what he really wanted

It’s been a long time since I’ve written.

I have a story on my heart, which I’m not sure what to make of. It isn’t new, but is a conversation that took place almost a year ago. I don’t have anything to add to it, but I want to share it, because it provides a real look into the life of a prostitute, whose life is usually covered by the mask of fake happiness.

I spent 1 1/2 years working on the streets with prostituted people, mostly transvestites. These young men, most of whom have had sex changes, dress in tight and revealing clothes, and spend their nights attracting clients (mostly North American men) in downtown San Jose.

One night last March, my team and I got in a van and went downtown like we did every week to go and give coffee and cookies to the men & women on the streets. The first stop we made was in the red-light district where 3 transvestites were standing on a street corner. My friend and I hopped out of the car to go talk to them. We asked them how they were, and one of the three, whose fake name was Tara, told us he was feeling very sad and discouraged.

We told him there was hope in God; that it was good he was feeling that way, because it meant that he wasn’t satisfied with a life of being on the streets.

street

I asked him what he thinks God is like; how he would describe God. He said strict and serious. I asked him if he sees us as strict and serious and judgmental when we come to the streets to give coffee every week, and he said of course not.  I told him that the only reason we come is because God put it in our hearts to come—it wasn’t our idea, but God’s. I said that I would have no desire to go to the streets and talk to people there if it weren’t for God putting it on my heart. I told him he didn’t belong on the streets and that one day he would live a different life.

At that point in the conversation he grabbed my hands and it was like another person came out of him, almost wild he was so passionate, and he said: “I want to leave this place, but material things consume me. I love material things. I love them. I love having beautiful things, I love money, I love material things. I need them. I need to have a new handsome man every night. And I get all those things and I’m not happy. There is an emptiness inside my heart. Nobody on the streets is happy. We are all sad. We are all depressed. Not one of the people you see here is happy, and if they tell you they are happy they are lying to you”.

My friend who was with me asked Tara what his dream was in life. She had already asked him that same question maybe a month earlier, and he had said his two dreams were to leave the streets and work in a nursing home, and also to find unconditional love (crazy, right?!). She felt that God wanted her to ask him the same question again, and this time he said his dream was to leave the streets, and to live forever. He said he wanted to never die but to live forever and to live in goodness (his exact words!!).

He said he wants to get off the streets but that he doesn’t have the strength to do it and he doesn’t know how. I told him it was possible with God’s help, and he grabbed my hand, almost at the point of tears, desperate, and asked me if it was true, if I was really from God, if I could promise that I was saying that on God’s behalf and not my own.

I told him it was true he couldn’t do it in his own strength, but that I promised that it was true that God wanted him to leave the streets and could give him the strength to be able to do it. I asked him what his real name was, the name his mother had given him. He told me.

We held hands on that street corner late that Friday night, and prayed together for the strength to be able to leave the only life he knew.

I don’t know where Tara is tonight, and I haven’t seen him in many months. I guess the only conclusion I have is that this world is hungry for something more. The things we think will satisfy our empty hearts don’t really fill them – we actually are looking for unconditional love, to “live forever and live in goodness”.

A Son or a Slave?

John 15:15

No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

A slave is hired based on what he can do. A son is loved because of who he is.

If a slave works well, he will be kept and will not be punished. A son will never be fired.

If a slave doesn’t do his work, he will be let go. If a son fails, he still belongs to the family.

A son’s worth is not based on his success.

Who is this, who commands even the storm to be still

Who brings me under his wings, that he can still

my anxious heart

 

His grace, reaching far beyond my greatest need

His love, for my peace he chose to bleed

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;

Do not forget this Treasure that you own

 

What are these waves, in light of his face?

These troubles, in the fullness of his grace?

How could the world shake the One who’s overcome,

Threaten him, when it’s already over and done?

 

Put your trust in the One who never fails

Fix your eyes on He who will always be there

I am no longer wandering, I have been found

I choose to stand on this solid ground.

we are not alone

Every time our team goes to the streets, it’s easy for us to think that we are the only chance people will ever have to leave prostitution, or that we are their last hope, or the very first ones to tell them about God. And God certainly does use us to help them leave and bring them hope and to tell them about Him. Only the truth is that this is not something that was born in our hearts, but that was in God’s heart since the beginning. He has always been pursuing man: we have only recently started obeying Him.

Something I’m realizing is that every man and woman working on the streets, whether or not they know God, somehow already has a sense deep in their hearts that He is real and that He is pursuing them. Every person I’ve ever talked to there has had an experience with God. By “an experience” I mean something either supernatural or physical that lets them know that God is there. We have so many examples — the prostitute who told us that she had tried to kill herself once in a public bathroom, when a “beautiful man” appeared to her in the stall and told her everything she had done since she was a child and told her that He loved her anyway and had a plan for her life. “That was Jesus, right?” she asked us. Or the biggest and meanest transvestite we know, who when we told Jesus was pursuing him, responded by saying that he already knew that, because he had gotten into a taxi cab the week before, and the cab driver told him the same and shared the gospel with him. And another story I want to share with you is about a 22-year old mother named Raquel* who we met working on the streets a few months ago.

