The first time I met Laica, she had just given birth to a beautiful little boy. She sat on the gazebo wall inside the brothel holding him. She was one of the first women I met when we began classes in September 2015. I’ll never forget the sick feeling I had in my stomach as I watched a young man come into the brothel gates, signal to her & the look in her eyes as she nodded back. She gently passed her freshly born baby to another woman, walked towards the entrance to her room, lifted the curtain & went inside. I couldn't help but keep glancing at that tattered curtain.. the only thing separating us from that room. As we continued to teach classes that day, a heaviness sank in my chest & I realized that this was more than the trendy thing to fight against.. It is more than an End It movement. These are lives we are speaking of ... REAL lives. REAL babies that live in this environment ...REAL need. REAL chains begging to be broken.
I left the brothel that day in tears.
A year & 4 months has come and gone since those beginning weeks. Since then my visits with Laica have became strained & rather tense. She would shoo me away or ask me for money & I would tell her that I had nothing to give her. She would light me up with sass & make fun of our classes. There were days I would walk into the brothel & walk right back out feeling defeated. I simply couldn’t understand how some one could turn down a different life...a life of freedom. Still God asked me to return. I remember often my conversations with God & how they usually began with, “What am I doing? Is this even helping?”. Honestly, I still ask those questions.. It’s FAITH that keeps me moving; keeps me fighting; keeps me walking into the brothel gates & smiling at the women that live there.
A few weeks ago something happened; something deep inside me. I came to a place where I was unable to hold in the desperation & passion that I had for these ladies to know Jesus. On this day the sass was heavy, the sun was hot & the complaints were a bit ridiculous.. I finally looked them in the eyes & poured out my heart in as much creole as I could remember.
“Do you know why I moved to this country? Do you think it is because I like to sweat all day & bake in the heat?! I will tell you it is not! I came here simply because God called me… And He called me because He cares for YOU. God uprooted me & brought me here because He cares for you in a way that kept me up at night. You ask me for English classes, God provides it. You ask me for transportation, God provides it. You ask me for a center, God provides it. What will it take for you to get up & MOVE? You ask with one hand & God gives you what you ask for, but as soon as you get it, you throw it in the trash & then complain that He doesn’t bless you with more. YOU are in charge of your future. YOU are capable of more than sitting under shady trees all day & sleeping with men at night! You are worth more! You can do anything with Christ who can strengthen you! You simply have to get up & choose to walk. He can offer you a NEW LIFE, free of sorrow. But, if you do not choose to get up & walk, you will sit in the life you have & it will not change. What will it take for you to realize that you are loved so much that God would send me here to give you the hope of a New Life?”
When I came to, I realized how serious my tone was & how shocked the ladies looked. What I saw in their eyes was not fear, or anger… it was REALIZATION. It was as if for a moment God opened their hearts & removed the scales from their eyes. I think they realized the seriousness of where their lives were. After my passionate, I-don’t-know-where-that-came-from speech, I awkwardly signaled for Madam Gabriel & Madam Manita, who also stared in wonder, to take over. The first thing Madam Manita said was, “You know everything in creole!” I laughed, because I know that I don’t & that God chooses to take over sometimes & its no coincidence that my creole becomes flawless in those moments. Kensley, our lead translator stepped in & relayed my exact thoughts at that moment, “She does that. Her creole is perfect when she is passionate." This led to laughter all around & the intensity & seriousness subsided as both Madam’s started their lessons. But something lingered even in their classes. It was a seriousness. Maybe a dose of reality? Or perhaps it was just that some one was brutally honest with their situations. I’m was"t sure if I should have laid it all out the way I had, until this past week.
I have returned to the states & left all classes, meetings, & operations for New Life Campaign in our team’s capable hands. There is something rewarding in knowing that God will work & move through your team even when you are in another country. I was able to FaceTime into one of the classes this week & after getting a few updates, the camera was turned around to the women that had come to class, and there, in one of our desks, sat Laica, the woman that I had known since the first day I taught classes September 2015. This was her first day at New Life Center; smile on her face & a softness in her eyes. It was as if I heard what her eyes said, “You see me. You believe in me. And I want to believe in me too”.
Laica has now attended every class available to her. She believes that there is MORE for her and her one year old son. She is soaking up English in our English class & is listening intently to our Bible teachers. She is smiling more, prays for class & walking a little taller.
It may just take a passionate Holy Spirit moment to move a woman into slowly walking away from the slum, so she can begin walking towards her palace at the sea. It may take one moment of clarity after a year full of sass. Only God can do that. Only God can move hearts & remove the scales from eyes. He is ever calling, ever drawing, & always pursuing these girls He has placed before me. Even on the days I’ve had enough, He is patiently waiting for them turn around & run to Him.
Two weeks ago Laica started to make that turn. She began to run in a different direction towards a new life.
What a beautiful way to start the New Year.