“It was an oddity about me that the subject I had the most difficulty with, Science, was the one I loved the most. I would stare at formulas and admire them for their spare beauty without being able to grasp their meaning. The fact that they cleanly explained some higher law to someone else was enough for me. It comforted me.” – Elisabeth Berg in her novel What We Keep.
“The word ‘stillborn’ fascinated me. Still born. At nine or ten, I assumed it conveyed a purgatory-like labor, a delivery that went on forever.
“Is he still being born?”
“Indeed, he is. Horrible, isn’t it? They are now in their 3rd year of labor…”
When all the pieces of the bed paraphernalia and mattresses were plopped down in the open “patio” part of those rooftops, my co-worker and I picked up the first of the two bunks, intact, and tried to move it into the family’s tiny, windowless room.
It would not fit through the doorway! Hmmm. Back it went to the open-t0-the-sky, junk-lined patio area of the rooftop.
Meanwhile, our children’s mom was trucking!. Excited and happy to be “getting” the bunkbeds and mattresses, she acted like a little drill sergeant, directing her three young ones to move the boxes, bags, piles of dirty clothes and other paraphernalia including a rack of fruit and rice, a bottle of oil – there WAS a tiny, old-as-the-hills rickety gas burner for cooking behind the door of this family’s room. All that stuff had to be moved out of the room, temporarily, to make space for the new beds, which would BARELY fit, theoretically, with only five inches between them and the family’s old, original bed. The door to the home would barely open!
I followed the children’s lead, grabbing some bundles and piles, and taking them out of the room. The kids had started placing the stuff carefully in the center of the tiny narrow hallway, that had other rooms lining it on both sides. As I started to set down my load of junk in the center of the hallway, the door on the other side started to open but, since it opened outwards, it couldn’t get more open than a crack, because all our stuff was in the way! A man and a woman stuck their heads out the crack of the door, trying to see what was going on! There I was, standing right THERE in front of them! Their eyes opened WIDE IN WONDER! ( Sometimes, I look different, to people here! Obviously a foreigner.)
Again sending God a quick prayer in my heart, I smiled as widely as I could and said, “Buenas Tardes!” (Good Afternoon!)
I added, “Sorry about all our stuff in the hallway – we’ll have it out of the way in a moment!”
They kind of smiled, nodded, and closed the door again!
Because the bunkbeds wouldn’t fit through the doorway, we had to spend the next two hours taking them both completely APART again, lugging the pieces into the family’s room, then assembling the beds, drawers, ladder and mattresses en situ!
Meanwhile, it got dark outside. The smell of dirty laundry, old food, and unwashed bodies was overpowering. We heard johns and women coming and going through the hallway. The children accidentally dropped, and temporarily lost, one of the long metal principle bolts to hold the bunk beds together. They, and we, searched the property in the dark for it, for about forty minutes. About three-quarters of the way through the process, the children’s mother decided she should serve us something to drink. Thankfully, it was lemon-flavored soda pop, handed to me in an old metal cup. There was absolutely NO way, that I could see, to politely turn it down so, again, I prayed to Jesus to keep me from catching any germs from the cup and from people’s hands, and I gulped down the sickly sweet fizzy drink and said “Thank you”. I felt nauseous and weak for awhile and sat down; there was no where else to sit except very gingerly on the foot of the old bed. I kept praying, in my heart, and averting my eyes, from a HORRIBLE huge poster that was up on the wall above the head of the old bed. Extremely pornographic. When I wasn’t praying, I kept thinking of our four young children, LIVING in that environment, for their whole lives so far. I’m learning that some things in life are almost too sad to contemplate; instead, I quickly give them to Jesus, trusting Him alone.
It took us forever to get those bunkbeds put back together again. None of us were very good at carpentry or mechanics., As we were nearing the end of the gargantuan, tiring task, little R., the seven-year-old brother, walked back into the room from the darkness outside, and took a huge, deep, exaggerated, leisurely breath of air. A huge grin split his little face, and his eyes sparkled.
“What?”, I murmured to him.
“Now, my room smells like WOOD!” he announced happily!