We sat with her one night on the street curb for almost an hour, and asked her how her relationship with God was (it’s amazing how ready people are to talk about this, if you ask them!). She responded by saying that she doesn’t know Him, but she knows He is real because she had once had two dreams she knew were from Him.

The first dream she had a few years back, when she was working at a perfume booth in the mall. In her dream, she was working behind the counter as usual when one of her co-workers ran up to her and told her that there was a man who had come to see her and who was waiting outside for her. In the dream Raquel ran out the door, but in front of her was a huge mountain. She somehow knew that the man was at the top of the mountain, so she started climbing. After a rough and steep climb, she arrived at the top, and saw a shining man dressed in white who turned around to see her. He was holding out a gift to her in both hands, offering it to her.

In the second dream, her sister invited her to a party at a friend’s house. Raquel agreed to go, but when both sisters arrived at the party there was a line outside. In order to get in to the party, every person was required to take a red pill. Everybody lined up and took the pill, including her sister, but Raquel was afraid and hid the pill, sneaking in without it. What she saw when she got inside frightened her. Everyone who had taken the pill was high and couldn’t understand what was going on around them. They thought they were having a good time, but they couldn’t see what Raquel could see — in the middle of the party was standing a terrible dark figure, Satan. They were all in danger but could not see the truth.

When she told me these dreams, I knew the meaning of them. It seemed obvious, and I had the amazing privilege of interpreting to her what the dreams meant — the first, that Jesus had come to her and was offering her the gift of salvation; that He loved her and wanted to take away all her sins and dirtiness and replace it with purity. The second, that Satan offers us sin– something that looks appealing but is against what God wants for us, and that when men “take the pill” it is like they are made blind and put in Satan’s hands. I was reminded of Adam and Eve eating the fruit in the Garden, and Satan being given authority in their lives from that point on. When I told her, she hadn’t heard of Adam and Eve (imagine that!!), so I explained to her the story from the very beginning, and told her how God had made a way for us to be saved from death. Amazing!!

I’m realizing that we are not fighting this battle alone. He is so involved. Our Father is intent on reaching His children. We are nothing more than a small part of His pursuit, and what a privilege it is to witness to it all!

Hungry

Last week I tried to fast.

I meant to fast a whole day, spend time in prayer, and accomplish all sorts of things. I think I made it until 1 in the afternoon before I got SO hungry that I just NEEDED to eat something, and I think I ate enough then to make up for fasting earlier in the day. Even so, I learned a valuable lesson from that day. I had spent the morning walking around the mall with a friend, and I felt so weak. I mean, I had only been fasting for half a day, and I was dead tired. I had no energy to walk, to talk, to do anything. I finally gave up and bought a smoothie, and the very second I took a sip, I could literally feel the strength pouring back into my body.

I realized that day that I hardly ever feel hunger. Of course I get hungry, but I’m never starving. I never go days without food. Eating is such a normal, daily, expected part of my life. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is put on a hoodie (Costa Rica = not nearly as hot as I thought it would be), walk to the kitchen, and eat breakfast. It makes no difference if I feel hungry or not; either way I know I need food and that I’ll be hungry later if I don’t eat.

Maybe it’s a weird analogy, but the thought came to my mind– how much more do I need spiritual food? If I feel like I’m falling apart when I don’t eat for a while, could it be the same spiritually? How many days do I go without “feeding” my spirit with God’s Word, without prayer, without being filled by Him?

Some days I know I need Him, and it’s easy to go after filling myself. But many days I don’t feel needy. I am fine. There is no urgent need, no crisis, and I think I’m okay. And why should my feelings, whether I feel “hungry” or not, determine if I decide to feed my spirit or not? Why should my heart (which is a very good liar) decide if I am going to spend time with my Lord every day? If my physical body feels hungry and weak if I skip even one of three meals I’m served every day, how much more does my spirit need Him at LEAST an hour a day? He is called the Bread of life, and the source of our strength. And I can feel it when I have neglected this.

If you are running low on strength, if your heart is discouraged, if you find yourself searching for some form of entertainment to distract your mind from the fact that there is something inside of you that feels empty, you need to go to Him and be fed. Prayer, reading His word, spending time in silence with Him—they are more than “disciplines”. They are the source of our life. The source of an awesome life, really! They are necessary. You will starve without them.

“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.’”

