Her Name is Keren
Once a week close to midnight, a group from my church goes
out to feed street children. It is during this time of night
the street children are resting from the day's labor of
begging, stealing, "pushing", pimping and prostitution.
At one particular night we met Sara. She had heard of our
weekly feedings and came, more out of curiosity than hunger.
She was 16 years old and one could catch glimpses of teenage
giggles and frolic as she bantered with her friends. Yet
there was an other-worldliness about her that revealed
flashes of a woman twice her age. Sara was a prostituted
Being bolder than the others, she ventured to converse with
us. Trying to look confident and uncaring she approached.
Yet her eyes belied her swagger, reflecting the fear and
loneliness common among street children and gang members.
We struck a conversation with her. We asked her who she was
and she replied she was a daughter of wealthy merchants who
had left her in the care of her aunt as they traveled around
the globe conducting their business. It was one of many
stories and personalities she concocted to hide the shame of
what she had become.
It was easy to befriend her and win her trust, for the girls
in my church were former teenage prostitutes themselves. For
several weekly feedings, Sara came. It was becoming apparent
she was seeing something different in the girls from my
church who befriended her. They spoke her language, laughed
with her, yet were curiously different.
One night, we asked her to come back with us to our center.
She agreed. She was washed up, given comfortable jammies and
put to sleep. As she later recalled, it was the first true,
peaceful sleep she had.
The following morning, as it is custom in our center, the
girls gathered for morning devotionals. Sara, naturally, was
invited to join in. It was her first encounter with the
personality known as Jesus. Oh, she knew Jesus from her
early school days, but this was the first time she heard
people of her age speak of him as a close, personal friend.
Later in the day, when she was asked if she wanted to return
home, she refused. She admitted she had no home, but the
reason she wanted to stay was because she wanted to know
Jesus. We rejoiced as we knew the Holy Spirit had done an
initial work in her life.
We entered her into our programme, assigned her daily chores
and gave her a Bible. This began the difficult process of
removing the street culture, which included a week or so in
the "kick ward," a period of isolation wherein Sara had to
go through withdrawals from her drug addiction. Like many
prostituted women her age, narcotics was used as an escape
from a sordid reality.
Our group is called Philippine Teen Challenge. We are
officially listed as a non-govermental organization (NGO)
focused on rehabilitating drug addicts. We are also members
of our city's task force on street children, a network of
agencies seeking to deal with the urban phenomena called
"street children." Yet, unlike the other agencies who use
psychology and modern medicine, the core of our
rehabilitative program is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the
truth that he alone can effect a transformation in our
Part of our programme is our Sunday chapel services. It was
in one of these services, after I gave an invitation to
receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that Sara stepped
forward out of her own accord to respond to the call.
Her own account of what she experienced: "The moment I
repeated the pastor's words, 'Lord Jesus, forgive me,' I
felt as if a heavy weight from my shoulders was lifted. It
was so overwhelming that I could only drop to my knees. Then
the flood of tears came. But it wasn't sadness I felt--God
knows I've shed those kinds of tears many times before. I
was actually amazed it was joy I was feeling. I felt so
cleansed, so loved by God!"
Thus began the transformation from street kid to heavenly
servant. We later learned that the name, Sara, was one of
scores of names she used because she could not remember what
her true name was. So we christened her with a new name,
That was more than two years ago. In the last half of 2001,
Keren was sent to another Asian country for a six-month
missions exposure. Her mission: help establish a girls' home
and go out at night and befriend "street walkers." It was a
first for us to send a missionary, albeit short term, and it
was a great encouragement for us all to send Keren.
Now back with us Keren goes out with us on our weekly
feeding sojourns. At times she sees her former friends. She
laughs with them and speaks their language. Eventually
they'll notice something different about her.
It's not because her name is now permanently Keren. It's
because she now goes along with a close, personal
friend. His name is Jesus.
© Copyright 2002 Dean F. Mapa
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