Saturday, June 13, 2009

Managua: House of Hope - An Introduction

I arrived on Sunday to House of Hope. A residential and day program for victims of sexual exploitation and a place of spiritual healing for women desiring to leave prostitution. Already I have thrown out a lot of words that carry loaded meaning. For example, who are ¨victims of sexual exploitation¨? And does my use of the word ¨prostitution¨ carry a value judgement?

Well, I use prostitution because this is the word and the approach of HoH. It is a Christian organization that operates under the strong conviction that true healing from the abuse of women´s pasts can only happen with God´s grace and strength through spiritual renewal. Prostitution for them is a life that is not desired by God under any circumstance and for this they hope that any women who desire a change in their lives will turn towards Jesus Christ for healing and for a better way to make a living.

I use sexual exploitation because some of the girls (as well as many of the former prostitutes) living at HoH may not have been prostitutes, but are victims of sexual abuse or incest. Sexual exploitation refers to the force or coercion of women and girls to engage in sexual activity that is not within their will. For anyone under age 14, almost all sexual activity is beyond their will -- particularly when it includes much older men.

While one post is not enough to describe all of HoH´s work and more will be forthcoming in future posts (and with pictures!) I hope to provide an adequate account of the time spent there and the stories of the women that I met during the next few days.

There are currently about 10 women and their young children living at HoH and 9 girls in the residential program whose mothers live elsewhere. Some of the girls were victims of trafficking and others are children of women who are currently working in prostitution and do not want to care for them in those circumstances.

Two incredible Nicaraguans - Oscar and Vilma - also live at HoH with their family (a boy and two girls - one 17 and one 2). They are at HoH nearly 24-7 and care deeply for the women there. They also conduct weekly small group sessions with about 6 groups of current and former prostitutes throughout the city (there will be more on this later...). Additionally, there is a young American lady living there as a dorm mom who takes care of the girls who are in the residential program. They make breakfast and lunch together each day, paint eachother´s nails and go on walks together. It is a taxing job -- and it is one that requires substantial courage and grace.

For me -- I stayed in the house of two missionaries who are currently on vacation. I have my own bathroom and share the couple rooms with some ants, mosquitos, flying things, and beetles. So far I have managed to keep the flies out.

Now for the health aspect of my initial introduction to HoH. Health is not the focus of HoH activities but it is woven into their life in unavoidable ways and even into their devotions! One day Vilma spoke to the women about the dangers of drinking soda and eating fatty foods! She used biblical and spiritual reasons -- but all the same, it was public health. Also, the kids have to show that their hands are clean before eating their meals. All hands are checked at the door. This was to help stop the spread of germs. Still -- the families don't really seem to understand germs and how they are spread very well and they often share cups and pick food off of the ground.

I can't wait to write more about my experience going to the cell groups and visiting the brothels yesterday. Stay tuned!

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