Even without a second glance, the enormity of crucifixion was written large on her pale face. My hands grew limp as I tried to make cursory notes on her story – it oozed with pain and heartache. Even with long years of experience in this work nothing could have prepared me for the enormity of her pain. Remembering her story later, I recalled that at 25 years old, I had just completed my Nursing finals in Ireland. I knew we were poles apart, compared to her experience of life. Yet I felt grateful that God drew me to walk closely with the most abused and degraded of these young women.
‘Emily’ was facing enormous challenges back at home due to high levels of poverty in her family, so, she decided to seek ‘greener’ pastures in Nairobi. While working in a low-end hotel with a fellow tribe’s woman as her immediate boss, she was told that now she must also be available to give sex services to the men who frequented the hotel and bar on a 24/7 basis. “Just imagine we were 7 girls on the night shift and only 3 working during the daylight hours. Copious tears flowed down her pale cheeks as she told me that most clients came in the night hours and the majority wanted a girl to help them relax. Emily knew she had no choice, but what was the way out? She looked at me with a pleading look in her eyes and said: “it was Hell – pure hell, all the time” Just then a friend introduced her to an agent who offered her a promising job in Lebanon and working in a good environment. She thought to herself ‘this is surely an answer to ‘my prayer’. My mother “always encouraged me to be strong and get the best paying job I could find.” Emily knew that “if I could earn a better wage it would help her to raise school fees for her younger siblings”
Going up to Jerusalem
Nine times in the Gospels Jesus told his disciples “Now we are going up to Jerusalem” he knew that crucifixion and death awaited him there. These men (and women) who had pledged their lives to Jesus could never grasp that such a fate awaited him. ‘Emily’ had all these elements of crucifixion await her in Beirut. In the first brief employment period, she was extremely overworked (not less than a twenty-hour day). The female boss had her work in her mother’s residence also – by all accounts she was a ruthless slave driver who forced Emily to eat from the plates she scraped for washing up but it was never enough. She went on to tell me “my skirt was falling off me and even my periods stopped due to the extreme stress I was under” (I nodded in agreement). Then she revealed to me what stressed her most was the ‘boss himself’ after going out to work in the morning with his wife, he would later return to the house and rape Emily. This continued day-after-day-after-day, there seemed to be no end in sight. As I reflected more on her situation, I thought of Jesus on his way to Calvary, did he feel ‘no end in sight also’? This was surely his mental and physical state before the Roman soldiers enlisted the help of Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross. They wanted to have the satisfaction of actually driving the nails into his hands and feet, then raise him high as a common criminal.
The Dangerous Escape
She contacted her agent who advised her to escape. The agent did not offer her even one cent to recover. She did this one morning when the garbage bin came to the gate. It was a very scary experience to find herself on the streets of Beirut – a young woman, black, with no security, money or passport. Her sense of fear was heighted and then came the night when all manner of thugs were literally loose on the streets. Her worst terrible nightmare was confounded following a gang rape. She wandered into a supermarket and met a Kenyan lady who explained her own dilemma too, so they both went to sleep outside the Kenyan embassy. This was not an ideal arrangement but she was happy to have companionship. During the time she related her story, I thought to myself this can only be crucifixion.
A Matter of Survival
Shortly afterwards, she was to discover that these Kenyan women who supported each other and had babies with Lebanese men were either raped or relieved each other to take turns in prostitution (to secure an income). With this arrangement one of them usually stayed at home (in their one rented room) to take care of the babies. A little later, Emily realized that she too was pregnant, she was completely gutted but also amazed by the manner in which these women supported each other in what was a very bleak outlook and probably the worst time in their lives. Emily was forced to consider many questions: should she arrive home with a Lebanese baby or arrive home and deliver her baby as a Kenyan citizen. She choose the latter and broke the news gently to her mother who was very supportive. She now enjoys the kind of support we offer to these woman. With our WhatsApp support group (of over 300) they offer tremendous courage and understanding to each other. They finally resurrect from the ashes of their experiences and go on to make the best use of their self-help efforts.
At the outset of all the hurdles they have to face, we provide psychosocial and financial support and in any way we can help them to make a complete turnaround from despair to hope and the opportunity to get their lives back on track. I asked one woman who had severe PTSD how she is feeling now? Her reply came quickly “now instead of hitting the children all the time, I find I am beginning to enjoy them” I knew then that Resurrection had entered her life despite all the pain endured in the days of crucifixion.
Mary O’ Malley, MMM
2nd April, 2023