Yesterday and today (Thursday and Friday), I (Chris) had errands to walk.
As I meandered my way to my destinations, I spent the time praying for the city, praying for the people, and asking God to show me how to love this city and minister to it’s people. We desire for God’s name to be glorified.
The question that I’m asking God to show me is “What binds this city?” “What are its spiritual needs?”
Two events happened today walking home from an errand.
Try to imagine with me
I stopped to sit on a platform and do some people watching and praying on a busy street.
Backpackers, lost tourists, homeless, and street vendors are all common sights. I am often given a invitation to a over-priced taxi, or to buy cheap pirated CDs from a walking vendor.
Trash overflows from the cans.
Indigenous women and men from the Kuna people sell their molas and other handiwork.
Vendors sell knock off Ray-ban sunglasses and hawk newspapers.
The urban poor search trash cans for recyclables.
Beggars lean against the wall holding out little foam cups hoping for a spare change from a tourist.
This street has erotic shops, an active strip club and massage parlor, and I’ve often overheard male airline passenger share tips that high priced panama hookers are easily available on this street to service the casino and hotel patrons.
“Do you want a young girl?”
A young man, malnourished, tries to scrape a few bucks by managing the parking in front of a busy plaza.
Common practice in the city. He tries to stop the flow of traffic to help people back out, cross the street, and directs people to park their cars in the stall. Typically, folks give him a quarter to “watch their car” for his service.
My attention is drawn to him as I watch his efforts. People don’t respect him. He takes authority, as if he’s a traffic cop. Some people share their quarters with him. I watch him also asks tourists for some change as well. He’s working hard. Confident in his steps.
He sees me sitting on my little bench and approaches.
“Friend” he calls me. I find that I’m assuming he’ll hit me up for money. Then he begins to say that
“If you want women, young women, I can hook you up. I know where they are. 18, 19, 21. They are pretty, they’ll do what you want, and you can have as many of them as you like. . .”
There is an eagerness to his voice. I am both stunned and humored. I let him continue to describe the fleshly beauty and the temptations that he offers (though I am not tempted). He’s selling me the services of young girls.
I hold up my left hand, showing him the gold band around my fourth finger
“A Ha” he exclaims, leaning back to change his tone and sales pitch.
He’s obviously disappointed.
Refining his eagerness, he starts affirming my decision to stay with one woman and how all the hookers in Panama are infected and that’s its not good to use them because I might get a disease. . .
I chime in: “It is God’s perfect will that sex be expressed inside a marriage between one man and one woman. I want to be pleasing to the Lord and always honor my wife.”
The shift to God’s calling in marriage quickly stops everything. Knowing that he won’t get a sale out of me for his services, he then says “Friend, can I have some spare change to buy a soda?”
I turn down his offer. I know he won’t buy a soda. He’ll simply add it to the pile of change in his pocket he’s earned from parking cars.
Do you want a taxi? A woman?
I resume my walk, pondering why was this offer made to me.
There is a section of this street where I’m always offered a taxi. It’s a pattern that happens every time I walk this street.
A slightly overweight driver points to his car and offers “Taxi my friend?”
Looking him in the eye, I smile and decline his offer. “No thanks.” Sometime the drivers attempt to make other conversation with a quick follow up question — “Where you from?” or “Where you going?” or something like that.
Today was different.
“You want a woman? I can get one for you.”
Stunned, I simply hold up my left hand to show him my wedding band.
With a laugh, he says “that don’t mean anything.”
What are its spiritual needs?
I walked home continuing to pray for my city. In the time that I’ve been here both as a tourist and resident, this is the first time I’ve been offered women and girls. I’m sure it happens.
However, I’m also certain that God has shown me an insight into some of the spiritual bondage of this city related to prostitution. He’s answering my prayer.
For now, he’s guiding me to pray for these men, for these women.
While that profession is very old and I can’t do much about it, I can certainly pray that the Church in this country can reach men and women for Christ and bring healing to the bondage that prostitution brings.