While in Malaysia in November, I had a weekend to rest and explore the city. I headed out without a plan, other than the goal to take pictures around the city and river. After winding through huge markets and different areas of the city, I had finally made it to the river. Spotting a nearby bench, I sat down for a little while to scope out the surroundings!
Shortly after sitting on a small bench, a young woman came and sat next to me. I could see from her poorly done makeup and the way she dressed that I was probably a customer to her. I suspected her business was prostitution. She introduced herself as Anette*. I told her my name, and as we sat in silence, my heart began to break. My question of, “how are you today?” broke the silence.
Although she didn’t speak fluent English, she spoke it well enough for small talk. We spent a few minutes talking about the river and the city, small things like that. Finally, I asked what she did for work. She explained in broken English that her job was to have sex. When she said this I could tell she was partly ashamed to admit this and also partly wondering if I was interested. I told her, “I am not a customer; I am a friend.”
By looking at her somewhat anorexic figure, I assumed she didn’t eat often. So I asked her what restaurants she recommended in the area. After she said the name of a place within sight, I offered to buy her lunch. She agreed and I wondered what I had just done! This woman’s appearance made it obvious about her trade… what would people think?
As we walked I looked to see the faces turn to watch her. Other women looked at her in a disapproving way, men looked at her and then me as if knowing what was going on. Out of insecurity about the situation, I explained to her again that I was not a customer and did not want anything in return. She said she understood so I let the situation play out.
When we sat down at this riverside restaurant, I could tell from her body language she felt out-of-place. “Have people taken you out to eat before?” I asked. She said, “No, never!”While waiting for our food, I got to know Anette a little better. She is 25 and travels back and forth from the rice fields for work. It’s the off-season, however, so she doesn’t have any work back at her home.
Meaning she has to find an alternative to afford things like food, water, and a place to live. I asked her a little bit more about her work. She explained, “I don’t like my work but what can I do?” The way she said this made it obvious that she didn’t want to do this work at all. But she couldn’t figure out another way.
When she locked eyes with me and said, “You are a good man,” I took the opportunity to share the Gospel with her.
I tried my hardest to convey it to her in a way she could comprehend, but there was a significant language barrier. I tried to make sure she recognized the name Jesus at the very least. After that, I realized the best thing I could do for her was to show her Jesus. I started probing about her past and discovered that she looks after her 7-year-old sister after her mother died.
I then inquired as to what Anette like doing for leisure. “I don’t like working, but I enjoy having customers,” she explained. At the very least, I won’t be alone. I despise being by myself. I don’t have any pals because of my travels and employment.” She begged for permission to take our dinner to-go so her sister may eat some of it after it arrived at the table. Even when she refused to let me buy her sister’s supper, I consented. Then it occurred to me that I had just strolled through a market.
I asked her if she and her sister had enough clothes. She said no so I offered to buy her clothes and she excitedly agreed. My experience in the market was very different this time. Before, every vendor called out to me, “SIR SIR, would you like the shirt? Would you like a camera?” Whatever the vendor was selling was being called out to me, but not this time.
Vendors saw me with this woman and looked away, embarrassed. It was a lot quieter than before. We eventually found jeans and shirts, and for $32 she was able to get a few outfits for her and her sister, including a brand new pair of shoes. As we continued to talk and get to know each other, my heart continued to break. It broke for the way people looked at her, it broke for the way she looked at herself, and it broke for the way people looked at us together.
People assumed they knew what was going on. They looked at her with contempt for what she does and what she represents. But I know the truth. I know that this woman isn’t just a prostitute, she is an heir. I know that this precious woman is a princess and the King of Kings died for her. I know she is worth more than $20 dollars for 4 hours and that she is treasured beyond belief.
I know she is valued and loved to an extent I will only fully comprehend in heaven. After she got her outfit, I gave her a few extra dollars and we parted ways. It was only then that Anette finally believed that I didn’t want anything. When I told her I had to go I could see [the] shock on her face. Her expression showed her disbelief in what just happened.
I saw her smile as she walked away, holding a new outfit in one hand and a meal in the other. This is what Jesus does for us, I realized. He has a unique perspective on us that no one else has. He provides us a new name in addition to fresh clothes and a supper. We constantly sell ourselves to the things of this world, but He takes us and purchases us back. He adores us with an unfathomable affection.
We can more accurately demonstrate this love through actions rather than words. Go show people love today!