It was a little after 10 at night. After circling the block a few times, he parked the car and led us in prayer.
Then, we walked a little bit up the road where a few women were sitting around. He approached one woman and asked if we could talk with her. She said yes. We sat down.
He did most of the talking while I observed, half in disbelief of what we were doing. She wasn’t very receptive it seemed of what we had to say and promptly got up and left. He turned to me and asked, “Are we done? Do we continue?”
“I’m just following your lead,” I told him for what felt like the countless time that night.
We got up and walked further up the block – and came across 3 women seated near each other. All were wearing tshirts and jeans. Nothing scanty.
“Hi,” he began, addressing the nearest and youngest of the 3 women. Another woman, a more older one asked: “What are you guys looking for? A hotel?”
“No no”, I replied and from that moment on, suddenly found myself in a conversation with her.
It turned out we were from the same village. We were of the same race and spoke the same language. She had been married and divorced twice. She has 3 children, all of whom now have their own families. They did ask her to come live with them but she did not want to be a burden to them. They give her money but it’s barely enough for her to pay rent and utilities. She works at a coffee shop nearby. (And when she was telling me all this, I kept thinking: No way is she a prostitute. She just works at a coffee shop and just happen to be chilling by the shophouses at almost 11 at night. Until she said:) “My children don’t know I’m doing this (read: prostituting)”
This was when it got very real for me. Here was this woman in front of me, who is just a year older than my own mother (!) and she was telling me how difficult her life was…how she ended up where she is presently. Who because she didn’t want to leave her house, did not want to burden her children, opted to live on her own and prostituting was how she earned a living – just waiting for death to arrive. She had been in prison 3 times, beaten and framed by “friends in the trade”.
I could no longer contain myself and started to shed tears as I told her that her children would never allow her to do what she was doing if they knew. “I am speaking as a daughter and if you were my mother”…and I asked if I could hug her. She seemed surprised at first but returned my embrace as I hugged her tight, feeling such remorse that such a life can happen to a mother…all the while the question “what if this was your mother?” kept repeating inside my head.
Here the 2 of us were, my friend and I, thinking that we were bringing Christ to them and changing their lives (which may be true) without realising that our lives would also be changed by these encounters.
We left her with the message that “God loves her and that her children care for her and so do we”. She grabbed my hand and held it to her cheeks when we said goodbye….
I was speechless and in tears as we walked back to the car. Never did I imagine, that someone my mother’s age, would be prostituting to make ends meet…
When you put faces and names and stories into the word “prostitute”, life as you know it, changes. It is an eye-opening experience for me and it certainly begs me to question myself: “What can I, a simple person, do for her? For others like her?”
I do not have one final and concrete answer. But I do know this. “This”, what we did tonight, cannot just be a one-time thing.
In the words of Mother Theresa: “If you cannot feed a hundred people, feed just one” & “not everyone can do great things but we can all do small things with great love”.