I went to the market today. It's Wednesday . . . our only market day in Galmi. I went with Alheri and two of our short-term guys in for a few months. It was a normal trip to the market . . . at least it was once we got there.
About a stone's throw from the entrance of the marché, Alheri and I were approached by a woman asking for money. Now, it's common for us to be bombarded with beaucoups of 'akwai cadeau?'s (a hybrid of Hausa and French to ask 'Is there a gift??') by every child we pass, but it is rare that an adult will ask on the street in Galmi (in the hospital, and in Niamey, that's another story).
But there were many things unusual about this woman. She was dirty, not just dusty . . . rather filthy, actually, in a different way than normal. Since very few of the patients I work with have running water in their homes, I've become used to people having a coating of dirt and grime . . . but this woman was different. She not only looked as if she hadn't washed in a month, she also looked as if she hadn't slept either.
Her choice of outfit didn't fit the norm either. She was wearing a black crush-velvet spaghetti-strap tank-top with athletic-style pants made of the same material. The pants were pulled down to about the middle of her backside, exposing her underwear. She had nothing on her head.
She spoke to us in French as she stumbled along, tripping on her own feet. At first I thought she had a psychiatric disorder, but the longer she circled us asking for money, I realized she was high.
At first I told her in French that we wouldn't give her any money. She kept up, so I quick thought of the only Hausa phrase I know to say 'no': babu bakata (no need). She began to mock me in French, telling me that I was stupid and didn't understand her. Then she caught sight of the boys.
They had been several yards ahead of us, as Alheri and I had stopped to give hugs to three little girls we know from church. They hadn't seen her and had no idea what was about to happen.
As she approached them, she didn't ask for money, instead she offered her services. 'YARA BABU BAKATA!!' (boys no need) I yelled after her. She turned and glared at us and went right back to propositioning. Finally she stopped and simply weaved her way in between us and them, until the boys let her pass.
She darted off to the side of the road, and then she was gone.
At first I was stunned . . . 'That girl just tried to sell herself . . . IN GALMI!' I don't know why, but I had never thought about our little village having prostitutes. Maybe it's because of the size . . . or the culture here . . . but I never thought about drugs, let alone hookers.
We arrived at the market and I thought little more of it.
That is, until I got home . . . and I've thought of little since.
I've been thinking about the prostitutes I met in Camden, NJ . . . and the ones I saw waiting on the corner in Durban, South Africa . . . and the ones walking the streets in New Delhi, India . . . and the one heading into the mens' room with a client in a restaurant in Niamey . . . and about this woman, here, in Galmi.
Women hurting . . . victimized . . . trapped . . . hopeless.
But Christ came to bring these women the same hope He came to bring me . . . and you. In fact, He was known to spend more of His free time hanging out with these kinds of girls than with the religious folks.
So my heart is heavy tonight, for a girl I don't know, just a short walk from my little corner of the world. I hope that I run into her again . . . and that next time I will be better prepared, with a kind word . . . maybe some fruit or vegetables . . . whatever. I'm a firm believer that Heaven will be full of repentant prostitutes, now I'm praying that she will be among them.