Often in seminary I struggle with the tension of being “wasted space.” I get frustrated with learning and become anxious to being DOING. That is, after all, the whole reason I am in seminary. So being able to find this organization has been a blessing – being able to participate in the ministry to which God has fueled my heart. It is not easy outreach, but I love it.
Just a couple weeks ago we decided to go out to the Compton area – when we first got there we saw about four cop cars driving down the main strip which we took as a bad sign…we would not find many girls out. Boy were we wrong in our first assumption that they would not be out because of the cop cars!! It turns out there was a drug bust going on at one end of town so all the girls were down at the opposite end. We probably ran into around 20 girls that night.
Right as we got out of the car and began to walk down the street we ran into a girl J. When she saw me she immediately said “Nope, I don’t need no prayer tonight!” It is funny that they know exactly why we are there – have seen us before – and are open to talking with us. I asked her if she just wanted a gift bag…”alright, I could do a little prayer with a gift bag” she responds. Several girls we ran into that night seemed very glad to see us “Just tonight I felt Jesus saying I best stop running away from him and then YOU show up – I need prayer tonight!” What a gift to step into the midst of their life, in the midst of this work to pray for them and love on them. These women are BEAUTIFUL and articulate and funny and intelligent. It is frustrating to see them turning tricks when I know they were made for so much more.
As we were talking to several of the girls a few pimps drove up. They didn’t seem the real friendly type – one was named “silky fresh”….nice…and the girls literally ran across the street in their stiletto heels to get away from him. He was not real open to talking with us…but there was another van full of pimps that Laurie was able to have a conversation with. It is always interesting to get the different pimps perspectives, most believe they are doing the girls a favor by being their pimp – that they are out there protecting them.
What I find interesting is that most of the pimps or prostitutes you speak to will tell you that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ “this is just something I have to do right now – I ain’t going to be in it for long – just real quick to make some cash then I am out!” But you hear this story over and over again, they all intend to get out but they all get trapped. One particular girl we met named M was 29 years old and had only been doing this for two weeks. She was really deceiving herself...she had convinced herself that as soon as she made enough money for her kids she'd stop. She said she could not get a real job because she was on probation and no one would give her one. We talked with her for a while and even prayed with her but the whole time she seemed very uncomfortable and resistant.
It was a very eventful night. God is moving...but it is difficult because most of these young people have no conviction for what they're doing or have deceived themselves into thinking it is ok.
There was a 17 year old girl we ran into that night named Y who ended up calling Laurie later in the week. Laurie talked with her for a while about her work as a prostitute, about Jesus and about her pimp. She lives with her pimp not her parents, and is aloud to leave the house. Laurie said she got the impression that Y was not with the pimp by choice, but more by force or lack of options…we are not really sure. Laurie asked her if her pimp abuses her and she gave a nervous laugh and a breeze over answer.
Laurie ended up asking her if she wanted to get out of prostitution and she said she was not ready yet but would keep Laurie’s number. Laurie wrote about this in an email she sent out and I think her email beautifully articulates the tension we so often run into with this sort of outreach…
So... all I can do is pray for her and pray that she'll have the guts to get out and away from her pimp sometime soon. I hope so. I hope that we will see her again when we're out on the street. If we do, I want to ask her if she wants us to take her off the street,
right then and there. She's a minor - her 18th birthday is in April of next year. Maybe Children of the Night could take her... I don't know. All I know is that if she wants to get out of there, I want to be able to get her out.
How does something like this work? I mean - we can't take her to a program like the Dream Center unless we get her parents permission - and we ourselves could get in trouble for keeping a minor... sheesh. I don't want the cops to pick her up either, or have her get taken to a home where things may be just as bad if not worse than where she is now. Or if she ends up back with her pimp if we take her somewhere where they can't help her or where she ends up leaving and she goes back to him - the consequences could be fatal.
What are the ethics in this situation? How far is too far? Doesn’t someone like Y deserve to be helped…even if she is a minor? Why is social justice, love for the oppressed, and care for others so gray?