Matthias and I volunteer fairly regularly at a cafe for drug addicts, homeless people, and prostitutes. I have mentioned this in previous posts, and last night was quite an evening. I hadn’t been there for three weeks due to illness (I was sick for 10 days) and previous commitments. Last night I was really reluctant to go, which I confess is usually the case, but I am very glad that we went. One reason that it’s hard for me to go is that my German level is not very high (although it really does force me to speak quite a bit of German) but more than that, it’s very upsetting to me to think about the everyday lives of these women. Sometimes it’s hard to sleep as the ladies’ faces flash before me, and I try to pray for the safety of the girls whose names I can remember. Last night was a bit special for me, because it was my first time to “hit the streets” and serve tea to the ladies while they are “on the job,” so to speak. I went out with the head of the cafe (I’ll call him “Mr. G”) and another volunteer and we offered the ladies tea and chocolate. This is something they do regularly, but I had never done it before. I was not aware that the area which the girls cover is so large. I only knew one street, where the cafe is located, and we can see the girls on the street from the window of the cafe.
I thought I would share some of the things I saw/ noticed, since this is most likely not something one is likely to see in the US. (While I am sure prostitution goes on in the US, I have never seen it.) Yes of course, the girls’ appearance is what people usually notice, but I’ve become somewhat immune to it. First off, what was most obvious to me was that most of the ladies do not speak German. Most of them are from eastern European countries and many of them spoke almost no German at all; if they did speak German it was with a very heavy accent. Second, it was so cool to see Mr. G serving these women with such incredible joy and with a giant smile. I was truly blown away by the way he was brimming with kindness, care, and interest in each of the girls and their welfare. He was able to ask good questions since he was aware of the difficult situations of several of the girls. The other volunteer, “Miss A” was really friendly and chatted in a relaxed manner with many of the girls. I definitely felt like an observer looking in, but I was glad to have the chance to be there holding my pot of tea. Quite a number of the girls recognized Mr. G and Miss A and seemed genuinely grateful and eager to be served hot tea. Of course, many of them refused, and I remember one girl saying to us, “No….but thanks for the offer.” Near the end, we walked down one dark and desolate street, and I was surprised to see two Bulgarian girls at the end of the block, two of whom had visited the cafe before. They took some tea, and commiserated that there was no work to be found that night. Miss A told me later that sometimes the girls get beat up by their pimps if they don’t get enough work. To my surprise, we also ran into two older ladies on the street whom I would guess are in their 50’s or 60’s (indeed, they come in all ages).
I was particularly touched by one very tall, blond Russian girl who looked to be around 21 or so. As she talked with us about her young child I noticed that she was really sweet looking, and she held herself like an awkward teenager with her shoulders slumped down. She wasn’t wearing much makeup, and seemed quite forlorn and lonely. I honestly wanted to give her a hug, but of course that would have been strange. After walking around for almost an hour until the tea and chocolate ran out (it took us that long to cover the entire area) we went back to the cafe. I knew it would take me a while to absorb what I had seen, so I sat down with Matthias and tried to chat with some of the girls.
I have to be honest and say I still can’t process what I saw last night; I feel like there’s a mental block preventing me from really believing that the sweet girls we talked with are working on those cold, dark streets night after night. I keep wondering what kind of nasty guys pick them up on the streets. I worry about their safety, since girls are regularly robbed and beat up “on the job.” There is one girl in particular who I love to talk with, because she’s super friendly and outgoing. I saw her on the street for the first time last night as we left the cafe. I think she may have been shocked to see us, and I was a bit surprised to see her as well. I prayed for her, and I look forward to seeing her again.
Of course I often ask myself, are you really making a difference? Why go when you can’t speak German so well? What’s the point of going? You aren’t going to change a thing! Even though so many fears and doubts always flood my mind, I am sure we’ll keep going as long as we’re in Berlin. Every time I go, I have an interesting conversation and I get a big hug from one of the girls. The truth is, I like being with those ladies and talking with them. Also, it reminds me of my Lord Jesus, who spent time with the “sinners” of his day. People criticized him for keeping “poor company,” yet He gently reminded them, “I came not for the righteous but for sinners.” I think if Jesus came back to earth, He’d definitely enjoy hanging out at this cafe. Thanks for reading this post – it’s just a little slice of life in one of the great cities of the world.