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.”