by Laura Robinson
Having spent two years in Africa, I can honestly say that I have seen God do many miraculous things; when we get outside of our own environment, I think, we are much more sensitive to the Lord’s voice. I was privileged to travel to Singapore last month for an international meeting of young people to discuss a new approach to ministry; it was in that three-day conference that I witnessed the Lord’s mighty hand at work again…
It had been a long day of visiting youth programs all over the tiny city-state of Singapore. We were hot, sweaty, tired and not really in the mood to visit another site, but wonderful Major Andy (the command youth secretary) and his passion for the work had one more stop for us. Promptly at 11:30 p.m. Major Andy arrived and once again 13 of us climbed into the minivan and begged for the air conditioner to be turned up.
It was a short ride to the Changi village center. The major stopped the van and gave us a brief introduction to what we were about to witness, “Now, you must stay together—the prostitutes you are about to meet with were once men, and can be violent if they feel threatened. I recommend that you split into groups of three or four and that you make sure you have one girl in your group, they respond better to women.” I looked across the bus and saw Rick*, a dear friend of mine; his face looked pale and spooked. Rick had never encountered anything like this before.
Meble, Rick and I formed one group. Meble and I had worked in Africa together, and though we had had no previous contact with transvestites, we were used to speaking with people from all walks of life. Rick touched my arm and said, “Please don’t leave me.” I smiled at him and assured him things would be fine. Meble and I discussed the possibility of going to speak to these “women” but decided that it would be very awkward to do so—there was no one from the local corps who had a relationship with them to help us break the ice. Instead, we opted to go and get a cold soda and wait for the rest of the team to finish up. On our way to the 7-11 (yes Singapore has HUNDREDS of 7-11s) I turned to Meble and said, “Why don’t we walk around the block praying for these women?”
“Wondaaful, I luff to pray!” shouted Meble in her heavily accented English. Rick, on the other hand, was not so keen—he had hit a very “rough” patch in his life and had been walking steadily away from the Lord for the past two years. Reluctantly, he agreed to join us. I was no more than four words into my prayer when I heard Rick weeping. I struggled for a moment with whether or not to continue, but felt the Lord prompt my heart to go on. God was working in Rick and he certainly didn’t need me to stop and get in the way. For the next forty-five minutes we walked and prayed for God’s protection and love over the “women” as they continued to sell themselves right in front of us. The presence of the Lord was so strong, despite being in one of the darkest places I have ever been, I wanted to dance, sing and praise God. Rick continued to weep. Finally at close to one in the morning, when we had run out of words and energy, we stopped. I asked Rick what had caused him to cry. His reply brought me to tears as well.
“When we first arrived here I felt Satan’s presence so strongly, it was awful! I have never experienced anything like that! But once you started praying I felt God’s presence come on even stronger. I realized he loves those “women” no matter what they have done, and he loves me despite what I have done. I know now that we are never too far gone for God’s love to reach us, and that is what life is all about–knowing for yourself and sharing that love with others!”
I still see Rick often and he is living a life that exemplifies God’s love. He is now a faithful Christian who, in Paul’s words, has left what is behind and is pressing on to win the race!
* not his real name