Bali: This morning I went over to the "Prostitutes House" to bring some breakfast. Least I could do. The ladies over there have been cooking us breakfast everyday and some of us thought we should return the favour. Lovely, generous, beautiful ladies, from all over Indonesia, mostly young, mostly HIV+.
When I got there, they were all sitting in the front room, with their Bibles in front of them. It was their morning devotion and they asked me and my wife to join them.
I dont know why they call this the "Prostitutes' House" nor why they call their Tuesday street church service the "Prostitutes' Service". It would be more appropriate to call them "ex-prostitutes" because these young ladies have left their old lives behind them and are now following Jesus. Maybe the term in Indonesian is more nuanced than the English.
The verse they were studying was Philippians 2:15
"Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may be blameless and innocent, God's children without any faults among a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world"
They asked me to share some thoughts on the passage. Funny! In Seminary, they give you the impression that you will have 8 hours to prepare a message. Yeah, right! Yesterday I had 5 minutes. Today, about 5 seconds. And I didn't have my Bible.
But I told them that the phrase "crooked and perverse generation" was essential to understand the passage. The same phrase was used by Jesus in reference to a demon-possessed boy who was brought to Jesus by his father. The disciples could not cast out the demon and Jesus called the group a "crooked and perverse generation". [Matthew 17:17]
But this was not a reactionary insult hurled in anger. Jesus was pricking their memories by quoting a song lyric from a long time ago.
When Moses had given the law to his people, God told him that the people would eventually disobey Him and break the covenant by running after false gods and idols. When that happened, this song would remind them of what went wrong. One line from the song goes . . .
"They have acted corruptly toward Him, They are not His children, because of their defect; But are a perverse and crooked generation." Dt. 32:5
The people made God jealous with their gods so God would make them jealous by choosing a people who were not a people, to become the people of God. This is why Jesus brings up the song. These people have turned to other gods and God is now doing what He said He would do and was calling to Himself a people who would be a new community called for His purposes.
Paul brings the song to life again in his letter to the Philippians. This new people of God are His faithful and obedient children, shining brightly by their lifestyles, doing everything without complaining or arguing.
Like the young ladies who have been cooking breakfast for us each morning, without complaint. Shining brightly as God's new people. They still have HIV but they are cleaner than anyone around them. They shine. They are new creations. They are the children of God.
According to the Bali Times, one quarter of Bali's 8,800 sex workers are HIV+. The other major HIV+ group in Bali is the businessmen who visit the prostitutes . . . and their wives. Add to that group the HIV+ drug addicts and you have a sizable group of people who need the grace of God.
This particular group of Christians are educating people about the situation, offering and creating understanding for HIV+ people. They visit the hospitals to befriend HIV+ patients, they assist the reconciliation process with their families, and sometimes they find themselves washing dead bodies. Next week, Andy, one of the founders, along with two of the young people, will speak to 300 bankers and businessmen to inform them of the HIV "disaster" in Indonesia.
The ex-prostitutes here are attempting to start some micro-businesses to support themselves as an alternative to the streets. One of our goals in being here in Bali is to assist them in starting those businesses. This is where my wife excels - inspiring creativity and confidence and tying the story behind the crafts to the actual product.
We talked yesterday about what some of my friends are doing in other countries. Especially Shannon Hopkins with Sweet Notions and The Truth Isn't Sexy Campaign which is very similar to the campaign they hope to launch here in Bali in a few months called "Real Men Don't Buy Women."
Anyway, pray for us. Pray for them. Pray for this country.