Why would a sweet girl work in a dark and ugly brothel? Why would any girl do that? Why would a mother of two have to sell her tired body? Why would they allow men to objectify them? It’s easy to say that they shouldn’t. And you may actually be right to say that.
It was easy for me to say what they should and should not do until I met her.
Until I met Lydia.
I had never walked in a brothel till God had me go to Bolivia. I knew ABOUT prostitution but I had never seen it so close. I knew ABOUT desperate girls but I had never heard their stories. It was after they had become a part of my life that I understood that they too have faces and names.
There’s more to it than just a woman selling her body. One is a desperate mother; one is a daughter of some people she never knew; one is a wife who has to help with the household; another one is a girlfriend of an abusive man, whose heart she desperately tries to change by giving him a baby.
Prostitution in Bolivia is not a source of good money as it may be in other countries. The women who prostitute themselves here don’t drive expensive cars nor do they wear fur coats as we see in movies. They’re still poor even if they make a little more money than some other people here and they’re in bondage. They’re in bondage to their poverty, to their addictions and very often to their spouses who send them to “work”.
The brothels are dark, dirty, scary and sad. Narrow walking ways are always full of men continuously moving and staring; little doors are sometimes open and let us see tiny little rooms that are just a little bigger than the bed they work on. Half naked girls stand in the doorways with no smiles on their faces. Very few are pretty…some look masculine and fewer have sparks in their eyes. Many have lost the desire to live.
The light in the brothels is dim but I can still see the lust in the eyes of the men. I FEEL it sometimes as they dare to touch me. A lot more than that happens to these women behind the closed doors. I shiver at the thought.
We walk along the greasy walls too. Just like the men. Only – with different motivations.
We sometimes cry.
I sometimes swallow my anger with my tears.
Lydia’s door is the only one I dare to knock at. She’s 23 years old. Many people wouldn’t think she’s beautiful. I think she is. And God does too. She greets me with a child-like smile every time she sees me. She’s always happy to see me. I’m always honored. She likes to hold my hands when we talk. She can be shy at times. She blushes even though you can’t really tell when she does because her skin is dark. It is partly because of her skin that she belongs to the oppressed class of people in Bolivia. Not only because of her skin. There are many other reasons.
Her parents left her when she was 7 and at the age of 13, she got run by a car and lost her left leg. She’s worn a prosthesis ever since. As if she hadn’t gotten enough pain in her life, a man took advantage of her and she became pregnant. She had her first child. Later she had her second – as a result of a rape too.
I can no longer ask why a girl would sell her body…
Why would a girl go through this kind of pain? Why would a girl have to become mother against her will? Why would a man have the “right” to ruin her life?
She’s not responsible for all these things. She never asked for her pain and she doesn’t want it in her life. She doesn’t like to work in a brothel. She doesn’t like it when men come in her room to have a few minutes of sick pleasure. She doesn’t have a leg!!! She doesn’t like it that her kids don’t know where she brings the money from.
At times she cries and implores me to get her out of there. She clings to my arm as if I were her last hope.
At times she cries and tells me of her shame whenever her kids need help with homework. How could she tell them that she can’t read nor write?
At times she cries and tells me how she learned to pray to God.
At times we cry when we see her walking. The prosthesis is old and fragile. The metal joints have eaten away the wood parts. You can hear Lydia when she walks. The belt around her waist has grown short and is now cutting through her skin.
I help her walk when we’re out together. She leans against my arm and steps on my right foot all the time. My toes hurt after a while. I always end up limping following the rhythm of her steps. My right leg stays sore for a day. I like the pain and I don’t want it to go away. It’s a good reminder of her pain. It’s a good reminder of this world’s pain. It’s a pain that I need in my life, a pain that I willingly choose to feel. It’s a pain that teaches me how to walk alongside with Lydia. It’s a pain that reminds me of how Jesus walked alongside with humanity. C. S. Lewis said that “pain is God’s megaphone to arouse a deaf world”. I think I learned how true this statement is through Lydia.
“God has chosen the lowly things of the world and the despised things – and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.” (I Cor 1:28)
One day we found out that we can get her prosthesis fixed. She was glowing. Even her walk was different the morning we met. The doctor remembered her and looked at her as she was his daughter. He was missing a leg too. He too had been in pain.
After taking a look at the prosthesis, the doctor made plans to fix it. He suggested though a new one as the prosthesis she was using was old and already too short for her height now. He was amazed of how she had worn it for so long.
We both knew why she never got it replaced.
We had to go back the next day and Lydia was supposed to stay at the clinic for the day as she couldn’t just leave her leg there. We had the day for ourselves and she made me the honor to eat with me. I wanted to make my princess smile and I took her to a Chinese restaurant. She didn’t know what to order as she had never eaten Chinese. I suggested my favorite and she liked it. Over lunch we had time to talk and she shared more about her life.
At some point she stopped eating and said she wasn’t very hungry, yet she wanted to take home the leftovers. It didn’t take me long to realize that she couldn’t eat as her kids were probably hungry at home. We ordered two more meals to take and she finished everything on her plate with delight. She was hungry.
The next day we found out the price for the new prosthesis…it took my breath. She couldn’t even read those numbers. I took the paper and hid it in my pocket. She stayed at the clinic and I left. The piece of paper with the price on it was burning my skin through my pocket. My friends were waiting for me at home…we prayed. It was all we could do.
Later, in the afternoon I went to the clinic to pick her up. She was sitting there. Smiling. She was beautiful. I looked at her and felt like a mother… She was so beautiful.
The new prosthesis was now uncomfortable and Lydia was shivering at every step. She grabbed my arm as usual and I felt like a mother… I learned how to walk with her with her new leg.
We took a bus to go home. She fell asleep on my shoulder. I felt like a mother…
I touched her face and I felt her smiling in her sleep.
She dreamed of a world where she could run…
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19)
I dreamed of a world where all humans were dressed in white robes. I dreamed of being able to get Lydia the new prosthesis…I dreamed and I still do.
“Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (I Cor 15:58)
There’s story that says that a man would walk on the dark and cold streets where the brothels were. He would stop and kiss the dirty walls. He would then run to the street where the church was. He would pick up rocks and throw them at the beautiful building. Many would watch him and think he was a fool. A man lost in his world.
And one day, someone asked him why he hated the church and loved the brothels instead. He looked at them as if surprised and said to them with tears in his eyes: it is my Jesus that I kiss and it’s the demons that I throw rocks at. They thought he had got it all wrong so he explained: my Jesus is waiting by the walls of the dark places. He cries for them. He cries for those who are inside. His face I kiss and not the walls. The rocks…are for the demons waiting by the church as they can’t go inside.
I have another story for you. I’m writing it right now. It is about another man and his wife. They walk the narrow ugly dirty streets and visit brothels. They don’t kiss walls, nor throw rocks at church’s building.
They walk inside the darkest places…but not alone. HE goes with them. HE walks with them to bring His light.
The light in the brothels is dim but they can see…
Would you bring light with them?
Would you join hands with them? Would you hold Lydia’s hands? Would you help her walk towards the light? Would you help us make her dream come true???
Would you…dream with her?