Takeaway: Not all of us are called to minister to male prostitues, but all of us are called to work out Micah 6:8 “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” for ourselves.
I have been aware of John Green and his ministry almost as long as it has been around. Green was finishing up a Master’s degree at Wheaton College as I was starting my undergrad. We did not know one another, but I knew of him and what he was doing. There were Wheaton students from very early on volunteering. Until 5 years ago when I moved from Chicago to outside of Atlanta, I would see John regularly at Wheaton events, especially those alumni events that were trying to get alumni in urban ministry together.
I was interested in more of his story, because while I was aware of him, I did not know a lot of the details of the story. This book is mostly about how John learned by being in the city, by making himself available to men that were in need.
The chapter that most struck me is about success. One of his financial supporters was capable of giving more, but did not because he wanted to give to ministries that ‘get more bang for his buck’. Many of the men that John works with will relapse into drug or alcohol addiction, they will die because of AIDS or other mistreatments to their body. Emmaus is living with men over time, loving them and giving them the family that they have never had.
One of saddest stories in the book is about a man that came to eat dinner. Weekdays for lunch and several evenings a week, John and his wife open up their home for a family style sit down dinner. John and his wife build relationship over the table. One of the men came over to John and said, “I have never done this before”. John thought he was being propositioned and said, “What do you mean?” The man responded that in his 28 years, he had never had a family style sit down at a table meal. He had seen it on TV, but was not sure that he would ever experience it.
We do not all need to work with prostitues to serve God (although it is likely that more of us really should be than currently are.) But we do need to be serving and opening our homes and giving community to those that are hurting. Many of these men are working as prostitutes because all other options seem closed to them. The vast majority have very little schooling, most were sexually abused as a child, almost none had a father in the home (and if they did, they were usually abused by that father). John does not excuse them, but he does spend a lot of time reflecting on the fact that he (and most of us) have never had to face the choice to sell our bodies in order to feed ourselves. John (and most of us) were given grace in places that many of these men were not. It is possible that some of us can work with children in ways that will keep them from ever having to make hard decisions like this. But I thank God that there are some like John and the rest of the staff of Emmaus, that reach out to men that have had to make those hard decisions. This is a fairly raw book. There are stories that will break your heart. But it is a real book about real people that most of the time are ignored. It is worth the time to read.
The book was provided by the Amazon Vine Program for purposes of review. Anyone that would like the advance reader copy of the book, let me know in the comments and I will mail it to you.