29 September 2012

Talking to the women behind the windows

Another volunteer from the Vrouwenpastoraat (women's pastoral care) of the Salvation Army recently wrote a short article about talking to the women behind the windows. I really appreciate how she captures the desire we have to honour and respect these women and show God's love for them.

For those of you who read Dutch, I encourage you to go to the PKN Amstelveen website and read her article about Ouwehoeren over God.

The following is an English translation:
"Shooting the breeze about God"

How do you share with another the liberating message of the Bible? If there was an obvious answer to this, all the Protestant churches in Amstelveen Buitenveldert would have already applied it. Yet, one thing is certain: you can only share the gospel with someone after you've managed to come in contact with him or her. Sometimes that comes in unexpected ways, as I experienced about a year ago.

Three times a month I do volunteer work for the Salvation Army, bringing coffee and tea to the window prostitutes in the red light district in Amsterdam. Normally we go out in pairs with our baskets (as Major Bosshardt did years ago), and we try to have some kind of contact with every prostitute on our route. Often it is no more than eye contact, but even that can mean a lot. Through changes in facial expression or posture you can see what it means for them to be seen not as merchandise or an attraction, but as a fellow human being.

Every once in awhile, I have walked the route alone. On one of those nights I came inside a prostitute's window, and she asked me, completely out of the blue, "What would God think of me, that I am doing this?" It was so unexpected that, knowing she was Hispanic, I asked, just to be sure: "Dios? '. "Si Dios." Those two seconds respite gave me the chance to offer a quick prayer: God 'elp, what do I say?" Because what answer can you give to this question from a woman who is the grandma of a little boy less than a year old and who financially supports the family of her unemployed son in Spain throught what she earns by selling her body? "God knows you.", I heard myself say. Nothing more, but it was enough. She tasted the words and repeated them as if they needed careful chewing: God knows me. Slowly she began to nod her head and the tension from her body fell away. It was apparently a word of liberation.Her situation had not changed. She still had to earn money through meeting the desires of a variety of men. Her son was still unemployed. But God knew her in her situation with her past and the choices that she had made, and it made a world of difference. That evening I cycled home with gratitude because God had used me to pass on part of his liberating message.


Theo said...

Just wondering if it truly was a "liberating message" if nothing else changed in her life?

Brenda said...

Good question.

To some degree, it isn't liberating: she remains in a situation that's not good for her (emotionally, physically and spiritually) and can see no way of it changing (at least, not in a way that she can provide for her family).

Yet, just because she can't see any way out, the message is liberating. She is not condemned by God for doing something she believes is not good. She doesn't have to be forever defined by what she has done, but by what is in her heart (e.g., her love for her family). And hopefully this will also give her hope (and courage) to wonder about how it could be different.