I also remember well when God called me out of the local church and back to the Divinity School at Duke to be director of admissions. And, I remember how God used a Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope to South Africa to call me away from seminary admissions and to Mount Vernon Place.
God's movement in my life is real. God speaks volumes to me when I am willing to listen. And lately, God seems to be speaking a lot.
A few months ago, a clergy colleague was visiting me at Mount Vernon Place. Arriving a little early, he had a long conversation with a police officer outside. Engaging him in a conversation, my colleague asked the officer what the number one issue was facing our church's community. The police officer immediately answered my colleague's question with "prostitution." The number one issue for the police officers who cover our church's neighborhood is not robbery or shootings or gangs but prostitution.
I did not think much about the comments when I first heard them. I had not seen the prostitutes, and I seemed more focused on what my eyes could see. But my eyes have now seen what my colleague told me about.
Two weeks ago, I arrived at the church early on a Sunday morning to police lights flashing. A woman on the street and a man in a car were being arrested. The woman's dress gave her occupation away - tight leather jacket, short skirt, high heals, a lot of makeup at 7:00 on Sunday morning. I watched her get arrested. I watched her walk down the street, putting her citation in her little black bag. I watched her - a woman a few years younger than me - a woman who looked as though she could be my friend. I watched her but I never went out to befriend her - I did not go out and invite her in or ask if I could buy her a cup of coffee, and I have regretted it ever since.
Last Sunday, I turned the corner at 11th and K Streets and saw one woman dressed in similar attire. She was shouting across the street. I looked and realized she was talking to another woman - one of her colleagues. This woman had lost her clothes during the night. She had no pants on and no skirt. She had a tight leather jacket, high heals and black underwear - that's it. My heart continued to sink as I turned the corner. I then saw two more women with similar attire. Not one prostitute - but four young women engaged in this vocation were all right there to greet my arrival in downtown Washington.
And, I cannot stop thinking about them. I cannot help but to wonder what our role is in their lives? How is God using these sightings to push me and our congregation? I have watched our congregation welcome people and completely change their life as a result of the embrace. I have watched lives being transformed through the power of these people at Mount Vernon Place who have the capacity to welcome all kinds of individuals into our midst.
Am I naive to believe that we could change the lives of these women?
Am I stupid to think that I might have some role in creating a community where these women can feel safe - where they can step inside and share their fears and their dreams?
Am I silly to believe that these women want a better life - a different life?
The faces of these women are well embedded in my mind. I cannot get them out of my mind.
God, how are you calling me to respond? I know you are working. Please continue to break my heart and show me how best to be your hands, your heart, your eyes and your ears in downtown Washington.