My Grace Is Big Enough
Today we have been asked to go into a new red-light district to teach the women about their bodies; specifically, we were asked to teach the women in the red-light districts about their menstrual cycles/hygiene and self-care.
Entry into this district isn’t nearly as loud, chaotic and overwhelming as the previous. But it feels a little more isolated and the poverty is just as profound. We were led through a maze of narrow alleys until the alley itself seemed to spit us out at a dead end. In front of us was an unassuming, small building with lightly painted blue walls.
Considering this is the first time a team has been on the ground here, we expected that only a small handful of women would show up at the center today for the teaching. But once again, long before we arrived, Sarah*, a Rahab’s Rope staff, had already been intentionally working in the slum community. As a result, when the door to the new center opened for our team to welcome in a class for the first time, it wasn't long before there were about 35 women packed within its walls.
One woman, the first in the center, was crouched in a corner with a small child and a school aged daughter. Sarah* quietly explained that this woman had previously sold two of her other children and she showed us a photo of the woman and her family before the children were sold. Sarah* explained that she hopes to get the remaining two children in school and is helping the mom to find a vocation other than sex work with the hope that the traumatic losses/selling of her children, might not be repeated. I made eye contact with this woman often. She was quiet; pensive; sad. She sat off to the side alone while those around her conversed.
When you see the living conditions of this place, it becomes much easier to have nothing but compassion well up in the space where judgement might have been the more common knee jerk response.
Once the center was full, I asked the women who were in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, if they know why they bleed each month and they unanimously shook their head or answered “no”. This was the same response I got from the women in the brothels in Mumbai the day before. It is understandable their knowledge regarding this topic might be quite limited, as most of them have never been in school or were forced to drop out by second grade. Still, I found the fact that not one of the women in these districts could answer, (or were afraid to) somewhat surprising. Despite the topic of menstruation being a taboo issue to speak of in Indian culture, they all listened attentively. They seemed hungry to know everything we spoke of and I found myself so grateful for having the opportunity to be sitting in that room with them. We did our best to explain the essentials about menstruation, and self-care/hygiene and closed the class with the Bible story about the woman who bled for 12 years.
Sadly, these women understand what it means to be like the bleeding woman in the Gospels, rejected by society and considered dirty and unclean. They nodded as we explained how society and the religious community shunned the bleeding woman. We spoke about Jesus and how He came to restore us to the Father. We rejoiced that the word tells us Jesus called the woman daughter, even though all those around her, rejected her. The most high, the Son of God, He wanted to make her well.
She could come to Him exactly as she was. Dirty, rejected, sick, bleeding, trembling in fear.
And he said to her:
"Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, suffer no more." Mark 5: 34
I’ve read this Gospel story many times before, but the truth of that passage has never felt as sweet and hope filled and beautiful as it did when we shared it with the women who live and work among brothels.
After the Bible story, we finally pulled out the pad kits that we brought with us, and it provided some laughter and levity. They were eager to get their pads and their panties.
If I ever doubted His love for me, or for ‘the one’ in a crowd of many, witnessing this ministry in action reminds me of how He comes after each of his children. He literally sends people out into the darkest of dark places, through winding, narrow, trash littered alleys to find His one.
The woman in the corner. The one who felt she had no choice but to sell two of her children? If I could recognize her palpable pain and isolation in the short hour we shared together, how much more intimately does He sit with her in her grief and guilt and despair? Maybe that’s why he kept directing my eyes to her; as if to say, that one right there? The one who looks to be the saddest and loneliest in the room? Heavy with shame? Even among her peers?
I SEE her.
I CAME for her.
And my GRACE is big enough.