God and the Prostitute: Who’s Your Neighbor?
By: Tara Altay taraaltay.com
“Gates up.” Greg’s baritone voice crackles through the walkie talkie.
Like a reflex, I click open my silver clutch and reapply my sunset-fuchsia lip mousse. I close my eyes, let out a deep sigh and transform myself into Chastity again. I smooth out my pleather mini and step down from the stool onto the old, but soft, orange shag rug in my 6 inch high stilettos.
The gated entrance is situated at the end of a pothole punctured asphalt driveway. Hundreds of five foot high wooden slats stand shoulder to shoulder guarding the property like stone faced soldiers.
After the crack epidemic of the 1980’s this town never bounced back. Our house is registered as a Bed and Breakfast, but no one could mistake it for those Victorian style B and B’s on the coast.
No gardeners fuss over the grounds here, if you can even call it “grounds”. The front lawn is the size of a large area rug. And the exterior has the same saggy outdated look of the other 90+ year old homes on the block.
The neighbor’s backyard is so cluttered with broken down cars and car parts that they keep their grill on their front porch. They barbeque out there all the time, even in winter.
Sometimes the smell of pork chops smeared with spices and sautéed onions wafts up to my bedroom window. The $32 a day I pay for room and board only affords fruit loops and some slimy version of hamburger helper in the evening. Whenever I get my own place my first meal’s gonna be grilled pork chops and onions.
I grab my clutch, twirl toward the door and swipe my hair behind my shoulders. In the mirror behind the bar I spy one of the girls with long ginger hair in the mirror walking toward the back door too. For a brief second I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. I barely recognize myself anymore.
Somewhere deep on the inside I still see the girl who’s smart enough to go to college and build a successful career in the city. But everyday I spend in here my memory of that girl and her dream shrinks like the edges of a photograph held to the flame of a cigarette lighter.
I wonder who’s at the gate. I need this “party”. I only wanted to work here long enough to make enough money to pay for school. School starts next month, and I’m not even close.
I rub my hand across my stomach to soothe the churning. After two years I still get nervous right before lineup. Or maybe it’s the spoonfuls of day old hamburger helper I just forced down. If I score this “party” I’ll make him put a few vodka tonics on his tab. That will calm my nerves and my stomach.
As we file through the door, I spot the couple walking toward the porch. It’s not unheard of for a couple to visit the Inn, but it is rare.
As they walk up the steps I sense something different about them. The woman looks into my eyes as her cheeks raise into a gentle smile. For a second her smile wraps around me like a warm comforting bubble bath.
Right away Greg begins listing off the rules.
“Here’s how it works, each girl will introduce herself. Look them over, but no touching. Choose one. Then pick your services from the menu.” Greg points to the menu on the wall near the bar.
“Chastity will take your credit card. When that’s all set, you can stay in the parlor for drinks with your host or she can show you straight to your room.”
Lined up on the rickety back porch, I elbow the new girl next to me to step forward first.
“Hi I’m Naomi.” She says. Her eyes drop to the ground. I can see her hands shaking as she wrings them behind her back. She steps back in line.
Maybe I’ll get this party after all.
The man interrupts, “Is Madam Angie here? “ His voice is soft and kind.
“No, she left me in charge while she runs an errand.” Greg mumbles.
The man still hasn’t looked at any of us girls. I panic briefly. Are they cops? No, I reassure myself. They are too soft to be cops.
The man’s starched blush colored button down shirt rolls up neatly at the sleeves. Creamy dark chocolate skin covers his strong arms as he reaches out to shake Greg’s hand.
“I’m Pastor Cecil and this is my wife Vanessa.
A Community Center is opening up a few blocks away. Have you guys heard? We wanted to personally invite you all to be a part of the grand opening next week.”
I relax my pose and look down the line to see if anyone else is as confused as I am.
“We have a café and free GED classes in the mornings and evenings. There’s a fitness center on the ground floor and we’re planning to have free dance and cooking classes soon.
You guys are our community, and we want you to be part of the fun too.“
Vanessa squeezes her hand into the pocket of her high rise black skinny jeans and pulls out what looks like gift cards. She flairs them out like a deck of cards and hands us a few each.
“Here’s some gift cards for a free coffee in the café. I’ll be your waitress until we can find more servers. Please tell your friends we are hiring.”
She glances over at Greg, “Please tell Madam Angie I have an idea I want to run by her. Maybe I can take her to lunch next week.”
Vanessa’s warm soothing smile feathers my heart again as she hands me a card. My throat tightens and moist heat burns my lower eyelids. I clench my jaw to hold back the unexpected emotions.
Before moving down the line to Naomi, she looks into my eyes one last time, “I’m teaching the first cooking class next Saturday afternoon: seared pork chops and caramelized onions. Would love to see you there.”
The above story is fiction. But organizations do exist to bring hope to women working in the sex industry. Across the country teams of brave and fiercely loving women regularly visit strip clubs and brothels bringing the simple message of love to the beautiful souls working there.
God’s been reaching out to prostitutes for centuries.
In Joshua 2, spies enter Jericho to case out the land before they take it over. When those men picked a place hide while staking out the land, I wonder if they knew they’d end up in a brothel.
They may not have known they would end up at Rahab the prostitute’s Inn, but God knew. And God knew Rahab. He knew she was ready for freedom. Freedom came knocking on her door and she jumped at the chance.
God wants to launch a love-take over in your city and neighborhood too. Yet on this side of the cross, He’s not trying to eliminate people like He did in the Old Testament. He’s not crushing them with judgement. He’s wanting to love out the darkness trapping them. And His plan is to work through us, to love through us, liberating everyone in our cities one precious person at a time.
Who’s your neighbor?
Who can you love on today? Who can you share a smile with today? The gesture doesn’t have to be perfect or fear-free, it just needs to be motivated by love.
In Matthew 9:38-40 The apostles were with Jesus when he was teaching and healing people in villages in the area. Jesus was overwhelmed with compassion because the need was so great. He told his apostles pray for more workers to get the good news out.
Then, in his next breath He said, “Now you guys go and do it. I’m giving you My authority to love and preach and heal.” (Matthew 10:1)
To find out more about joining, supporting or starting a ministry for women in the sex industry click on the links below.
Brenda, the founder of Xquisite and her team foster friendships, offer support and give a voice to women working in the industry in the Carson City NV area.
The Pearls team in Jackson, TN believe “every person has value right where they are, without condition.” Their team visits strip clubs regularly bringing gifts and treats to the women during their shifts.