Saturday, March 13, 2010

Emmaus Ministries Mission Trip 2010

So, why work with men who participate in prostitution? Well, spend just the briefest time at Emmaus Ministries in Chicago and you will find out why. You will find out that these guys are easy to care about. Surpassingly, they are like us. The idea carries with it a substantial “yuk factor” but the guys do not.

As a Secular Franciscan I am called upon to be a servant to the disfranchised, the lepers of today. Well, that is our guys at Emmaus. These are the guys who are looked down upon by all of the other folks in shelters. There are programs and ministries for homeless, for the poor and even for female prostitutes. This is the only program for men who participate in prostitution in the entire city.

You may have noticed I refer to the guys as “men who participate in prostitution” and not simply as “prostitutes.” The label by itself does not capture who these guys are. It judges the entire person on a behavior that may be sporadic and crisis driven. It misses who these guys are, it can prevent us from seeing them as our brothers made by a generous Creator. .

Some of the guys identify themselves as gay, most would not. Many, in some studies as many as 68% of guys who participate in prostitution identify themselves as heterosexual. Many have wives or girlfriends and children. Most of the men have no marketable job skills. Most have some learning disability and many have serious mental illnesses. These are men who are struggling as best they can to survive.

There is no doubt that many are also living with the consequences of their own bad choices. Many have spent time in jail or prison. Many have serious drug problems. However you would have to work with a very large number of these men for an extended period of time before you find a man who came from an intact, nurturing home. Most have experienced neglect and/or abuse as a child and many have run away from home as teenagers.

At Emmaus Ministries they men find a safe and welcoming place. They do not find a place that enables. They do find a place where acceptance, caring and even love is unconditional. Emmaus Ministries is there to help these men move out of the night community. However, if they do not they are still welcomed and cared for. They find a place where they can shower, have a home cooked meal, get mail, make goal-related phone calls. They find a place to laugh or cry, to talk or contemplate. They find a place where they can pray with others or silently.

Spend time at Emmaus Ministries and you will see what transformation looks like. It is not big and splashy like some after school special. Rather, it is gradual, deep and real. It has fits and starts, it plateaus and then starts again. We have faith in the transformation because it does not come from us.

So, some of the men will get into a program. They will get a real apartment and not have to search frantically for a place to spend the night when the weather turns nasty. Some will get their GED, some will get a job and some will go on to college. Some will simply be happy to rest at Emmaus, among friends, when they are depressed or lonely.

There is no doubt that there will be set backs. There will be guys who refuse help. Some guys will have multiple relapses. However, it is not up to us to decide who will succeed and who will fail. It is up to us to serve and to care.

So, why care about homeless males who participate in prostitution? Because they are our brothers, because they are not that different from us, because we should and because we can. .

Emmaus Ministries volunteer spotlight: Rex Slagel

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