‘Normal’ Christians (once upon a time they’d have been called ‘radical’, but ‘radical’ is actually normal when you live out your Christian faith as it’s meant to be lived) do things that the once-named ‘normal’ Christians would be horrified at (I don’t know what to call those Christians any more). My friend Simon Guillebaud and his wife Lizzie, and their three small kids, have dedicated their lives to Burundi, I think now the poorest country in the world, and in the middle of a civil war. I’ve posted below something Simon’s posted before, which is beautiful.
It brought back to mind two stories which I’ve been involved in, one of which ‘got me into trouble’ with the ‘less than normal’ Christians, but both of which were wonderful in their outcome. I was in a church in Mexico many years ago: it was my first time in the church, my visit there had been arranged by one of the leaders, though when I got there, I wasn’t sure that the pastor liked me – or maybe didn’t appreciate someone else arranging the preacher! Half way through preaching, three ladies got up and walked out. Back then (much more than now) it troubled me as to why they’d gone, and had I said anything that had offened them. It was compounded by the fact that as they lefy, the pastor’s wife went to pray with them, which made me feel I must have REALLY offended them if they needed prayer! After the service, I asked the pastor if I’d said something wrong. He said no, ‘let me explain about our church over lunch’….
The longest any one of the the three had been a Christian was 6 weeks, the others, 3 and 2 weeks. The pastor dug deep to ‘politely’ explain about them: ‘let’s just say that they’re single mums, and …er… working girls’. They were desperate to provide for their kids (they had 8 between them), and, said the pastor, ‘they haven’t yet grasped, understandably, thta God will provide for all of their needs. So they left the meeting when they did to go to work.’ So why did his wife go and pray for them? She prayed that Godwould protect them, and give them each one client who wouldn’t ask for anything ‘unusual’, better still who’d just want to talk, who give them enough ‘pay’ for the whole day, so they wouldn’t need any other clients….
I loved that church. One that understands need, understands that people would rather work to provide for their family even if that job is unpleasant, and who gives new believers time to change, and encourages them with an all-consuming love and acceptance. I knew those three ladies: the lives of all three changed rapidly because of love.
Again, quite a few years back, I was asked by some friends to help them pray for a young lady, by profession a lap dancer, who they’d met doing evangelism in London’s Soho. I won’t mention names or any locations, as the young lady was gang-raped by a pop star and his minders, and it was front page news in the national press. She needed to ‘release’ her anger at a man, and the husband of my friends didn’t feel in a place to take it, so they asked me. I only ever saw her with them, and yes, she shouted and screamed and punched me… and then broke down in tears. Over a few times of chatting with her, with my friends, she knew that we didn’t judge her for her life choice – like the girls in the Mexico story, she worked to support her kids: and working nights was best for her so she could be mum all the waking hours of the children. On one occasion, we suggested we talk to her at her ‘place of work’ so that she really knew we didn’t judge: I have to say we faced away from the stages!! After about 2 months, and half a dozen meetings, she gave her life to Jesus, set free, and was determined that she’d never dance again. That was 15-20 years ago: I don’t know her story now. I called her on the phone occasionally for about a year to see if she was doing ok: she was, and I diplomatically stepped back from contact with her.
I heard for quite a long time afterwards (I won’t go into the reasons why, here) that I was ‘living with a lap-dancer’, ‘having an affair with a pole-dancer’ – for a time, it was devastating, then I began to think… people really BELIEVE that little old short, fat me could ‘pull’ a lap-dancer??!! When I’d hear the rumour, or if someone mentiond it to me, I’d laugh, and say that when I get home from a mission trip, I can never find her in my flat, nor the pole…. 🙂
So many Christians, I know, are judgmental – about so many things. The ladies in Mexico: the lap dancer: the girls in Simon’s story below. About ministers who risk ‘reputation’ by trying to help them. For many, ‘reputation’ is so important, but it seems to me that Jesus ‘made himself of no reputation’ (Philippians 2:7), and risked ‘siding’ with the Mary Magdalenes, the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, in order to bring love and salvation into their lives.
Read Simon’s story: it’s wonderful.
HIRING PROSTITUTES IN BURUNDI…
6 MARCH, 2015
Last weekend I hired out some prostitutes for the first time in my life – two young ladies for the whole night.
