15 February 2013

Red Lights

From a journal entry written on January 25th, 2013

Tonight, on the way back from a walk around the Colonial Zone with Omar and Rachel, Rachel asked Omar about all the white men with Dominican women.

“They’re paying for them,” he said.

“Well, some of them could be actual couples, right?” Rachel asked.

“80 to 90 percent are paying for it.”

“That’s sad.”

Just ahead of us, a tall, skinny hipster guy in his twenties, wearing a v-neck, salmon-colored shorts and Keds shoes, stopped in front of a pasta shop. He exchanged some brief parting words with a dark-skinned, curvy Dominican woman in bleached jeggings and a bright yellow shirt. Then, he turned left to continue his consumption—this time with pizza instead of human flesh.

The woman continued straight, her pace quickening with each step. I saw the light of a cigarette hit the ground in a sudden, angry movement. She was clutching her purse.

Rachel was asking Omar about Duarte and Trujillo, the forefathers of the Dominican Republic. But my own eyes followed the figure in yellow until she left the pedestrian street of the colonial zone, and turned right.

“Cruzamos.” Omar signaled for us to cross the street to the Parque de Independencia.

On the other side, we paused in front of the historical exhibitions for another Dominican history lesson. But my eyes wandered across the street, and settled on a public car driver, supporting himself with one foot against a wall. A woman wrapped her arms around his neck, and his hands rested on her backside. It was the same yellow shirt. She pulled away, dragging him by his hand for a few feet.

I looked back at the park and the exhibitions, but my mind couldn’t settle on old time heroes. I glanced across the street again. The driver had returned to his post next to his car, and the woman had resumed her brisk walk.

No deal.

Disappearing into La Mella (the poor neighborhood up the hill), she left me with a heavy heart.

People, Help the People” is one of the songs I had on repeat that night in my apartment, just a few blocks away.

God knows what is hiding in those weak and sunken eyes
fiery throngs of muted angels
giving love but getting nothing back
People, help the people!
And if you’re homesick, give me your hand and I’ll hold it. . .

God knows what is hiding, in that world of little consequence
Behind the tears, inside the lies
A thousand slowly dying sunsets
God knows what is hiding in those weak and drunken hearts
I guess the loneliness came knocking
No one needs to be alone, oh save me

I asked God that night to never let my heart be indifferent to the suffering around me. The worst possible thing is that I can see the sex trade happening in front of my eyes, and look the other way.

Years ago, God opened my heart to the tragedy of human trafficking. It’s the most nefarious, grimy, terrible corruption known to humans. And it happens in your cities and states, wherever you live. There are 27 million modern day slaves in the world. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center estimates it's a $32 billion industry, with half coming from industrialized countries.

God answered my prayer within a week with an email from Exodus Cry, a Christian organization dedicated to the abolition of slavery through prevention, restoration, awareness, and prayer. As I read their monthly prayer update, one thing stuck out to me:

What you pray for on a regular basis, you will not stop caring about.

I am in traffic in Santo Domingo every single day, on the way to my mission work with HOPE International. And although red lights are frequently not observed here, there is plenty of commuter time to pray for this city, and the world.

This is my prayer for women and children trapped in the sex trade:

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. --Ephesians 3:14-18, NLT