I went to my first writing conference last summer. David James Duncan was the presenter. He is the author of The River Y and The Brothers K. Interwoven into the day were writing assignments that had to be completed in fifteen minutes. The second exercise was “one long sentence” and the experience of writing without periods allowed for a fun and furious writing time. Recently our flight to an ICAP (International Christian Alliance on Prostitution) conference was delayed and we asked our friend Abby to write for fifteen minutes without punctuation. We had an intriguing time reading our “quick” writings and learned new things about each other. I challenge you to try it and read it aloud to a friend. Here is my long sentence I wrote entitled: “How long do I have to wait?” It is a long cry of grief for what is and always has been since the beginning of mankind.

I wrote about my year of volunteering on the streets of Seattle to the prostituted teenagers. Each Friday I wondered how I would have the strength and the heart to stand on a street corner for five hours and hand out food, warmth and kindness. Nothing obviously changed in the course of the thirteen months that I stood on the corner. The pimps, the cops, the girls, the undercover agents became a swirl of sorrow and madness. I expected at least some change in the cycle of violence, but to my horror, our words, our care, our prayers seemed useless. I know that God was at work in mighty ways, I just did not visually witness it. Why did I continue to go each Friday night?

1

Frankly, I had made a year commitment and that is why I lasted for a month. I remained for the next 12 months because of the woman with whom I served.

An Advent Lament: “How long do I have to wait?”
A day of dread because the weather is wet and windy

and it will be fourteen hours before I get on the ferry

therefore, I have to pace my mind, body, heart and soul before

I begin a volunteering on the street venture when night falls on the city

and I hike a rigorous uphill walk on the dark icy city sidewalks of Seattle

listening for unsafe footsteps behind me

as worship music emboldens my frame

to fill up canteens of hot coffee, gather condoms and wipes

for our prostituted teenage girls

and prayers of pleading against harming angry pimps

and those Johns who keep driving in circles

around our make shift Lucy-like lemonade stand

of psychiatric help, food, care and hope

as I load our van wearing nine layers of wool and fleece

along with hand warmers in mittens and my boots

which will armor me with fortitude as we drive to our location

that can never be spoken or shared

with those who are unaware of what really happens

in the darkness while they sleep in safety inside walls

and are cocooned in clean sheets and duvets

while I watch girls with five inch heels and uncovered fannies

run in the dark across a four lane highway

and come stand by our heaters

as we bandage their blistered, bleeding heels with hands of care

and spray whipped cream into their hot chocolate

with eyes borrowed from Jesus

while foul worlds collide with handouts of home baked cookies

and heartache and love

as the new girls are not released from their pimp’s clutches

and watch from the side lines

along with “renegades”, both female and male,

who enrage the enslaved

and the parade of the night begins

with awareness that five long hours are ahead

which will be reeling with violence, shame, abuse

and a foster care system gone amuck

and generational family businesses swirl in front of my eyes

and in cars that keep circling and circling like vultures of prey

while angels of light intervene in multitude of ways

and we give out hand knitted scarves and hats to our cold ladies

and tears and curse words of our girls keep intruding our small heater,

our coffee thermoses, our cart of hats and mittens

and our hearts and frozen feet don’t warm when jumping

to keep circulation circling doesn’t work and

we take a five minute break and use the restroom of a Holiday Inn

and return to our stand of love and supplies

while police and undercover cops and pimps parade

and give us puzzled looks

and the same proud cars of the Johns keep circling like sharks

and wives are pimped for private school tuition

and seasoned prostitutes tell the eleven year old twins to go home

and we stand close to the chained link fence

with a garbage bag tired to it to keep things neat

and the circling cars keep circling

and our girls keep disappearing in the shark tank of violence

and the people in their beds sleep on

and we eventually leave the streets at 2:30 a.m.

wondering why oh why is life so cruel

and our girls are left to be circled and raped at our abandoned corner

without a friendly pathetic Lucy stand of care

and we pack up our wares and drive away

to import the information into old, outdated computers

matching street names to real names

and guessed ages disguised by too much violence and sorrow

and the city now has data and the youth are still out there

and I walk across the street to my daughter’s condo

and take the elevator ten flights up

and turn the key and tip toe into a warm, beautiful home

and shuffle with frozen feet to stand over my grandson’s crib

and cry out in hollow silence deep in my heart screaming

as tears hit a baby quilt made with love,

how long, oh Lord, until you come back … again?

Friday Night Lights, my blog from my year on the streets.

 


IMG_0553Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of 36 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living!

bsp