R. was right. The room now smelled like fresh sawdust, and varnish. We all smiled.
The last washer and bolt screwed tightly into place, or at least screwed loosely into place, and checked, we triumphantly together with the three children carried and handed the two light, new foam-with-fiber mattresses onto the bunks. My co-worker looked at little G., the boys’ sister.
“G., which of the two bunks do you choose for yours?”
Quick as a wink, the answer came; no hesitation for her – she KNEW what she wanted.
“The top bunk”
“The top bunk it IS!” we cried, and she climbed up there, happily and proudly, as her brothers moaned and complained, only a very little, that THEY had wanted the top bunk.
We felt we already had enough relationship and accountability with the children and their mom to then speak, primarily with the mom, for several minutes exhorting the children to keep coming to the outreach, the mom to keep coming to help with the food preparation for all the children, and for her to keep making sure she sends her children to school, and that they work hard in school and on their homework each day. They stayed in intense eye contact with us throughout this “lecture”, nodding their heads also. It went really well, that part.
The mother was in the room with us, several other persons were standing in the dark hall outside, looking in, listening. We were there, the three children were there, and other children were in the small doorway, looking and listening in. My co-worker looked at me; I felt that I knew what she was going to say, and started praying that Jesus would give me the words and use powerfully for good,in the lives of these individuals, what was going to happen next.
“We are going to pray. Lady Ninadesusojos, would you be willing to lead us all in the prayer?”
“Yes, I would!”
Our three kids bowed their heads; their mother copied them. Several adults in the hallway took off their hats and bowed their heads! The children clustered in the doorway, copying everybody else, bowed their heads.
I prayed. I felt the Presence of Christ there with me, with us. A tremendous happiness filled my heart!
We said “goodbye”, shaking hands all around. The children and their mom said “thank you” over and over again. The children hugged us, over and over again, and accompanied us out of the property and half-way down the street, waving, and waving and waving goodbye.
We walked home.
Alright, well, to take up where I left off before, the rickety narrow steps going up to the rooftop/second “storey” of the big, open, multi-hovel brothel where our four children lived with their mother had VERY uneven steps, plus only had a railing on one side. As I carried the heavy end of one wooden bunkbed up those stairs, 12-year-old M. carrying the other end, and going first, I had to try to lift the weight up high so that my end of the bed would fit between and over the railing, and the dangling poorly strung electrical wires and chicken-wire netting above the adobe bricks used to delineate the edge of that property, from the next one, and also, for sure, to deter thieves who might try to climb over the wall to steal people’s natural gas cooking stove tanks. All of a sudden I heard catcalls, whistles and “Que macha!” (“Wow, what a jock”).
The catcalls and remarks were being addressed to me, because I was carrying one end of a heavy wooden bunkbed all by myself up some stairs. I ignored the remark and prayed in my heart, “Jesus, protect us all three, and help us to get these bunkbeds delivered to these children, and help us to shine your LIGHT in this dark and awful place!” I felt a little more calm after that, even though my heart was pounding and sweat was breaking out all over but that was because of the weight of that bunkbed and the fact that it was a very warm summer afternoon.
We labored the various heavy wooden bunk bed parts off the roof rack of the taxi, the two new twin mattresses, the wooden drawers and ladder. Children- LOTS of children, most of whom we DIDN’T know (our ministry is constantly getting requests from moms and grandmas to take more kids – sadly we don’t have human and material resources to take more than we already have – around fifty. Our number fluctuates, as often our children as young as six are removed by their parent in order to make that child work full-time and, as many of our kids get into their adolescent years they don’t stay, with us, either. We are keenly cognizant of the value of that window of opportunity and presence, that is given us as a gift, with each child. Sometimes that window is short.) were milling about excitedly calling and trying to help. Various women, curious as to what was going on, approached. One older woman, hair dyed platinum, stood by the doorway, watching like a hawk and calling the other women and kids, a bit bossily, by their first names and in a familiar manner.
That’s why I thought she might be G., M. and R.’s grandmother – when we first arrived and were doing greetings, I’d shaken her hand and a few seconds later, because of the way she was interacting with persons there, I asked her if she was the children’s grandmother. VERY taken aback, she looked at me and said, “NO! Oh NO! I’m the LANDLADY!”
