Lord, I Want to See
After the adventure of going to Matsapha to find the prostitutes, I was full of passion and vision and also absolute disgust for the culture’s view of women. I found out that one of the boys in my class had been to this prostitution place in Matsapha before. And that broke me even more, that the kids in my class were some of the boys paying these girls to sell their bodies. Then it made sense why most of the boys at the Enjabulweni boys’ home knew Tenele. You see, a few months back, Eilidh and I had gone to Enjaluweni home to show a movie to the boys. We used my laptop and the projector for the movie, and the picture on the background of my laptop was of Tenele and I. When they saw the picture they talked to themselves in SiSwati and it was clear that they all knew her. “How do you know Tenele?” I asked. They didn’t respond. But one boy replied, “Uh, just around town.” But it was clear now why they all knew her, and it made the situation even more heart-breaking.
The culture’s treatment of all of this was depressing. Even the girls who came with me to show me this area of prostitution laughed at the situation. No one takes it seriously, and they just laugh it off. I suppose it’s one way they cope with not recognizing the grim reality of the all-too-common situation.
So, I tried to figure out how I could bring this up to my students in class. I wanted them to see how it was a problem but I also didn’t want to hurt anyone in the class, because I had heard rumors that one of my girls was possibly a prostitute as well. But I couldn’t figure out how to do it or what exactly I would say, so I moved on from the thought. I started preparing the lesson for the next day. I use bible passages almost every morning as a listening comprehension exercise for the kids. So, I was searching for something good when I opened to Mark. I read a story and thought, yeah, that’d be good, then another one, and thought, okay this one might be better…and then I came to the story of Blind Bartimaeus. By the time I finished reading it, I knew this is exactly what the Lord wanted me to use for the “prostiution” talk. Somehow, He took me from Blind Bartimaeus to preaching to the kids about a blinded society.
So, the next day I eagerly awaited listening comprehension. I was a bit nervous, but I prayed that the Spirit would take control and that God would prepare their hearts to receive a possibly tough message. After the listening comprehension questions, I had the students talk about a part that they thought was most powerful. And that’s where I shared my own.
“There are five main lessons I see from this passage. The first one: we are all blind. Like blind Bartimaeus we are all blinded by certain things in life. There are things we don’t see when it comes to God or life or sin. The second is that Jesus calls all of us. Jesus calls Bartimaeus in the story and Bartimaeus springs to his feet, throwing aside his cloak and goes to Jesus. Jesus calls each of us, so the question remains: how do we respond? And that brings us to the third lesson: throw off your cloak. We all have things in life that hold us down, sins that we hide under or feel trapped by, and we are to throw them aside and run to Jesus. The fourth is Bartimaeus’ repsonse to Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus repsonds, “Lord, I want to see!” The question then to us is what do we want? Do we REALLY want to see? And the last lesson is Jesus’ answer to Bartimaeus’ eager and honest response: “Your faith has saved you.” Bartimaeus did not demonstrate any extraordinary action of proving his faith in Jesus. Simply, he called Jesus as he was, the “Son of David,” the Messiah. What I find interesting is that Bartimaeus had not physically seen Jesus, but he saw more than what most people in that time period (and our time period) saw in Jesus. The Pharisees themselves and the people saw Jesus with their own eyes and witnessed his miracles, yet they refused to believe…because their hearts were blind. And that leads us back to the first lesson: that we are all blind in different ways.
As I started “preaching” about these things, I talked about the blindness in society towards prostitution. I talked about the two areas of blindness: blindness with the girls themselves and blindness of the men.
For the girls, the blindness is deep, it’s a cover for the pain and shame. I talked about Bongiwe and Tenele (without actually mentioning their names of course) and how they are blinded by the lives they live and literally cannot see a way out no matter how clear it looks to me. For example, take Bongiwe’s situation. Here’s a young girl who has no father, her mother is sick with HIV, her older sister cannot afford to help support her or her younger brother. As a result, the two teenagers are basically left on the street to fend for themselves. The brother gets picked up from the streets and gets put into one of the five existing boys’ boarding homes. Then what happens to Bongiwe? Not only does she have no father, a sick mother, no money, no school, no place to stay, no food, and NO support, now she doesn’t even have her brother left. She’s left on her own. What does she have left? Herself. So she sells the one thing she has left: her body.
After the night of going to Matsapha, I was talking to Bravo about the prostitution situation in Swaziland and why it’s so rampid. Bravo said it’s a cycle that is near impossible to get out of. “They ruin their lives as soon as they go into it [prostitution],” he explained. “These girls do not have any support, and when they sell themselves, they lose any chance of support in the future, too. I mean, who would marry a prostitute?” he continued.
Then it made sense to me why Bongiwe and Tenele decided not to take my help. I seems like only a momentary source of support while they need something concrete; they need something to absolutely depend on as their source of support because they do not believe they can have better futures once they’ve already chosen prostitution. They, like Bravo, also think they have already ruined themselves. So why risk chasing hope when the one sure thing they have is their bodies: their source of money and therefore their source of support.
While talking to my students about the girls being blinded from seeing a way out, from seeing that no matter how deep in they are, they are never ruined if they come to Jesus. He calls and they can be healed, but they are blinded from this. Then I talked about the men in society and how they are blind to this problem as well. I addressed the young men in my classroom and challenged them to step up. “If the men stop buying the sex, the girls won’t have to sell, right? They only sell because the men buy.” The girls felt empowered by this comment that I started addressing the men in the room as being the ones who can take control and fight against prostitution instead of feeding it. And some of the men were empowered as well and verbally agreed as I talked. I ended with something like, “so the question is, do you want to see?” and it was so cool to hear them answer with a yes when I had intended it only as a rhetorical question. I could tell that some of them really took the message to heart.
“Lord, we want to see.”