Tears rolled down their cheeks as Einas prayed over them.

Once they finally released their hold on us, I asked them if they had a safe place to stay tonight. Both of them shook their heads, saying no. As I hugged the quieter one again, her body shook with sobs. She held on so tight.

After a little while, I pulled her back. I asked her if is there is someone that she is afraid of. She looked at me with those hurting, dark eyes and nodded her head saying yes. I took her in my arms again hugging her as, once again, her body shook with sobs.

She did not want to leave this place of safety. I did not want to let her go.

How could I?  How could I let them walk away from me only to be raped for the rest of the night?

As the quieter one held to my arm, the other one became aware of their situation and began saying they needed to go.

It was the moment of decision. Was I going to let these girls leave?  Was I going to listen to silent longings in their eyes to keep them in my arms? What was I to do?

Where could I take them? Who would come after me I if do?

My heart was screaming "don't let them go." My mind was saying "you have to trust the process."

I had two underage victims of exploitation in my arms. No place to take them. No means to rescue them from the hell they are living. Vulnerable. Afraid.

As they finally pulled themselves away from our arms, they turned and walked down the sidewalk. They kept turning back, looking at the hope they were leaving behind. My heart was ripped from my chest as I watched them walk away.

My days have been tortured since.  Questions eat at my reason, my training, my heart of compassion.

Why would God bring them to my arms only to make me let them walk away?

I cannot do it. It is humanly impossible to keep letting them walk away.

These girls need rescued. They need a safe place to be teenagers, not meeting the insatiable needs of lustful men and their traffickers greed.

God responded graciously to my cries. "I knew about them before you met them. I knew them before the foundations of the earth. That is why I asked you to be on that corner. They need my love and you were there to show it to them.

"I know their pain. I showed you their pain to spur you to action. Find a place for them.  Help me help them. I have a plan for all these girls. I am choosing to work through you. This is your calling.

"Create or find a place to take them. There will be a day you do not have to let them walk away. You can take them to that place."

That God loves these girls and knows them greater than I, is the only hope that I can hold on to for them. He is the one who has to cover them, protect them and rescue them. I will do whatever He tells me to do to help make this happen.

Please pray for Melissa and Mariana. When you tuck your daughters in bed at night, pray for them. When you hug your children in the morning, pray for them. It can be your way of passing that love and care on to those who do not have it.

Never found Him here.

Elizabeth Gilroy

Lonely men line the sidewalks. Scantily clad women parade in and out of the surrounding buildings. Cars and buses noisily push their way through the crowded streets lined with taxis. The homeless walk aimlessly amid the chaos with tattered cups in their hands, begging for anything to fill them. Bewildered tourists, scurry through the mess not knowing. Hungry men darken the alluring doors again and again.

Thus is the scene in front of San Jose's larges brothel. To walk into this picture is surreal at best and frightening in reality.  Only those who are called should dare.

A small group of us stood in the midst of this craziness Friday night. It was ugly. It ws dark. But to us it is beautiful. It is the perfect opportunity to shine light into darkness. To demonstrate pure, holy Love in the midst of perversion and lust.

It was into this situation a handsome, young tico* walked up to our group. For several minutes he just stood there like in a trance, not believing what he was seeing. I'll call him Henry to protect him.

Henry was high. His speech was slow. His mind working over time to keep conversation and process his thoughts. But this did not keep him from being moved. And his words moved us.

"I come here a lot," he said. "But I have never found God. Now you are here."

As Henry painfully answered our questions and listened about God's love for him, he kept telling us about his life but he could not find words to describe what he knows about this place.

"You all just don't know," Henry said over and over again. "This place is hell. You don't know what goes on here."

When we would ask him tell us more, he would simply look in our eyes and become speechless as tears welled up in his own eyes.  He would shake his head and turn away. Only to return once again to our conversation.

We asked him about his family. "I have no family," he said. "None at all. That is why I come here."

"I have been looking for God but have never found him here. Now you are here."

Henry stood with us for most of the evening. He could not pull himself away from what he was experiencing in our group.

Will he remember the words that were spoke over him and to him? Words of life and hope? Words about a family? The family of God, of which he can be a part?

Will he remember who put a new phone number in his cell phone? Will he call us? Will he remember about the church service we told him about?

These are questions we ask ourselves constantly.  The only hope we have of seeing him again is the spirit of God who can work against the drugs that clouded his mind that night.

Our encounter with Henry was further confirmation of the calling FSM has on the corner of San Jose's largest brothel.  God's light of salvation and freedom needs to be in that place. That is our call.

The Call to the Corner

Elizabeth Gilroy

Freedom Street Ministries is a team. What we do and where we go each week requires a team. This is true for our street ministry, our church service and our media projects. It all requires a team effort.  And this is particularly true for the prayer vigils we hold every other week in front of San Jose's largest brothel.

To hold these times of prayer and encounter, I (Elizabeth) need a team of women and men before we venture to that one corner in this highly charged and dangerous area of San Jose. Without a team, I cannot go.

Well, over the past two months I have had trouble gathering a team. Each week several people would agree to come only to back out at the last minute. Or I would have a group of women ready to go but no man. We must have one or, preferably, two men to go with us for safety reasons.

Whatever the situation, for two months the prayer vigils did not happen. The first time, I believed this was simply God's protection. The second time it happened, I began to question the people's commitment to this vision. When it happened a third time, I began to question my call.

Does God really want me to do this? Have I been doing this out of my own drive? Has God pulled His favor from this aspect of our ministry? All sorts of questions flooded my mind as week after week I had no team.

I continued in this manner for some time. Until this past week. As I went to God seeking His heart and direction for the prayer vigils, one day He spoke to me very clearly.

"You're missing it, Elizabeth. I am not the one keeping these prayer vigils from happening. There is only one person who does not want them to happen. Yes, there are times I keep you home for your safety but those are rare.

"I have asked you to be on that corner. It is your calling. You need to fight for it. Don't let the enemy keep dissolving the team and keep you from your calling. I need you there. There are people there who need to see me through you. Fight for your calling. Pray against the enemy. You have work to do."

I rose from my figurative knees and began to fight against the works of the enemy. I took back my calling. This past Friday night, a small team of strong believers and I marched to that one corner in front of one of the darkest spots in this city.  We prayed.  We loved on people. We spoke life.

Once again, God revealed His faithfulness and His call. The next few posts will tell you what we experienced that night. It is all further confirmation of the call to the corner.