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Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Ephesians 4:28 (emphasis mine)
“So that.” Our mandate, as believers, is to equip and empower others to not just leave their old lifestyles, but to be transformed themselves so that they can help others. What I love about this verse is that our mandate doesn’t stop with helping thieves stop stealing. Our calling is not solely to help the poor to no longer be poor. We’re called to help them become agents of change in their own communities so that as a result of our help, they can then help others. How can the church respond to this mandate?
On the island of Hispaniola, tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants have migrated across the border into the Dominican Republic in search of a better life. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and often the prospects of moving into the Dominican Republic, while still a very poor country, are enticing. However, the reality is that the dream of a prosperous new life rarely comes to fruition. Unable to find honest work, many Haitian immigrant mothers resort to prostitution as the cries of their hungry children become too much for them to bear.
The churches in the Dominican Republic want to help. They want to help these mothers leave that destructive lifestyle. But how? No amount of prayer, food, medical treatment, clothing giveaways, water sanitation, or even advocacy is going to free them. The issue is employment. These women’s children are dying in front of them and they need money to feed them and put them in school. Churches there want to help these women, to live out Eph. 4:29, but they don’t know how.
One of these prostitutes is named Rosa Andre (pictured with her son below). Rosa is HIV+ and has five children. Iglecia Buen Samaritano (Good Samaritan Church), in Puerto Plata, DR, wanted to minister to her and women like her, but did not know how. Last year, in partnership with HOPE, Iglecia Buen Samaritano pioneered a new program to help women like Rosa. Over the course of 40 days, church volunteers and HOPE employees met with a group of 20 prostitutes, including Rosa, every day to go through biblically-based business training and through Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life.
Many of these women learned for the first time that there is a God who loves them and has a purpose for them. At the end of these 40 days of training and encouragement, they were each given a loan of about $150 to start a business. The results have been astounding. Many of these women have entered into a relationship with Christ and over 95% of the women who have gone through the program have not gone back to their old occupation as they are now able to provide for their families through honest work. They’ve seen real change happen in their lives. We are now replicating the program throughout the country because of the success in Puerto Plata.
Rosa, when asked about the impact of the program on her life said this, “There is a change because before I went out and engaged in prostitution. I feel safer now because I don’t go out. And now I can support my five children by selling clothes. I knew about the love of God before but I didn’t understand it. I understand that God loves me now.” The church found a way to help Rosa. They responded to Ephesians 4:28. Rosa no longer is selling her body for sex, but selling clothing so that she can provide for her five sweet children.
Rosa Andre-with Peter
Let the prostitute no longer sell her body for sex, but rather let her labor, doing honest work with her own hands, so that she may have something to share with anyone in need. Ephesians 4:28 (revised)