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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!

-Teresa

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breaking chains by…. a baby?

 This Christmas season I was remembering and celebrating the joy of Christmas with a revolutionized hope and sense of awe. Before my 3 months working with Freedom Street I did not fully understand how Jesus is the only one, the only chance people have of getting off of the streets. I know I don’t still understand it fully but I now see Jesus as our only hope.

A couple months ago I viewed education as the main factor that will help free people from trafficking. That if people were educated then they would have opportunities for other forms of employment and be able to be self-sustaining. And I do totally believe that education is very helpful for helping people stay off of the streets, but not at all the same way Jesus can.

I realized this one night when we were on the streets and I was talking to a transvestite for the first time. After he told us how much he loved his life, his job, and getting all dressed up we got talking about some deeper things. It started with what would be your dream job, he said he would love to work in a nursery, in a hospital or at a seniors home; a compassionate heart. We then asked what is his dream, and he said to be loved unconditionally. HELLO. Something everybody desires but his understanding of this and vulnerability to share it is huge.

When we were talking about his dream jobs he said that he has tried to leave the streets but the streets are like a magnet and every time he tries to leave there is a force dragging him back. He was educated too and would be able to get another job off of the streets. So why did he keep coming back? Satan has snuck into those cracks and crevices of abuse and violation and taken hold of them; continuing to break them as he breaks their self-worth and self-esteem until they believe they are worth nothing more than their abuse.

It will take a lot more than a good education to heal their hearts so they believe they can get off of the street. The only opportunity for that kind of healing and restoration is through Jesus.

So how did that affect this Christmas season? It started a couple weeks before when we were going to the streets and we would ask about Christmas, I thought it was kind of mean because a lot of them didn’t have plans and I knew that this time of the year would be hard for them, as it is for a lot of people that don’t have family. But what we were also doing when I guess exposing their loneliness was pairing it with the love of the Gospel.

We had a Christmas party and invited some of the people we work with, it was a lot of fun. We decorated cookies, played pass the parcel, ate pizza and watched part of the Chronicles of Narnia. Our chat after the movie is where I think God tore down walls, because of the fact that we could all relate to Edmund as he sold Aslan out for some sweeties, and have brokenness and struggles, especially during the Christmas season as I mentioned. But then the hope of Jesus was shared, through discussing the movies, our lives and the Gospel; Jesus met them there after walls were torn down, masks were removed and brokenness as exposed. I am not sure if anyone decided to become a Christian or completely chance the trajectory of their lives but I do know that seeds were planted and now we just wait for the harvest.

Thank you baby Jesus for the hope that you bring us.

-Allana (Volunteer for 3 months with Freedom Street)

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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.”

-Teresa

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His unending pursuit.

High heels, layers of make up, revealing clothes and painted nails, fake hair and plenty of skin: To the human eye they are a shame and our limited minds often label them as less valuable. They tell me they love their job as their mask stretches out into a smile upon their faces, and it is as if they’re trying to persuade both me and themselves as the words leave their mouth. Little do they know that one glance into their eyes speaks another story – I see a little child searching for love after years of abuse, violence and disappointments. I see a heart shattered into pieces, and a twisted self image. I see satan’s lies surrounding their hearts like chains, and I see the mighty hand of God ready to release His beloved children from those chains. I see a Father’s pursuing heart for His lost sons and daughters, and I see Him standing beside them with open arms waiting for them to see Him. I see God clearer than ever before.

A couple of days ago I talked to one of the hardest and meanest prostitutes we encounter as we hand out coffee and cookies, and I couldn’t do anything, but to stand in awe of God’s pursuit upon his heart. This transvestite, who never talked to us or even liked us, was sitting next to me, sharing his deepest thoughts and dreams and talking about how he knew God was pursuing His heart. He’d encountered several taxi drivers in the last couple of weeks preaching to him about God’s love, and in his own words he told me that he knew this was not a coincidence. With tears in his eyes he told me how in the midst of his depression he’d called out to God for a simple beam of hope, and God miraculously changed the channel on his TV so that the testimony of a transformed transvestite was all over his screen. His hope was renewed. As he told me he wanted to leave the streets with the assurance of God’s hand being there with him, I was standing speechless and in  awe of God as the words from Psalm 139 came alive before my eyes.

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.

This guy, who spent his whole life running away from God and living in complete darkness, who thought he had no hope left, has never left God’s sight. Through the darkest of valleys and in the midst of hopelessness He never leaves our sides, and He never stops pursuing us.  Seeing His hand so heavily upon the life of His lost, broken son spoke so clearly to me about God’s sovereignty and unfathomable love for us. He truly never leaves us nor forsakes us, and His love is indeed too high, too deep, too wide and too long for Him to stop loving and pursuing us.

He’s the everlasting Father and the God almighty.

– Ruth

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