Before our recent prayer week we asked God what our response to the current gang war that had been raging since November should be. His response – REST. What? But we need to wage war against the powers and principalities, we need to fight back, we need to shout and scream. No, REST. And so we did, we transformed our prayer room into a little garden and we rested in it, sometimes having to fight violently to make ourselves rest…but we rested. And gang fight stopped.
I’m sorry, what now? Yes, we asked God what we should do, he told us and gang fight ceased.
Now, I’m not saying things are always that straight forward but God is starting to teach us/me that we work with him, not for him or after him. And so the invitation on the last night of the prayer week was – what if you started to ask me not just about the gang fight, but about what your response should be to gangs in the community, to drugs, to prostitution and to abuse?
What does Shalom really look like?
And so we’ve started asking.
Last week Thursday we went on a prayer walk and felt like what we needed to pray into was prostitution. He led us to a specific location in Manenberg that represents prostitution in the Hard Livings gang. Feeling totally inadequate to pray into such a huge thing, we asked God for a strategy in how we should pray and we had images of us hugging this particular building and picking up rubbish.
As I hugged the building and laid my head against it, I felt God say,
“if these walls could talk, they would tell stories you could not bear to hear. But the stories that lay hidden here are your story. The story of abused women is the story of you being abused, or your pain because you cannot separate yourself from the women of Manenberg, the women being exploited here. You need to feel their pain”
I also felt like it was time to change my language. We talk about prostitution so much, but there’s something about that word that suggests that the woman has chosen to prostitute herself, that she is benefiting. And again, God gently said to me, no woman chooses this, stop calling it prostitution, call it the exploitation of women, because that is what happens here.
There is one particular young woman in Manenberg who I know has experienced exploitation in this very location. I met her three years ago and see her very sporadically, but hadn’t for a while. As I started singing words of truth around this building , I heard someone shouting my name…it was this young woman. I was a little surprised to see her but I knew it was her stories I had to hear, because her pain is my pain. But we didn’t chat at that moment as she was with a crowd of others, but God had flagged her in my mind.
On Tuesday in community worship this young woman showed up. I didn’t fetch her, didn’t go looking for her, but she was there. Is it possible that as we begin to prayer into the exploitation of women more intentionally, God draws those women to us? Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I felt convinced that God was reminding me that I’m working with him, and that this young woman needs to be heard, to shake the pillars of exploitation in this community, this woman needs restoration and to be told that it is never too late, that there is life for her.