Because I’m a preacher and didn’t want people to know what I was doing, I asked a trusted friend, Cossette, to hire these women and bring them to a hotel where I would join them. I also didn’t want an absurdly inflated price because of being white, so she could hopefully negotiate ahead of time a more reasonable fare. Neither of us really knew how these things worked, and we were both a little nervous. What on earth is the going rate? Would anyone spot us?
If I were exposed, caught with them, then my whole credibility and reputation would be destroyed in this country where I’ve invested sixteen years…
Cossette and I had our plan lined up. She met them in Bwiza, a few miles away, and brought them over by taxi to our part of town, Kinindo – as far as I know, prostitutes don’t operate in our more respectable suburb. She called me when they had arrived and checked in at the hotel nearby, and after reading bedtime stories and putting the kids to bed I went down to meet them.
I joined them at the table in the restaurant. They were fashionably dressed and wore lots of make-up. One was on the skinny side, the other more chunky, both pretty. They were definitely nervous but were trying hard to look relaxed. Divine and Arlette, 21 and 22-years-old respectively.
Their mechanical smiles broke my heart. I sat down and introduced myself. I told them how I wanted them to have the night off. They could order whatever they wanted, enjoy a hot shower, and then have a night of deep rest. The only rule was not to solicit any of the hotel guests. I would be back in the morning to pay them, and after breakfast together, they could go.
I lay in bed that night next to Lizzie and couldn’t stop thinking about Divine and Arlette, and of the thousands of women within a few miles of us in the capital who right at that moment would be enduring some random customer having sex with them. I hate the sex trade with a passion, in no small part because I have a mother, a sister, a wife, a daughter, and each one of them would probably have ended up doing the same thing had they been dealt the same hand in life as Divine and Arlette, and countless others.
So morning came and we met over breakfast. I’d kept the previous night’s conversation short because they would obviously have found it totally weird and been full of distrust. But at least now their guards were somewhat down. I didn’t want to probe too much, and told them they didn’t have to answer any of my questions if they didn’t want to. I said I thought that as little girls they didn’t dream that one day they’d grow up to be prostitutes. Sometimes terrible things happen in life, and you’re forced into difficult choices. But maybe things could change – if they wanted to.
They’re both orphans. They have no elder family members to look out for them. Divine’s Mum died shortly after giving birth, and it was when her Dad died in 2012 that she was forced into prostitution to pay the bills. Arlette has six siblings to support, and likewise has been in the sex trade for the last three years. Selling their body is the only way they can survive, and it pays for them to study.
I asked them what their dreams were.* They said they wanted to run a small business, or maybe go into marketing. I told them we had prayed that God would lead Cossette to the right ladies to help. Of the thousand of prostitutes out there, she’d come across the two of them. Maybe it was a coincidence, or maybe God was in it. I imagined out loud how, if they made good choices from hereon in, that in ten years – who knows – they could be running a healthy business at the market, happily married with a few kids. Divine’s eyes lit up at the thought. Dared she believe…?
Cossette is a young grandmother who has been through a lot herself. She now took over from me and gently, lovingly but firmly counseled them. They were totally receptive. We held hands as a foursome and invited Jesus in to help them make a fresh start.
So it was over to them.
A few minutes later, Lizzie arrived in the car. Eight of us bundled in together – Lizzie sat in the middle of the back seat with Divine and Arlette on either side, all three with one of our children on their knees – not a scene that they would have expected the night before! We dropped them off back in Bwiza on our way to church. I told them to make a plan and come back during the week.
Early Monday morning, Divine rang. Can we come and see you? Sure, see you this afternoon.
They had a skip in their stride when we met later that day. We talked more, and agreed that they should finish this academic year before starting a business. We made a budget to establish what they needed to keep out of trouble. Divine burst out: “No way Simon, there’s no going back, now I have hope!”
$130/month for lodging, studies, food, basics. Enough to remove any temptation to return to that dark life. Two young precious lives…
This coming Sunday, Cossette is taking them to church and connecting them with a life group. They’re seemingly keen to grow in faith and join a community. It’s just the very beginning of a new chapter for them. No doubt there will be plenty of lows in the mix, but here’s praying they make a go of it.
aaaprostitutelegsAny comments/advice/thoughts? I don’t want this to be a stunt. I have dreams of them becoming the inspiration for others if we did this in the coming years on a more consistent basis – the pioneers with a story to show other girls that it is possible to start afresh, that they are not forgotten, unloved, or abandoned. Anyone want to help get behind them and others like them? Do contact me. Do share this with others. I’m keen to set up a fund for them. Let’s do it!