“Oh, so very nice to meet you!”, I responded. My friend, carrying a headboard in front of me, was laughing quietly, her shoulders shaking as I followed along behind her carrying the other heavy wooden headboard. “Psst, NinadesusOjos,” she whispered to me, she’s the “madam” of this establishment!”
(shows how much I know…….not…) How embarrassing. At least she didn’t get too mad when I called her the gramma.)
A few of the more serious and heartfelt posts on here I need to make sure I give without any photos. This will be one. Good exercise for me to try to describe my experience and my resultant thoughts about it, to you, in words alone without the “crutch” of photographs.
Three afternoons ago, at six o’clock, I thanked my hubby for giving me a ride out to the ministry where I help a tiny bit, gave him a kiss and jumped out of his jeep and briefly rang the doorbell on my friend’s property, then let myself in the black-painted metal pedestrian door with the painted tin can lid on a wire covering over the hole you can stick your arm through to open the slide-bar from the outside.
Three of us, all women, met up and a tiny white rattle-trap taxi had been called. The driver pulled up outside and we opened one side of the metal car door to the property and started carrying out, bit by bit, two brand new wooden bunk beds, two new foam-with-fiber, and a sewn cover on the outside mattresses, and the drawers and ladder to the bunk beds. The driver loosely lashed some of the bunk bed parts to the top of the roof rack where they towered, looking a bit like a a two-year-old’s efforts to play Jenga, and we three gals piled into the taxi. The driver took off slowly, easing over the bumps and ruts and through heavy traffic. After driving a short distance, we pulled up in front of a sprawling, run-down old brothel.
“HERE?????” How surprised and embarrassed the driver was! Yes, here. My friend had called ahead and, the paint-peeled metal door to that rundown brothel property was open, and three little children, siblings, R., G. and M. were already waiting for us out in front, joyfully jumping up and down, big smiles on their little faces!
Let me back up a little. This ministry, where I help out a little is an outreach of sharing the Good News, and also teaching the Bible, to, principally, about fifty teens and children and some of their family members, each of the kids and teens of which is the child of sex trade workers and clients. The raison d’être and goal of the ministry is to see each child saved and protected, on every level and provide surrogate Christian “family” to each child. The ministry platform/felt need/way we get access to these children and teens used for the outreach is after-school homework support and nutritional support, for the children. Ours is a day program, not an orphanage. About half our kids are extremely malnourished when they first come into the center. About a quarter of them have not been signed up for free public schooling; the first thing we do for a child is make sure that they are signed up for school, and then, we help them each day with their homework, plus give them nutritious simple lunch, snack and tea or breakfast, since their moms don’t cook or give them regular meals. (To be continued…)
Epilogue Part One: Why would we do this – go to such a place? There’s only one reason – identical motivations for all three of us – for the sake of the children. These young lives. These little persons. Jesus would have gone to that place, for them. You go to such a place, a prayer on your lips and in your heart,sticking close one with another every second with your co-workers, one hundred percent only for the sake of Christ and for the sake of those three children, those three little siblings, R., G. and M., who are in our program, who live inside that brothel with their mother, who do not have a dad, and who sleep together with their mom and each other in one small dirty bed – the four of them, which is the bed, in the room, where their mother also plies her trade. This family’s home is that one tiny, windowless room, with no table and no chair. Partially it is a family of five, not four, because another one of our little boys in the ministry, J., gets left by his mom for weeks at a time, frequently, with R., G., and M. and their mom, to live. Okay, so, that’s four boys, the oldest of whom has turned 12, though he’s tiny and looks MUCH younger. And one little girl, and that mom. All sleeping in one bed. We were taking the new wooden bunkbeds, and mattresses, to fit into the side of that tiny dark room, for the children – the 3 boys to sleep in one bunk and the little girl, G., to have her own bed, the other bunk. That was our project, that was our dream for G., R., M. and J. THAT was our reason, our ONLY reason, for going to such a place.
“Happiness is like a cat; if you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you; it will never come. But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you’ll find it rubbing against your legs and jumping into your lap.” – William Bennet