Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Love that reaches prostitutes

I wanted to go home.  I almost blurted out that it was time to do so even though I wasn't in charge of things this evening.  But Jon continued to steer the van away from his home as he kept a lookout for ladies working the streets of Winnipeg.  He kept saying, let's stop for one more.

My day had begun at 7am and I'd briefly paused for just half a meal before leaving home in the early evening to go help Jon with his work among the prostitutes of Winnipeg.  I was glad to help out, but I was tired and wondered as I drove to Jon's place how long he'd keep things going tonight.  When I got to Jon's, he had just arrived with two lady volunteers who regularly participated in this ministry. We all prayed together, got some supplies ready, and by 9pm, began to cruise the lamplit streets of downtown and north end Winnipeg in Jon's van.

Jon's been doing this with many ministry partners for years.  The strategy is simple:  When you see a prostitute, pull over, a man and a lady quickly hop out of the van carrying a thermos of hot chocolate, a bag of cups and sandwiches and cookies, and a bag of winter gloves and some Gospel literature.  They then cheerfully greet the lady they've stopped for and ask if she'd like some hot chocolate or some food.  Whether she accepts or declines, one always also asks if she wants prayer for anything, and then asks for her name.

As we did this throughout the evening, many ladies said no to the stuff in the bags, and said they were fine for us to pray for them on our own as they cooly or nervously moved away.  Ladies were often willing to give us a name, but were likely giving us a street-name.  A few others just told us in their own unique choice of words to get lost. But a few were very open to brief conversation and prayer.  There'd been a couple like that throughout the evening, and Jon had done a wonderful job of expressing a fatherly love to them for the short time he was able to talk with them.  But it was getting near eleven o'clock and it seemed time to call it a night.

Then Jon announced, "The next lady is for Ken and Melinda.  We'll stop for one more."  But the next couple "one more's" were ladies who quickly declined any offers of kindness, one not even giving a name, and Jon kept saying, "One more!  Ken and Melinda, be ready!"  Suddenly Jon pulled sharply to the curb and insisted, "Go!  Go! Quickly!" (The ladies tend to hurriedly walk away once they realize you're not a vehicle that means business, but not so quickly if a person has already stepped from the van and greeted them.)

Melinda and I rushed out to a young lady in tight fitting pants and a waist-length puffy parka, who I doubt was more than 20 years old, and who looked understandably uncertain of us.  Melinda asked if she'd like a bite to eat and the girl smilingly declined.  "There's home-baked cookies!  How about some cookies?"   Again, the girl politely declined, beginning to back away now.  I pulled a small ziplock bag of cookies out and said, "Hey, I'm sure you'll be glad to have a bite to eat sometime later on.  Here, have some!"  Finally she gave in and stepped forward to shyly receive the cookies.  Her expression seemed soft somehow, rather than the detached or jaded or even irritated responses we'd received from some others.  When asked, she said her name was Teresa (which is not actually the name she gave us).  I asked Teresa if we could pray for her and she said sure.  Melinda dug a little deeper: "Is there anything we could pray for?"  Teresa mentioned her kids, and said she had four of them, 2, 3, 4 and 5 years of age.  Teresa was tentatively beginning to back away when I asked if we could pray with her right there and then.  Though that looked as though it seemed a little scary for her, she also seemed reluctant to say no.  Melinda smiled and extended an arm to invite Teresa closer.  She stepped closer so that Melinda and I could be on either side of her and there I quickly prayed for God to protect her children and herself, and to draw Teresa ever closer to Him. As soon as I said amen, Teresa spontaneously hugged Melinda and thanked us.  We then left Teresa with a piece of literature called "The Father's Love Letter" about God's great love for us.

I don't know what Teresa was thinking as she reached out to hug Melinda, or what she'll think as she nibbles on a cookie or gives them to her kids.  I also don't know what she'll think of "The Father's Love Letter."  But I do know that Teresa appeared genuinely touched by our simple expression of kindness to her -- kindness that I'm certain she's not accustomed to encountering as she awkwardly stands in the dim lights of Winnipeg's streets each night. And I also know that I'm grateful Jon didn't call it quits one person too soon!

As I drove home at the end of a long 16-hour day, I felt excited that in that last encounter God had arranged for the evening, we'd been able to personally pray with someone who had fallen so low that she felt she needed to sell her body to strangers -- and that desperate and degraded beautiful young lady was able to see tonight that the love of God could still reach even her.

As I drove home, the words to the first song I heard on the radio were, "We are standing on holy ground, and I know that there are angels all around.  Let us praise Jesus now; we are standing in His presence on holy ground."

© 2010 by Ken Peters

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