John 7:37

Just A Typical Night On The Streets

We meet in the prayer room an hour before. Someone grabs a guitar, and we sing praises to God – it might sound like a waste of time when we could be ministering, but we need to remember how great our God is so that we won’t be discouraged when we see the works of the enemy later that night. We pray; we pray for our hearts, we pray for each other, we pray for protection and for those we are going to see, we pray that God’s words would be spoken and not our own. We grab the coffee maker and the box that has the cookies and the cream and sugar in it, and run outside to the van.

Sometimes there are only 5 of us, sometimes a team will come and there will be enough to fill every seat of the 15-passenger van.

We drive until we reach the center of downtown. It’s a different place once the sun sets. The beautiful parks, the places tourists come to see, change names. “Spanish Park” becomes “Transvestite Park.” The main street downtown overflows with cars as the bars/brothels open, and the park in the middle of town which during the day is full of families and young people becomes the center of drug deals and the place people come to find the male prostitutes. We have a route that we follow, and we make our first stop. There are two transvestites sitting together on a corner. Three people jump out of the car to ask them if they want coffee and cookies. They say yes, and we bring some to them. They each take 4 packs of sugar and 4 creamers. We talk about the weather for a bit, but they don’t seem in the mood to talk, so we leave after a few minutes.

We pull over at the next street corner and get out. A few get out and talk to one friend there, Ana, who comes from another Central American country. The rest of us stay in the car and pray for them, that God puts words in their mouths and that He protects their conversation and keeps it focused. The enemy loves distractions, but we can physically feel and see the difference when people are praying inside the car. Ana, who last week told us how much he loved the freedom of his lifestyle, the acceptance of transvestites in Costa Rica vs. in his home country, and all the money he earns, tells us this week that money means nothing and that he wants to leave the streets and never come back. He tells us that everything here is fake, that everyone is faking it. His dream, when asked, is to have someone who truly loves him. One girl from our team happens to have a Spanish Bible with her, and runs back to the car to get it to give to him. They ask if they can pray for him, and he asks them to pray for his protection. He is afraid he will be killed there. They pray, and we move on to the next stop. There’s a friend there who is 8 1/2 months pregnant, and still working — her “boyfriend”, who is really her pimp, won’t let her stay home. One of us writes down her due date so we can call her and come visit after the baby is born, and maybe bring her some baby clothes.

We drive all around town, and talk to many more people. We know almost all of them, because over the years we keep the same route and they keep the same corners. Some argue with us when we tell them about God, some ask us for prayer. Some are too drunk to talk to, and sometimes a client will interrupt and we’ll have to leave.

We get to another one of the parks, and get to talk to a good friend. She is in her early 20s, and claims she is there so she can support her family. We ask her if she really knows God, and she says she doesn’t know very much about Him. We get to tell her the gospel, and it is the very first time she has ever heard it before. She hadn’t ever heard of Jesus. She cries, and tells us she wants to change. We pray for her. We get to the next stop, a group of transvestites, and four police cars pull over. They are just checking for I.D.s, and always come in big groups because they’re afraid of the transvestites. We offer them some coffee too. At the next stop a few guys get out of the car to talk to a group of male prostitutes in the park. They sit and talk and laugh together for half an hour. A homeless guy comes up to the car while the guys are talking and asks us if we have any food, so we give him a few packs of cookies and pray for him, too. After the guys come back to the car it’s around midnight, and we decide it’s time to go back to the base. We share stories from the night with each other as we drive back, and pray for every one of the people we saw. Some nights we leave discouraged or frustrated, some nights filled with excitement because we saw God move.

None of us have training or education in this, but we are all amazed at how easy it is to share Christ. No matter how they look, no matter how they act (because it is acting), no matter the mask they put on when they first meet us, every one of the men and women on the streets – in fact every man and woman on earth, is hungry for a Father, is hungry to change and to do good and to experience Love. The world is hungry; the world is ready for a Savior. He has called us, you and me, His Church, to answer that cry. Even the little that we have of God is more than almost any of them have ever known, and it is as true today what Jesus said 2,000 years ago:

“Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

street

I Can’t Earn Love

I have heard it so many times, but I understand it so poorly! I believe it, but still try to earn His love and am disappointed in myself when I cannot.

How many of you have ever felt like this?

“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.

… what a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

The answer?

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 7:14-25 – 8:1-4)

For every time I fail.

For every time I cannot live up to God’s law, or even my own.

For every time I put my hope in my own goodness, and am disappointed in myself.

For every time I feel shame, guilt, or that I am unloved.

It’s not up to me anymore. Jesus, the only One with the authority to see me as guilty, has chosen to die in my place and to forgive me. It is already finished, and I am His forever.

Father, teach me to receive this love every day, teach me to rest in this security!