[DOMINICAN REPUBLIC thoughts from 12/3/16]
*disclaimer: this content is a heavy subject. If you need to be light-hearted today, it may be best to read this another time.*
Las calles. The streets.
You don’t visit a vast majority of the cities in Dominican Republic unless you are wanting to buy drugs, sex or alcohol. All of which overwhelm the streets.
It was six in the evening. We stepped out onto the streets to do a prayer walk. I’m not going to lie to you, we were afraid. Not only are we a large group of mostly white women, but we were walking straight out into the devil’s territory.
I found myself just whispering the name of Jesus to myself because I know at the sound of His name demons run.
There were men, of all ages and races, standing around-drunk. Girls walking, up and down, for hours, waiting for someone to choose them so they could make enough money to please their pimp, which is oftentimes, only $5 U.S.
The first girl we stopped at was sitting right outside a bar. To get her attention and make conversation, the man that was leading us did a simple magic trick with a toothpick. She watched in amazement and then he finally showed her how he did it. Then, with the help of a translator, he explained to her how the magic trick was much like living and working on the streets. It was a trick-a life of deception. He then asked if we could pray for her and she accepted, wanting us to pray for health. So, we laid hands on her and prayed. Then, we continued on.
We basically repeated this same thing over and over again, praying over some two dozen people or so.
But each time was different. Each face was different. However, each girl had two things in common: a look of hopeless desperation and an amazed expression as to why we would pray for them. They don’t know what it means to be loved or cared for with nothing wanted in return. Their faces haven’t stopped running through my mind.
Several times we came across little boys carrying shoe shine kits as a cover for their own dignity. But they were there for the exact same reason as the girls. The boys rarely got fed, so we would hand them 50 pesos, enough to buy a meal. We would reach out to lay hands on them to pray and they looked on us with wonder; they probably did not have mothers who loved them and held them and took care of them. Unconditional love is nonexistent in their world.
One little boy in particular stands out in my mind and on my heart. He knew the leader of the group and was excited to see him. We asked him where he lived, in which he blatantly replied in Spanish, “here, in the streets.” “Where is your mother?” “Dead.” He drew his hand across this throat. I will never forget the way he replied. It was as if he was shaking his head in amazement at us, like “why are you asking me this? Don’t you know? If she was alive, I wouldn’t be here.” They said that later that night, he would probably find a post along the sidewalk to lean up against to “sleep.” We each hugged him. He was so receptive of the love and light. Later, we saw him in a store, smiling. He had just bought an ice cream with the money.
A man drove by on a motorcycle with a young boy on the back. The man held a sign that read, “FOR RENT.” And he wasn’t renting out the motorcycle.
At one point, we stopped to pray for a couple of girls. We found out each of them had kids, some of which were teenagers. The girls were barely teenagers themselves. While we were in the middle of praying for them, a lady walked up and watched. A couple of people from our group stepped away to talk to her and quickly found out she was their boss. The Bible says to make the most out of every opportunity. So, we asked how we could pray for her. She wanted prayer for her business. For her business. She literally asked us to ask our God that she and her husband would be successful at selling young girls for profit. I could barely breathe. I bowed my head to pray with everyone (we prayed, beating around the bush: health, God’s provision, family) but I couldn’t even pray. Instead, I wanted to be praying for destruction. After we finished, she wanted to hug everyone, but I could hardly look at her. She pointed out her business to us, a massage parlor, with pride. It was what she and her husband had built to make money to support their family. It is completely normal and accepted in their culture. Treating people as property is accepted.
Continuing to walk, we stopped and prayed for some more girls. As we finished up, a couple of girls walked by and slowed down to see what we were doing. We told them we would pray for them too and walked on along the sidewalk. But they followed us. Another girl joined them until the three girls stopped us wanting prayer. They simply wanted to know what we were doing and why we were praying for them. We had to pray quickly and keep moving though, because their pimps were watching and had pulled up on motorcycles. They were afraid we were giving their girls the idea to run away. So, we had to keep walking.
When we stopped to pray for two more girls, one of them looked at us, dead in the eye, and said, “I was not created for this.” It hit me like a brick. I knew she was not created for this long before she told me. But she knew it. She knew she was meant for something else. She knew she had purpose. But she was unable to find it. The will to get away was there, but the hope of a purpose elsewhere had been thrown out. She was without hope.
She was created to be free. She was not created to be bought and sold by people. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Galatians 5:1. He set us free, to be free. Only he can set her free into the plans he has for her.
And only He can overcome human trafficking, overall. But changing our hearts to be more like His is the first step to being vessels for freedom. We must value people as more than just bodies.
For human trafficking to end, the mindset of our cultures have to change-and that begins with the individual. You. Me. Different cultures all around the world set different values on people. In the U.S., when one child dies, oftentimes, millions will mourn. But in some countries, thousands of children die every day and few mourn. What is the difference in the child? Nothing. If we believe that every person has a soul, then the child that is left to die on his own is no less of a child than the one that is mourned by a large group of people. We have to make the choice to value the life of all people, child or adult, equally, or else human trafficking will continue to destroy and diminish lives. For that matter, sin will continue to destroy. The root cause of human trafficking is sin and the lack of love for people. Even in America, sometimes we only talk to people to find out information that will benefit our own selves. I’m so guilty of this. How often do I ask a waitress for something without even stopping to consider the fact that she has a life and is probably in need of the Savior? All I have to do is ask her how she is and then stop and listen. Or how often will I start up a conversation with a friend only to tell them my struggles, not being willing to listen to theirs? I think valuing human life is rooted in listening. First listening to the Word of God that calls us to carry the burdens of our brothers and sisters. Then, simply listening to others.
In the Dominican, the disrespect for human life was so “in your face.” The shocking reality is, it may be just as bad in the States, just on a smaller scale.
I will never forget these experiences. I will never not want to be back on those streets, praying light + grace + peace + forgiveness over the people in them.
“Rescue those who are being take away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” Proverbs 24:11.
GRACE + PEACE,