Another paper from an independent study in San Jose, Costa Rica. Enjoy!
Dr. Robert Price
September 24, 2009
Dr. Robert Price
September 24, 2009
“There are more slaves alive today than all the people stolen from Africa,” notes Kevin Bales in his book Disposable People (Univ. of California Press, 2000).
Forces of modernization have accelerated the resurgence of this “new slavery,” as Bales calls it. The dramatic increase in world population, tripling since 1945 (from about 2 to 6 billion), has overwhelmed some developing countries. Rampant unemployment and underemployment give rise to masses of desperate people, producing what Bales calls “a glut of potential slaves.” 1
When you hear the word “prostitute,’ what usually goes through your head? If you asked me what I thought over a year ago, I would have described a woman dressed in a short skirt and tiny top, wearing heals and a lot of makeup, standing on the corner of a street in an urban area. I would have thought about the places in cities like Las Vegas or Amsterdam where nearly everywhere you turn there is a woman willing to go to bed with you for a price. And more importantly, I would have carried the typical stereotype that ‘prostitutes’ do what they do because they want to, or because they know it is better money than other jobs.
In the same thought, if you asked me what the Bible had to say about prostitutes, I would have told you that it’s view is the same – that prostitution is bad and that those seen doing it in the Bible (especially the old testament), did it on their own free will (though I would have recognized Jesus’ act at forgiving one in the New Testament).
But during the last year and a half, much has changed with my perception and understanding of ‘prostitutes.’ During the spring of 2008 I had the chance to travel to picturesque Costa Rica with two friends for some site seeing and missions. After vacationing at the beach for a few days and visiting a volcano, I spent about a week being intentional with spending time with missionaries who showed me the side of Costa Rica that tourists don’t usually see. I was able to visit a few churches and even help build one church that was erecting a new worship space.
Amongst these experience, there was one that sticks with me vividly. Two of the missionaries I spent time with had been praying for opportunities to get involved with Costa Rica’s sex trafficking industry. What I discovered would forever change my perception of prostitution, and help me understand that more often than not they are the victim and not the perpetrator. The following are a few journal entries regarding my experience in San Jose. Following these entries, I will further explore this industry and look at ways the church is providing hope to those without it.
April 12, 2008
Today has been another good day so far, and though it would have been good to be in La Fortuna with Michael and Sebastian, I have been able to continue building transformational relationships with the Gonzalez family as well as get in some running and site-seeing – and tonight get a tour of the red light district from the Baits.
“Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” If ever I am tempted again to look at girls in any other way than as a child of God, ever in a way that belittles them as simply an object, so help me God. And help the men who participate in sex tourism. I have tonight experienced an extreme of women being used and abused as objects that should make me never able to justify looking at a girl lustfully again.
Alright, so beyond personal conviction and accountability, tonight was another great experience for learning about urban ministry – and going to another place Jesus would be were he in Costa Rica (He is!). Gary and Mylinda (another missionary couple I have been spending some time with) picked me up from the Gonzalez’ house and took me to the red-light district (called Gringo Gulch) in downtown San Jose. A street I had walked down just over a week ago with Sebastian and Michael, was now littered with casinos and hotel restaurant/bars open for legal prostitution or “sex tourism.”
After driving around and parking, we walked over to a restaurant in a hotel where, once inside, we were out of place by only ordering a coke. Everyone in the bar/restaurant was either a waitress/bar tender, security guard, “John” trying to pick up a girl for the night (mostly old white American or European men in their 50’s or 60’s), or a prostitute waiting around until a man approached them (looking ‘bored’ as Mylinda said). It was a crazy encounter with darkness, one I don’t think sociology or participant observation (even if not taking the girl back to the room) could ever be enough (not that it ever is, but here it is hard to observe and never do anything about – like homelessness or drug addiction). From what Gary and Mylinda said, the men will buy the women a drink, they’ll talk a little bit, and then the man will take the girl back to their room to have sex. This is only one of many ways the two can match up – others being ordering them to be sent to one’s hotel room or getting it included in a vacation package with fishing or site seeing. Mylinda kept saying these men could be an uncle from the States or a man sitting next to us in the pew on Sunday morning. We talked about different methods of encountering the darkness with the light of Christ and what follows are some of those methods:
• having a number of older Tico ladies sit in the restaurant and pray or talk with
• have a number of Christian men come in at once to talk truth into the women’s
lives (this because the only men the women encounter are ‘sleeze bags,’ though redeemable ‘sleeze bags’ at that), and I would add having these men’s wives praying outside on the block and waiting for their husbands to direct the women to their wives to talk further or set up a meeting time for the next day to have lunch, do some shopping, or get their nails done – with an end result inviting the women to be a part of the church community to which the Christian couple is a part
• wearing shirts that say “sex tourism is slavery” or “she is a person, not a
prostitute” while walking around the block praying and holding candles
• finding a way to create a public or media response and movement or momentum
like Civil Rights and Slavery movements
• getting Costa Ricans involved; any assortment or combination of the above.
But then after talking with Gary he came back to saying he wasn’t sure what to do but knew he didn’t want to just sit doing nothing, either leave or do something. So we prayed for a while, each taking our turn with our heads bowed and hands on each others in the middle of the table – I know Jesus was present with us tonight, but I also know what certain disciples must have felt like eating at the house of tax collectors and sinners, or letting a prostitute wash Jesus’ feet, or going amongst the Samaritans and other “uncomfortable” or “untouchables” places Jesus took them. I do pray that something may come out of the Baits’ hearts for the men and women caught in this industry and that Jesus may be present in bringing transformation to the areas and industry. “Come, Lord Jesus, Come!”