Friday, April 20, 2007

The view from the bathroom window

I wished my eyes had failed me, that what I was seeing really was too ugly to be true.
Why couldn´t it have been a mirage?
A bad dream?
A misinterpretation of events?

I much prefer my 11am view of the brilliant mountain, Ilimani, which provides a picturesque backdrop for the construction projects underway. The street below is quiet, offering an eery calm which contrasts the night activities.

It was the 8pm view that brought a pit to my stomach. With the light off, 4 of us crowded in the tiny shower of the upstairs bathroom at La Casa de Esperanza, peering out the window which offers a glimpse of Calle Curazco, the Red Light District in El Alto. Streams of men walked by, just two blocks from where I was watching. I recognized a brothel with its windows covered with thick matierial. I couldn´t see the red doors from where I was standing, but I knew what was happening inside.

My servant team and I opted to spend our Thursday evening at La Casa while Cara and Humberto hit the streets to talk to women in the brothels. We prayed for for them while they entered the cold, the dark, the rank, the ugly.

We prayed for a woman to experience freedom from her bondage in the brothel.

We prayed that porn videos would miraculously stop working and that graphic posters would be torn off the walls.

We prayed that women and transvestites would be protected from disatisfied patrons...beatings, STDs, etc.

We prayed that men would not feel empowered by their experience with the women, but rather sickened and convicted.

We prayed that the market for prostitution would diminish, that sex addicts would seek help, that our friend H* would continue on his road to recovery from alcoholism and sexual identity issues.

We prayed that Humberto and Cara would radiate Jesus´ light as they entered the darkness, that God´s presence would be unmistakeable.

We prayed that women would receive hope and reject lies about their worth, and that they would view us, at La Casa de Esperanza, trustworthy.

I read Isaiah 61, my favorite chapter, finding comfort in the words.

Cara came back with one extra cup of hot chocolate, and a few stories about her time on the streets. She met a woman who had only been working in El Alto for 2 days... another woman was fearful because her nephew had recognized her in the brothel, and she´s afraid he will tell his dad/her brother. Of course, he wouldn´t get admonished for visiting these places, but she might be shunned from her family because of her current job. Both women said they´d visit us for lunch today, yet neither of them showed up. In fact, the numbers for lunch this week were especially slim. The woman I´ve had my eye on to strike up a conversation with didn´t even show up, and she´s been a regular. I did, however, get the job of ¨compartiendo¨ - sharing lunch with the women by sitting down with them instead of bringing their food to them...conversing with them in Espanol. Cara told me she was proud of me, which of course made me glow.

I´m learning that a simple offered presence precedes relationship, especially here. The more these women get used to my presence, hopefully the more comfortable they´ll feel around me.

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