Yesterday morning, before my first Greek class, I met the other HoD women at an undisclosed location to meet Eleni (named changed, just in case), who works for an organization that reaches out to trafficked women. We are hoping to partner with her, so that she will send us women who are ready and able to leave their situation. In turn, when women graduate from our program, we will send some of them back to Eleni to work with her. That’s cool enough, but hearing Eleni’s story blew my mind and strengthened my heart.
She is a POWERHOUSE of a woman. She’s been in A Place for two years now, befriending prostitutes and traffickers and becoming a part of their world. Because she provides clothes and food to people, the traffickers are actually pretty protective of her. One told her, “You shouldn’t be here; this is the most dangerous part of Athens.” She answered him, “Oh good. I wasn’t sure if it was the most dangerous, but since it is, I will stay.”
She openly prays with the women and offers worship services if they want to attend. Lots of groups offer programs and services through her, and no one seems to mind. She doesn’t often help women escape, though if the opportunity is ripe, she takes advantage. One woman needed to go to the hospital, so Eleni asked the trafficker if she had his permission to take her. He said yes, so off they went. The woman had a ticket to Romania, so Eleni dropped her off at the hospital and put her in touch with someone who could help her. Then Eleni came back to A Place. The next morning the trafficker thanked her for taking the woman to the hospital, but remarked that she had not returned. There was no connection in his mind to Eleni, though the sad part of the story is that he wasn’t bothered because he immediately found someone else to fill her spot. And of course, that kind of rescue doesn’t happen all that often. Eleni said she’s spent nights crying herself to sleep because she’s helped a woman and then sent her back to work, knowing what the poor woman was returning to.
Still, she’s doing so much. She’s fearless. And she was such an encouragement to us. I’ve been disappointed, because it seemed so obvious that the house Dina and Anthi found last Saturday would be ours, and we could get started making HoD a reality! But the owner of the building they looked at officially gave it to someone else. I want to be STARTED, I want to feel productive, I want to…control everything.
But here’s Eleni’s story. She’s been in A Place for two years. For six months she showed up at coffee shops at regular times to meet with women. One night, at 2:00 a.m., a pimp came to collect the woman she was talking to with some violence. Eleni was furious, and she drove in circles around the block. The area is dangerous, with screaming and gunshots commonplace throughout the night, so she pulled over and screamed too. “Lord, you have got to give me a place to work! I need somewhere that I can meet with women in safety!” The next day, a stranger called her. His wife had heard her speak months before, and he wanted to tell her that he had a room she could use. He took her there the next day…and it was the exact building where she had stopped to scream at God.
Eleni had use of one room for another year. A mosque met in the floor above her. The second floor was used by a trafficker to sell over one hundred women a night while paying just 400€ a month for rent. For a year she prayed for the whole building to be hers. A month later, the mosque closed, but the floor was sold to an engineer’s son. Eleni was disappointed, but she waited and prayed. The engineer renovated the floor (which was pretty old and decrepit), and after finishing the work, he found out his son did not want to use it. Soon thereafter the pimp closed down the brothel upstairs and the entire building was for sale. Eleni wanted it, but couldn’t afford it. At church soon thereafter, a woman approached her and said she wanted to pay for for a year’s worth of rent for the entire building, and now, after two years of waiting and praying, Eleni has an entire building to work out of.
I mean, WOW. She asked to pray for us, so we all huddled close with our arms around each other, and while she prayed I really felt peace with God’s timing. I want everything now, but if waiting means having a story like that?? We can wait. She told us that she felt like God had told her, “Shut your mouth and just do the work I have for you right now.” That’s what I want to do – shut my mouth (stop my worrying/controlling) and just…Learn Greek. Fill out application forms and fundraising letters for Dina. Make friends.
Do the work, shut up, wait, and trust.