By Rea Anna Buenaventura
Known for being the red light district of Singapore, Geylang’s streets are clad with women of different nations in their most marketable, skimpy outfits and with their faces painted with heavy make-up to enhance their features. Transgender people are also there to provide their services to onlookers. Men are present to complete the cast. Almost at every corner– be it the big streets or the inner roads– everything revolves around this theme: FLESH. FLESH. FLESH. All this happens at twilight, as the sun goes down and when the night sky gets an overwhelming flash of light along the Lorongs of Geylang.
Prior to taking us out on the streets, our host filled us in with the need-to-knows about the very rampant and open situation of human trafficking in their locale. Women and homosexuals are employed locally and internationally in order for these businesses to thrive. Employers scout the cities for people who are eager and desperate to earn money fast and easy. However, there are reported incidences of women being tricked and led on the idea that they are being recruited as waitresses or chambermaids abroad.
To work abroad and get a decent job with substantial pay, these women jump into this bandwagon of opportunity, hoping to improve oneself and one’s family’s economic status. Employers then take advantage of this weak spot and ignorance of their prospective jobseekers. Unknowingly, once these women arrive in Singapore to fulfil their dreams, they start to live their nightmare. Passports are held hostage in order for these women to stay and pay the debt they incur for their fare, visas, and expenses. Their employers use this tactic to instil fear of imprisonment and repatriation. What’s even more appalling are their terms or modes of payment: not in cash but for these women to meet a quota of men a night to have sex with.
I cannot grasp how vile this barter system of human flesh is. I cannot help but see that there is a higher governing body working here, making people pay with their bodies and souls rather than in cash.
Who can judge the ladies for allowing such exploitation of their whole being? For putting up with their plight out of fear? Shame? These broken and jaded souls have lost their hope and are so vulnerable. In desperation, most settle for the flesh trade as their source of bread and butter, eventually having this as their way of life.
The importance of age limit in this kind of business is nil. Girls as young as twelve sell sexual services. Due to culture maybe, for some girls, this trade has been passed on from mother to daughter. Prostitution, sexual immorality, and lust are deep-seated in the streets of of Geylang.
As for the market these women cater to, men from different walks of life patronize this sort of service to fulfil their hunger and thirst for the flesh. It would take a full length article of its own if we discuss what these needs and desires may be. The men place no value on their selves, and at the same time, view women as objects they can purchase, use, and even destroy– in whatever way that hedonistically pleases them. They give in to the screams of pleasure, yielding to the power of the adulteress and the insatiable groaning of their bodies.
Pimps are another interesting form among the characters that play a significant role in this grand orchestration of sin. Why do they do it? Money. Culture. Intoxication with sin. Like any leader, these people are going to be held accountable for all the lives they have destroyed and all the people they have led to sin and death.
Poverty, pleasure, culture, lust, and sexual immorality. “With her, the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” (Rev. 17:2) Looking beyond this mass orchestration, we can affirm that there is a higher form of being working in the spiritual realm that has devised a scheme, deluding the people into such a hedonistic way of life. All who partake of this cup and drink her wine are like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, who “in similar way, they and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion, they serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 1:7)
THE GLORY WALK
In the same way, as followers of Christ, we share Jesus’ sentiments about the lost, the sinner, and the faithless when He said, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!” (Jn. 12:27-28) For God’s name to be lifted up in a condemned place, we from One Voice, came and did the Glory Walk in the Lorongs of Geylang.
We put on the full armor of God, yes, and treaded the streets with baskets of trinkets and prayer and song. This would be a simple gesture of love in candies and bracelets given to the embittered souls of the women. Amidst the dark of the night, and in contrast with the colorful lights that lured men to brothels, we sang in praise of the LORD’s name. Speaking blessing with every step, we took and claimed the land back for God. We were able to have brief dialogues with the women and were able to pray with them and for them, regardless of our differences in culture and language. We received various responses– from acceptance and pure joy, to angry, hostile looks, and even to fake smiles and indifference. Any response was a good response for me because our actions touched hearts and stirred them. From a missionary’s point of view, I believe that God is already at work, and that this walk that we did for HIM and for the redemption of lost souls, are but answers to His call for people who would be faithful to Him and make themselves available for the work He has set for them.
Jesus walked this way. He came to reconcile the people and redeem them for Himself. Jesus walked in love and mercy. He sought out sinners and the unclean. As disciples, we ought to follow His steps.
After sharing God’s love to women through sweets and bracelets, we were also able to be hands of healing for the construction workers at Lorong 24. Men from different nations, Muslims, and even those who knew no gods, came into our little corner as we did streetside prayers for healing and evangelism. Our guide taught us how to reach out to them. We shared Jesus as Isa, the key to opening the doors of their hearts in building a relationship with God through Christ. Most of them did not know that there is such a God who loves them enough and can be called their friend or Bandu. They did not know that they could communicate directly with God by accepting Isa (Jesus) as their personal Lord and Savior.
This made me see how blessed the Philippines is for having been introduced to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit earlier than most Asian countries. I take pride for being part of the largest Christian nation and for being a people that would bring the good news of the Gospel of Christ into the largest continent on earth.
As for healing, prior to this, I had never done it. I had never laid hands on the sick and seen instant healing right before my very eyes. I am a nurse by profession, and hence, I know how we are anatomically damaged, and how we can be cured by means of science and technology. At work, I make it a point to pray with patients and their family for healing– mostly on spiritual and emotional levels, rather than physical. But in that afternoon at Lorong 24, right before my very eyes, physical healing happened. Be it a simple pain or arms that were in so much pain that they could barely be extended upward, the men who were prayed for were freed from physical affliction. I got to see God’s power manifested through faith. I saw that God truly is the God who heals and that nothing is impossible with Him.
And this was how Jesus walked. Many demon-possessed, sick, and dying people went to Him for them to be cured and freed. Because of these grand physical miracles, many people came to Him and have put their faith in Him. Truly amazing!
Janina Marie Rivera is the author of the book, A Night Bird Sings of Blindness and Fear and has co-authored the devotional, Dawns, published by OMF Literature. She is a contributing poet in the books Joyful Light and Whitmanthology: on Loss and Grief by Various Authors. She is the Editor-in-Chief of One Voice Magazine.