By Tony Campolo, Let Me Tell You a Story, pages 46-48, © 2000
I head up an organization that has created a missionary enterprise in Haiti. Presently, through the efforts of those who have taken over this ministry, a network of some eighty-five schools has been established that serves children who have been reduced to a life that is pretty close to slavery. The children in these schools, for the most part, come from families that are so poor they have had to give their children away to other families who can feed them. These oppressed youngsters are given the most menial tasks imaginable, and they can expect to spend their lives in hard labor. Such children carry water for most of the day and, in between, work in the sugar fields. Classes are held from the late afternoon into the evening because these children are not free to go to school during the regular daytime hours. Nevertheless, they attend the school with great faithfulness, because they know that if they can learn to read and write, in a country where the illiteracy rate is 85 percent, they have a chance to escape their oppressive lives.
When I go down there I usually stay at a Holiday Inn right in the center of Port-au-Prince. Once, when I was walking to the entrance of the hotel, I was intercepted by three girls. I call them girls because they looked to be about fifteen or sixteen years of age. The one in the middle said, “Mister, for ten dollars you can have me all night long.” I was stunned by what she had said. I turned to the girl next to her and asked, “Can I have you for ten dollars?” She nodded approval.
I asked the third girl the same question. She tried to conceal her contempt for me with a smile. But it’s hard to look sexy when you’re fifteen or sixteen and you’re very poor and your family is hungry. I said, “Fine! I’ve got thirty dollars! I’m in Room 210. You be up there in a half hour. I’ll pay you then, and I want all three of you for the whole night!”
I rushed up to the room and got on the phone, and called down to the concierge desk. I said, “Send every Walt Disney cartoon video you have up to Room 210. Anything by Disney. Send it up to me.” I called down to the restaurant and asked if they made banana splits. I told them that I wanted banana splits with extra everything. I wanted them to be huge and delicious. I wanted extra whipped cream, extra chocolate syrup, extra nuts.
Within the half hour the videos came, the three girls came, and the banana splits came. I sat the girls down on the edge of the bed. We ate the banana splits. We watched the videos. We had a little party as we watched the videos until about one in the morning. That’s when the last of them fell asleep across the bed.
As I sat there in the stuffed chair looking at their little bodies strewn across the bed, I thought to myself, “Nothing’s changed! Nothing’s changed! Tomorrow they will be back on the streets. Tomorrow they will be selling their little bodies for ten dollars a throw, because there will always be rotten ugly men who will destroy the dignity of little girls for ten dollars a night. Nothing’s changed.’
Then the Spirit spoke to me and said, “But, for one night, Tony, you let them be little girls again. For one night, you let them be kids. You didn’t change their lives, but for one night you gave them back their childhoods.”
Matthew 10:42 — (Jesus said), “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”
Matthew 25:40 — (Jesus said), “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
I Peter 4:9-10 — Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
A PRAYER TO GUARD AGAINST IMPURITY by Walter Rauschenbusch (1909): O Thou whose light is about me and within me and to whom all things are present, help me this day to keep my life pure in thy sight. Suffer me not by any lawless act of mine to befoul any innocent life or add to the shame and hopelessness of any erring one that struggles faintly against sin. Grant me a steadfast scorn for any pleasure bought by human degradation. May no reckless word or wanton look from me kindle the slow fires of wayward passion that will char and consume the divine beauties of any soul. Give me grace to watch over the imaginations of my heart, lest in the unknown hour of my weakness my secret thoughts leap into action and my honor be turned into shame… O God, make me pure and a helper of the weak. Grant that even the sins of my past may yield me added wisdom and tenderness to help those who are tempted… O Jesus, thou master of all who are both strong and pure, take our weak and passionate hearts under thy control, that when the dusk settles upon our life, we may go to our long rest with no pang of shame, and may enter into the blessedness of seeing God, which thou hast promised to the pure in heart. Amen.