Saturday, September 24, 2016

Common Ground

Every year, at least the women in the group go to the Merced to visit Bella Esperanza. Bella Esperanza is a hair salon that our very own Angie Fuentes started. It was & is her vision to reach out to the prostitutes in Christ’s love by building relationships with them. What better way than having a hair salon. Groups from North Carolina actually help build the salon by putting up walls, painting – even installing sinks! Since Angie is with us now, it is under the direction of her friend Betsy.

Amazing things have been happening recently, as first 8, and then another 7 women left the sex trade. The girls have been taught a new trade – making jewelry. Last year when we visited, the jewelry making business was housed in the back of the salon and we were able to meet with the first 8 women and hear some of their stories.

Briana, Paige, Kayla & Laura organizing
As more women joined the jewelry making business, it took over the entire salon. Hair cutting stations were taken apart and room was made for the ladies to make their jewelry. Because the staff was so busy with the jewelry business, the salon and meeting new girls was put to the side. Now, the jewelry making has moved to another location and the salon was empty. So we were given a task – put the salon back into order so that the work of building relationships with more girls could begin.

I have to say, I was so proud of our little group. With very little direction, we put the salon back into order – everyone doing their part. And then some of our group went out with Angie and Betsy to talk with the girls out on the street and invite them to lunch. We were not sure if they would come or not – but three of them did. These girls were hungry and had no money to buy lunch. In reality, they make very little money, and what they do make goes to their ‘boss’. Angie and Betsy spoke with them and told them how much God loved them. They were invited to come back to the safety of Bella Esperanza to rest and eat again.

The finished product
Can I say how out of my comfort zone to think about sitting at a table and eating lunch with prostitutes? And yet we did – and it is hard to describe how we could find common ground with these women. They were young – as one of the younger gals in our group remarked – her age. Young enough to be my daughters. Being with them made me realize that I make assumptions about why women are prostitutes and why they continue in that life style. I want to think that they are ‘bad’ , but really? What if I were in their shoes? Could I really say I would refuse to do what they have done? Especially before I knew Christ? In many cases, it is not a choice they made, but a lifestyle that was forced upon them. A lifestyle that they cannot leave for various reasons. Slavery. Not an easy thing to see. But really – they are just women – like me. Hurt. Rejected. Insecure. Just trying to make life work.

As I go about my life at home – I want to remember this. I want to remember that there are many forms of slavery. In the U.S., our slavery is usually hidden – or at least looks ‘better’. It may be financial, emotional or spiritual. It is slavery nonetheless. I make assumptions about why a person acts the way they do – and most of the time I am wrong. I would be much better off to assume we have common ground and to find it.

Oh – if you are interested in the lovely jewelry these ladies make, the organization is called Nunayu.
 You can find them on Facebook at

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