I spent last week in Nicaragua with a group of health professionals of to provide some medical relief to sexually exploited women and girls. Many of these children and young women had actually been rescued from sexual slavery – some as young as six years old. Others had been prostituted for up to 10 years before finally given the opportunity to leave.
This “opportunity” is in the form of a guy named Oscar. Oscar is a middle-aged Nicaraguan evangelist with indefatigable passion to serve, protect and lead to freedom prostituted women and girls. Oscar’s own story provides a heartbreaking, yet divinely orchestrated back story for his amazing ministry today, but you really need to hear it directly from him. Day and night he tirelessly visits women in the brothels, not only telling them, but demonstrating to them the good news of God’s love. When he learns of young girls who are locked up he investigates and then (working with certain authorities) rescues them. When the girls run away from the shelter or are taken away by a parent or guardian, he tracks them down and tries to get them back.
Prostitution of women over 18 is legal in Nicaragua, but many were trafficked as girls before that “mature” age. Many of the girls were sold by their mothers, fathers, or other family members in a generational cycle of violence. Some of the stories are unimaginable. Unfortunately there are also many boys who are sexually exploited as well, but to date there is no place in Nicaragua for them to go.
Our group, which was sponsored by CMDA’s Global Health Outreach (GHO) was made of several OB/GYNs, family medicine, and internal medicine docs and yours truly was the lone pediatrician. We also had two American dentists (joined by a Nicaraguan dentist), two pharmacists, a medical student (3rd year), and several non-medical “logistics” people. The latter turned out to be every bit as valuable as the providers – something like the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12 comes to mind.
We saw approximately 650 patients, with pediatric patients numbering about 300 patients! Of course I had help from the medical student and the family medicine docs, and it was a blast to see all those kids and get back to seeing some cute kids. Oscar had spent several days and nights promoting the clinic in the brothels, and from the number of patients, he must have canvassed every one!
House of Hope Nicaragua (HoH) was our host organization with over 50 residents on campus, from unaccompanied minors to families of women and her children and/or grandchildren. They learn basic life skills in order to Income-generating projects include making greeting cards and jewelry, and sewing projects.
Our goal was to serve the medical needs of the women and girls in the HoH shelter as well as provide a medical outreach opportunity to women and girls in the brothels of Managua. Our long term goal is to establish continuity of relationships and health care to the sexually exploited of Managua as GHO is committed to sending a team every six months. If you are interested in being a part of this, let me know.
Many women living outside House of Hope, regardless of whether they are still being prostituted or not, attend small groups for fellowship and Bible studies, led by Oscar and his wife.
I learned quite a bit in Nicaragua, holding a focus group and other interviews to learn more about their culture, the country, and attitudes towards health and disease.
The stories of heartbreak, evil, shame, redemption, renewal and glory are tremendous. Christ is very much at work at House of Hope, but so is the Evil One. We all know who will win in the end, but I was blessed to be a small part of the work going on there until Kingdom come.