As we ducked into the brothel, children huddled around and other men and women peered through the rusted aluminum door, curious about the reason for our visit. A few of the women were already out of their rooms to greet us, grinning from ear to ear and we looked on, still taken over with amazement and filled with joy at the baskets of beads placed on the ground and the remaining straws lined with the small wrapped vibrant cocoons resting on sheets of paper to dry. The women hurried into their rooms to retrieve their wonderful creations and returned with the loops of myriad colors assembled on their forearms, many whose faces were beaming with pride at the display of their creativity. One woman still hastily grabbed at strands of string and beads in front of her to quickly thread the products of her diligent effort. We gathered the women together to begin tagging the necklaces and asked that they would write their names on the tiny white markers. Now the strands were personalized. Now they were marked by their creators and would not pass on in anonymity, but were connected with each life, each person who carried their own story, each image-bearer of God, even as each bead was instilled with their maker’s creative spirit. After the necklaces were tagged, the women formed a line, each proudly holding their handiwork. The necklaces were counted and each woman received compensation for their beautiful jewelry. It turned out that many had stayed up all night in their desire to finish their necklaces! As we circled around in prayer, we thanked God for the success of this project and for each of the women and how precious each is in God’s eyes. And in time, we said our goodbyes, our eyes still filled with hope and joy that bubbled over from our hearts to our eyes, from our faces to our speech.
Contemplating on this endeavor leads me to think of how it fits into the greater project, the grander story, of God’s ultimate redemption of Creation. Only the Lord is able to make beautiful things from nothing, from scraps, from the broken, and has given us gifts and talents and creativity to mimic and participate in God’s work. During our time at the brothel, Neile looked at me at one point and said that she did not think she would ever get over the gravity of this experience, and I replied that I hoped we never will. Because that day we had seen the direct proof of God’s desire to redeem Creation and to restore dignity and flourishing to every one of God’s children.
I realize that our work, in the grand scheme of things, is very small. We partnered with women at one brothel, in one city, in one area of one country in one region of the world. However, I also realize that God cherishes every work of any size. Indeed, God came to earth in the form of one man. God became like small, insignificant us. And here, Jesus engaged our world at the individual level, caring for and dignifying every life, especially those whom society had marginalized. And he worked with small things: a few loaves and fish, humble artisans, his own single body. No work was too small, no individual insignificant in his eyes, no offering too meager, because through the small and the simple, God can be glorified. We have allowed God to use the little we had: some paper, some glue, some scissors, and straws, and have surrendered them to God to be used according to God’s purpose. By God’s power we have seen the lives of a few individuals to be made better, to become closer to the fullness and flourishing God wants to shower us with but which has been restricted due to the prevalence of sin and injustice in our world. Today was a small step towards restoration, toward our ever present cry for God’s kingdom to be established upon earth and for God’s realm to be merged with our own brokenness. May the Lord be glorified by this work and in everything we do.
– Megan Greeley