During our first meeting with Fr. Larry about the girls home (see a separate blog entry about details on the girls home), we explained Hosea’s Heart and where the name came from. He commented that we should name the house Gomer’s House (after the woman named Gomer, whom the Lord had instructed the prophet Hosea to marry). Though we already have a name for the home (Litsemba Lemphilo, which means Hope for Life), the name Gomer stuck with me, so that’s what I entitled another part of our ministry here in Swaziland: Gomer’s Girls, other prostitutes living in Mangwaneni like Tenele.
After visiting Tenele numerous times these past few weeks, I started noticing the stares from other women around her in the squatter camp. At this point, they are familiar with me, can call me by name, and know that I am there to help Tenele. A handful of her friends also asked for help for different things last year, but none of them has approached me this year. I started noticing them a lot more this year. Usually, I’m not very fond of looking around while I walk through Mangwaneni because you don’t want to make eye contact with the wrong people, but I suddenly had this awareness of the other women around Tenele who ache for the same thing I am offering her: a chance for hope. I waited until what I felt was the right timing (for safety reasons for my other teammates–it’s very important that their faces are seen and they are introduced to a lot of people at the care point before they venture into the squatter camp with me; it’s not what you know, but WHO you know) before we ministered to other women in the squatter camp. These young women will not be seen at the carepoint; they are like Tenele and like Gomer in the fact that you must pursue them in order to help them. They don’t want to be seen, although they ache to be noticed. They don’t want to be helped, although they starve for hope. They don’t want to leave their lifestyle, though they yearn for the chance to get out. These are the Gomer’s girls, and they are beautiful.
Last week I took my teammates to see Tenele with the goal of finding some more prostitutes to take out to lunch at KFC in town with us. I spoke to Tenele for awhile before I proposed the idea. She wasn’t sure what to think at first, but then when I asked her who else we could help, her eyes lit up as she talked about her friend Nomsa. Tenele said Nomsa had just given birth to a baby boy recently but didn’t know who the father was because she was a prostitute. So we went on a search for one girl, and we ended up leaving the camp with six!
Interestingly enough, Christina and I had prayed that morning about God leading us to the right girls and I had verbalized to Christina how perfect it would be if we found six girls, because that would create great one on one conversations for each of my teammates. God most definitely delighted in the prayer and in our obedience to his prompting in pursuing these girls. Our time with Gomer’s Girls was richly rewarded with conversation, laughter, KFC, and love. One of the most surprising parts was that Tenele was not jealous at all that I was “sharing” the love, so to speak. In previous years, she was very jealous of to whom I gave my attention and love; however, this time she was relishing in the fact that her friends were also being loved on as well.
On the walk back home I was talking to Nomsa when a bus drove by with a SiSwati title on the side. She read it outloud in English: “Heaven is my Home.” I took the opportunity to ask, “Nomsa, is heaven your home?”
“Yes, Mahdi-Kate,” she answered. Buhle, the sixteen year old girl walking in front of us laughed heartily at Nomsa’s remark.
“Unemanga!” Buhle called Nomsa a liar.
“No, really,” Nomsa answered back. “I’m going to heaven.”
Buhle laughed again at her friend as Nomsa claimed she had just gotten saved recently.
“I’m serious, the pastor is coming this weekend,” Nomsa told Buhle.
I turned my conversation towards Buhle and said, “What about you, sisi?”
Buhle just shook her head. “Ei, ei… I don’t know…” she said and refocused her attention in the direction ahead. Nomsa took the opportunity to laugh at Buhle and agreed that Buhle wasn’t going to go to heaven. I prodded Buhle further and asked if she believed in God. She didn’t quite know how to respond, so Nomsa explained, “She was a Christian when she was younger…but not anymore.”
“Why is that?” I asked Buhle. I’m not sure why I immediately asked what I did next, but it just slipped out: “Are you angry at God?”
The question struck something deep inside Buhle. She slowly and immediately (almost without thinking) nodded her head that yes she is angry at God. When I looked over at her, her eyes were moist with tears.
We took the girls out again later in the week, but Buhle wasn’t there. They came over to our house and we had some great dances, laughs, and talks. We ended the evening with Nomsa’s demand to pray. It was amazing. She also asked us to get them to come to church with us on Sunday. Oh how beautiful! Sandi, another eighteen year old with us, made a comment to Lindsay that she was going to get beat by her “boyfriend” when they walked back because she ate dinner with us and wasn’t at “home” to cook for him. Eish! Though it’s sad hearing about their stories, it was a blessing to be able to love on them and offer them hope, too.
When Sunday rolled around, our team split up for church so that we could get to both churches, one in Timbutini and one in Moneni. I went to Timbutini and the girls who went to Moneni got to experience a true miracle! You can read their blogs about it to hear firsthand, but I’ll tell you why it’s so incredible from my end. Tenele knew I was going to be in Timbutini for church and I gave her the choice to join me or to stay with her friends and go to church in Moneni. She told me she’d go with my teammates to Moneni; I couldn’t be more thrilled because I want Tenele to go to church because she truly wants to, not just to impress me or to spend more time with me. So it was sort of a test to see if she was serious about claiming that she “changed” her life. So while I was at Timbutini, my teammates showed up to Tenele’s only with the disappointment of Tenele refusing to come, which made the Gomer girls also refuse to come. My teammates left Mangwaneni with frustrated, disappointed spirits as we had been looking forward to this all week. They prayed the whole way (they rode a kombi) to church that the girls would somehow get to church anyway (this church is a four hour service by the way).
During the first hour of church, the girls saw Tenele coming up the hill! And soon behind her appeared the Gomer girls! They “randomly” decided to go to church even though the kombi and the group had already left, so they WALKED all the way to church (and it’s a long walk)! The pastor felt so moved by the spirit that he switched his entire sermon and focused it on prostitution (he didn’t know these girls were coming, by the way, or that they were prostitutes!). He called them out on living in a life of sin but also took a very tender side of the issue by siding with the women by shaming the men. As the girls told me later about all that this pastor said, I couldn’t help but swell with joy knowing that finally more males are taking a stand for their women and trying to help these young women out of this lifestyle. At one point during the service, the pastor did an altar call for prayer, for leaving the temptations, for protection, etc. and Tenele was the first to rise, leading the Gomer girls as they followed her leadership up to the pastor for prayer! What a miracle! And praise the Lord I wasn’t there, because I know Tenele is doing this for her and not for any other reason.
Praise the Lord and keep the Gomer girls in your prayers.