During my time here in the Dominican Republic, at least one night a week is spent perusing the streets of down town Santo Domingo in search of the women of the night. We tend to frequent four to five specific corners – the corners that we know the women with whom we have already established some sort of relationship also frequent.
Here, we join a small group of church members from Casa Joven to do what I would expect any small group of church members looking to minister to prostitutes to do – talk to the women and pray over them. Standing in a circle in the street we hold hands and lay hands, seeming to any passerby to be pleading with the heavens on behalf of the waifish girls that hover around us. Perhaps it is my familiarity with the workings of the institutional church, perhaps it is my cynicism when it comes to traditional forms of ministry, perhaps it is my equally as significant experience with how the rest of the world often feels about Christians, but I did not expect much from these outings except for a vague knowledge of which girls we would be eventually working.
Now, faithful reader, please don’t misunderstand.
I believe in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I consider myself, for all intents and purposes, a Christian, and I believe in the work I am here to do. I even acknowledge the church with which we are working for their willingness to work with a population that has been marginalized and the deep caring that is evident in each one of them. In general, however, I tend to appreciate the quote by Gandhi – “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
I see so much ministry and effort from the church that has wonderful intentions, and yet is so misguided at the same time. There will be time to explain this further in another post. Back to the story at hand.
Needless to say, I was no expecting much from these outings, and I was certainly not expecting to be personally challenged that was profound and significant. Yet, that’s exactly the experience I had this past thursday evening when one of the women looked at me with the fullest amount of sincerity and asked, “¿Cómo está tu abuela?”
How is your grandmother?
You see, the week before, the people from Casa Joven thought that it would be an interesting and challenging turn of the normal events if we asked the women to pray for us, instead of us praying with them. I appreciated this, and found the exercise rewarding and eye-opening. It became significantly more profound when this woman – this woman who is living in poverty severe enough to participate in this elicit economy in order to feed her children and family, who I’m sure is experiencing difficulties beyond anything I have ever experienced – took my hand and asked how my grandmother was. This was the thing that I had asked the women to pray about the week prior. I explained to them in less than perfect spanish that my grandmother was sick and in the hospital and that I wasn’t sure what would happen.
I was moved by the fact that she had remembered. Touched by the idea that she considered it significant enough to not only oblige to pray for me the week before, but have sincere interest in the turn of events over the week that ensued. More importantly, I was challenged. I was challenged in my white, Christian outlook. I was challenged in the near-savior mentality with which I approached this country. The one that had been encouraged and brought up inside of me as a white woman of God who wanted to save the world.
As I fumbled over the young girl’s name and realized that I could not remember what her prayer requests had been over the past few weeks, I was both ashamed and humbled. I have been blessed with a privileged life. Have I made good use of the resources that have been given to me? Being privileged, I have realized, saves you from nothing.