This year has been an exercise in finding beauty and joy in unlikely places. The red light district is not a place of happiness. It is not clean. It is not real. It is not beautiful. It is a place of facades, pain, mistreatment…ashes. It is a place where you can see people who have abandoned their dreams or been dragged from them into darkness where they now serve as an indulgence for other’s pain or greed.
It is possible to lose perspective and even hope when working with women from/in this environment. Sometimes you see only the pain. But that helps no one.
While I worked with women leaving prostitution to return to their home country, I found out that they are amazing. This experience has not destroyed them. Each has found a way to hold onto hope, even if it’s just a glimmer. They sing and dance. They cook to share their culture and abilities with others. They watch out for each other. They laugh. They LAUGH! Can you believe it? The first week I spent at the shelter with women who had left prostitution (previously tricked and trafficked, taken from their home country and now trying to get home) we danced, sang, laughed, cooked and ate together. It was joy. It was beauty. It was life-giving.
In the darkness, in the pain, there is always some hope, some light. God can turn any pile of ashes into something beautiful (Isaiah 61:3)