Friday, June 6, 2014

Cape Town Sex Workers and Christ

I still don't quite know how I ended up doing an internship with a sex worker advocacy organization called SWEAT in Cape Town, South Africa. Something called me to be here, and I think it was more than just being able to experience a South African winter instead of the heat of the American summer. I guess I wanted to learn from other's experiences, to sit and talk with those society is so quick to reject. I wanted to work with the oppressed, like Jesus did.
So far I've spent a week learning about the lives of sex workers, meeting them, and observing the programs they have put together to support each other. I've also spent a week examining my own stigma against sex work.  I would be lying if I said I was comfortable with the concept of people selling sex to make a living. I am not.  But the truth of the matter is that these workers are adults, whose average age is 27. They tend to be free agents, who aren't trafficked or pimped out.  They work because this work is profitable.  They can at least double the incomes that they could make in other jobs. And they aren't bad people. They are people who have chosen for whatever reason to do sex work. I may not  be comfortable with all of what their jobs entail, but I can support programs that seek to empower them and support them.  They are all God's children.
The other day, I went to observe a large support group for women sex workers.  They began their time together with a prayer.  During the break, one woman asked me what I was doing and told me that many sex workers are religious and active in churches and mosques. There is a spirituality, a yearning for God's love that runs deep within the veins of many of these workers, not just women, but men as well.  There is a dream that runs deep within many of these people that someday they might be able to work in a legal industry and be able to tell their religious leaders their profession without the fear that they might be kicked out or publicly condemned.
And in the background of all this, I see Jesus, walking up to a woman who has been condemned of adultery, about to be stoned to death.  He looks at the people, rocks in their hands, and says, "Whoever is without sin, cast the first stone." And the stones are laid down, and the people walk away.
I am learning to put down my stone and interact with others whose lives can seem so foreign to me. I am learning that sometimes the life that needs more Christ is not the other's, but my own. And may God use me so that I may help others become the whole people God created them to be.

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