Friday, June 1, 2007

Transvestite Prostitutes


I spent the past week writing the story of my previous experience in Hollywood with the Broken Hearts ministry, thinking through stories I heard, pondering what God wants our church to hear through this, considering how best to explain what happens each week and how to word it well. After several days of thinking, I was finally able to put my ideas on paper (which resulted in the prior post).
But my mind couldn’t stop at simply writing the story. Things I heard, sermons, ideas, etc, all made me think about what I could say in response to different people and scenarios, what I could use when I went back. But wait – wasn’t this supposed to be a one time thing, a trip up to see what it’s like and leave it at that? Well, yes, to me that’s what it was supposed to be. I guess God had other plans. Because I thought about the people I met, and about who Jesus hung out with and loved, and the story became much more than something for RockHarbor. I couldn’t get it out of my head. The idea of not going back almost seemed unnatural. I could no longer imagine sitting at home, watching TV, or going to sleep at 10:00, when others would just be meeting up to drive to Hollywood and get to know new people and chat with old familiar friends. I couldn’t sit comfortably at home, knowing people are dying out there on the streets.
I know it was not my doing, because 1) it’s a late-night ministry. I go to bed early every night, I work early, it’s just not reasonable. 2) It’s kind of a dangerous, not-so-nice neighborhood, and so out of my comfort zone. 3) I don’t even know the people in this ministry, I have no connection, no previous passion for the broken-hearted. 4) I’m not “gifted” Evangelically. So of course, this is not the ministry for me; no way. I was beginning to branch out by looking into a Soup Kitchen ministry once a month. Or by joining the RH newspaper, which I knew nothing about and had no connection to. I had looked at the Broken Hearts ministry online and thought, “wow, that’s cool. But not my thing.” And yet all week I kept thinking about it; praying about it, feeling like I would be there the following Thursday. And so, though my previous contacts with Broken Hearts were now on vacation, going home for the summer, getting married…I managed to find a new contact, hook up with them, and ride down once again, telling myself and them that it was for the story I was writing. And while that was part of it, I think I already knew that it was for many other reasons.
Alas, I write this a week after going back a third time, and now officially part of the ministry. God does some crazy stuff, that’s all I know. So, here’s the story of my second week. Each week is unique, and there seems to be a theme for each evening and that is how I will begin titling my posts.
This week began again at Del Taco, chatting with Big Mama and Jose, praying together before going out. But we started out with more of a “street evangelism” approach, finding random people to talk to as we split into groups. Luckily, I was paired up with a girl who knows how to start conversations about God. Granted, her approach is not my favorite, but it gets the ball rolling for me to comfortably join in. So we talked to a young, homosexual, Hispanic male named “Ray”. He barely knew English, but the girl I was with knew it decently enough to talk about God. They struggled back and forth until his friend came to pick him up. We figured out enough to know that he doesn’t know how to get to heaven and is not a Christian. Once his friend arrived, we were able to communicate much better. He was also Hispanic, but speaks English very well, and so our conversation ended up being more with him than with Ray, who sat quietly and listened unless we asked him specific questions. “Carl”, his friend, spent the next 2 hours, talking with us about God, church, heaven and hell. He explained that he doesn’t know how to get to heaven, but doesn’t really care. If he goes to hell, that’s okay, he’s not too concerned. He’s “weird”, he explained. After enough conversation, I realized that “weird” is another way of saying “hurt”, “emotionally shut-off”, “abandoned” and has convinced himself he doesn’t care about anything. Obviously, it’s easier that way. Use people, have fun, be “free”, and convince yourself that you’re happy that way. He admitted to me that yes, he has been hurt, had a rough past, and has put up walls.
Amazingly, and by God’s wisdom given to me, it was not hard to see that pretty quickly. I haven’t been that intuitive about things like that in the past, but God has opened my eyes. Hurt is everywhere, in everyone, and most people react similarly to it. However, he said that he’s interested in many religions, and in trying new things. He’d definitely go to church with me, try it out, see what it’s like. So we exchanged numbers with hope that he’ll actually come to church with me sometime.
I truly saw God at work in the conversation…giving me perspective to understand him, ask the right questions, talk about God and theology, and include conversation simply about him and his life, and know when to listen and chat casually. That seems to be a good balance with people – chatting like normal, but bringing the gospel into the conversation and seeing what they think about it. He told me that I was quiet, but that what I had to say was good whenever I opened my mouth. That meant a lot, as he seemed to respond better to that than to just being preached at. And it showed me that God can use me in these environments, too, not just the “evangelically gifted”.
Part way through that conversation, other members of the group came around with people they had met over the last hour. Jose had been with us all night, standing on the sidewalk…Frankie – a transvestite prostitute who hangs out with this group every night – was dancing around and trying to get business most of the time…and then Precious joined us – another transvestite prostitute, in need of “work” in order to afford a motel room to sleep for the night. Otherwise he would be out on the street. He wanted to go to a treatment center, but was offended when told that he would have to dress like a man. He was nice, asked if I would trade hair with him because he liked mine so much, and was trying his best to resist going across the street to buy drugs. Similarly, another prostitute, Sequoia, joined us in his red dress/skirt and knee-high boots, butt hanging out and face looking like he’s been beat up multiple times to the point of broken bones. He was crying, mascara running down his face, and desperately in need of dope. All I heard of their conversation with him is that he “is God, everyone’s God”, and “you can call me whore, because that’s what I am”, and “HIV isn’t real”. If it’s not obvious by now, it’s a different world out there.
Funny enough, Carl, who “doesn’t care” about hell, was here this whole time watching these people, and as Ray was trying to escape, looking entirely frightened, Carl told me, “That made me think about hell. That actually is making me start to think about hell.” Words wouldn’t do it, but seeing the outcome of drugs and prostitution on one man’s life, he was in fear of what hell might hold.
Those conversations pretty much concluded the evening. Several people stayed around to talk with them, while the girls I had come with all left together. And yet somehow after all of this, drugs and prostitutes and watching a fight break out across the street, I felt strangely grateful to God, and I knew I would be back.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can relate to this in an odd way. I have also been changed by God and have experienced being outside my comfort zone when witnessing. I came across this blog when searching for a site to minister to prostitutes after being approached by them many times at the coffee shop I work at. At night, they come by if they haven't made enough for the day for dinner or a place to stay, often calling me 'homegirl' for actually taking the time to look them in the eyes and carry on a conversation with them, and they admit they haven't showered in 3-4 days most of the time. let me know if you have any connection with this ministry. (I'm going to look at the Broken Hearted thing.) Thanks.