Driving through a strange city, my GPS took me into an increasingly seedy area. Hearing the words, “You have arrived,” I pulled into a grassy driveway paralleling a small, blue, wood-framed house. A middle-aged woman with salt-and-pepper shoulder-length hair and a gentle smile met me on the front porch and walked me in. Though small and old, the inside was warm and homey.
The old house was a safe place for women of the night. It was after closing hours, but the executive director shared story after story about the women who frequent the ministry, women looking for refuge from the dark and difficult life on the streets and strip clubs. The ministry offers food, daytime shelter, clothing, encouragement, a variety of practical and Christ-centered classes, and help with securing long-term care.
My time with them was interesting, informative, and beckoned another visit during a time when the ladies of the street were being served there. So, I returned a couple of days later to find a few women being taught how to care for their feet – a difficult task for women always on their feet and often homeless. As I peeked into the room, I saw smiles and heard laughter as two volunteers taught them how to properly clean and exfoliate their feet.
The women finished up and moved into the dining room, sat at the table, and talked while they waited for their meal. In the room behind me, one lady who was sleeping on a sofa quickly rose when she realized lunch was being served in short order. While they waited for us to prepare their lunch, we heard the doorbell.
“We have a new one,” said the director. “We need an intake done.” So one of the volunteers hurried to the front door to sit with the woman in the foyer and fill out an intake questionnaire. During that intake, it must be determined that the woman fits the population served and is working in the sex industry.
Moments later, the volunteer rounded the corner with a very thin woman, probably in her 40s, with long, straight hair tucked behind her ears – dark brown at the roots and blond starting several inches down. Her brown eyes were soft and kind, and her cheek bones protruded within skin that lacked proper color. As I watched her walk in and seat herself at the table, I noticed a certain elegance in the way she carried herself. In being served, her every response was polite and reflected gratefulness. And it didn’t take long to become aware of her humble intelligence. Lydia is her name.
My heart began to ache as I watched her. How did she end up here? What happened?
After lunch, I decided to follow her onto the front porch where she sat smoking a cigarette. As I stepped out the door, I heard the volunteer who was sitting with her proposing long-term care.
I sat down facing her; she smiled that sweet smile and continued with an explanation about being unable to abandon her little dog. After recently being jailed for 10 days, Lydia expressed her unwillingness to ever leave her little dog uncared for again. The two spoke about the possibility of finding a foster home, and Lydia seemed willing if she could be assured of a safe, temporary home for her.
My time was running out, so I knelt down in front of Lydia and shared with her all of my observations and questions that had been burning in my heart. Tears streamed down her tired, sweet face as she responded to my questions. She squeezed my hand tightly as we prayed together concerning her future.
Will you join me in praying for Lydia and others like her? Ministries that serve the population of women who have become entrapped in the lies of the sex industry are few. Pray that God will send more laborers into the streets to rescue them and disciple them – maybe you, maybe me.
I left that day incredibly burdened – Lydia’s kind and needy eyes imprinted upon my memory and pressing upon my heart. She doesn’t belong there. Nobody does. I don’t know what kind of life Lydia once had, but the refined manner in which she carried herself left me with the realization that just one seemingly small choice can set us on an unexpected and unfitting path of pain and destruction – a path that God never wanted for us.
Yet, God’s hand of relentless grace reaches out to save us. Not one has gone too far. Jesus stands at the door and knocks. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
A thousand wrong turns are forgiven in a moment – thrown into the sea of forgetfulness.