EBWU Conference - Lisbon, Portugal - 10-13 October 2024

To Bathe a Princess,Susanna MeffordSusanna Mefford

Why is it that when a woman dresses up she always has to wear high heels?

That was what I was thinking as I clambered up the steep, cobblestone path, to the top of the castle, at the top of the hill.  It was the day of the Custodian Angels, the patron saints of the police and the customary mass was going to be held open-air at the top of the castle overlooking the small Mediterranean town.
I was also asking myself, and the Lord, what I was doing there.  And just then my cell phone rang.  Always on time!

"Yes?”  I answered.
"We’ve got an entrance into the club.  Can you come with me?”
"What?!”  I exclaimed.  "I… I can’t!  I’m on my way to the Mass!”

There was an almost eternal silence on the other end of the line.

"Hello?  Are you there?”  I asked.
"Yes.”  She answered and fell silent again.
"Do you want me to go with you?”  (Stupid question!)
"I wouldn’t call you if I didn’t.”  She was so concise and matter of fact, the way she always is.
"Ok.  I’m coming.” What else could I answer?

So I said hello and goodbye to all the different chiefs of police.  "An unexpected turn of events,” I explained, and hurried back down that steep, cobblestone slope, trying to keep my heels and emotions under control.  On the way down I called my Pastor.  "We’re going in.  Pray for us!”
"Call me as soon as you get out,”  he said.

In the parking lot my friend and one of the girls were waiting for me.  We got into the car and drove about 10 kms to the next town. We parked out of sight near the back door. The rusty elevator jostled and bumped us to the fourth floor.  When we got out my heart sank.  My friend looked at me with sadness in her eyes.  There was a cage-door at the entrance to the hall and more locked railings at each apartment. A double-door jail.

When we rang the bell the young mother came out with her 3-week-old newborn in her arms.   She unlocked the door and smilingly let us in.

Their home was the last apartment on the right.  The only one with the jail-door open.

"Do you want to hold her?”  She asked.
"Yes!”  I love babies.
"What’s her name?” I asked as I looked into the tiny newborn’s dark brown eyes.
"Princess,”  said her mother.  "Her name is Princess. Do you want to change her?  She needs a change.”
"Of course!”  But when I took off her diaper I saw she needed more than just a change.  "Do you want me to give her a bath?” I asked.
"Oh yes, please!  I haven’t given her one because I’m scared to,” explained the child-mother.

So there I was in my high-heels kneeling on a towel beside the bathtub, giving this precious Princess her first tub-bath.  While the mother was giggling and filming the event on her cell phone to send to her mother, the Princess was looking into my eyes. I had to lean toward the phone so her mother could get a good shot of the baby’s face.  Her tiny body relaxed into the water as if it were saying "Ahhhh!”  She enjoyed her bath.

When my friend and I left we walked down the stairs instead of risking that elevator again.  Floor three had no jail-doors, floor two only had one at the entrance to the hallway.  Only where the Princess lives is the prison double-guarded.

Since I’ve started to become aware of the women around me that are victims of traffic and sexual exploitation they seem to multiply.  How can it be that there are so many!?  Is it something new or is it that I just hadn’t even noticed it before?  The well-known passage of the prophet has taken on new meaning now.

"The Sovereign Lord has filled me with his spirit.  He has chosen me and sent me to bring good news to the poor.  To heal the broken-hearted, to announce release to captives and freedom to those in prison.”  Isaiah 61:1

The prison is poverty, it’s abuse,  and the victims are mostly women, women and girls.  People that make money off these oppressed are more than just human rights violators, they are slave traders.  More money is made here than in the drug trade because a person can be sold and used over and over again.  Over 90% of the women in prostitution in Spain are foreigners and victims of the trafficking network.  Their weak cry for help must not fall on deaf ears, we can not look away!

Begin today, right now, with a prayer.  Ask God to protect the poor, the weak and brokenhearted.  Speak with the leadership in your church, ask for their prayers and support. Then ask  your government officials what they’re doing about this, in your town, in your area, in your country.  Living in a democracy means our governments should reflect our needs and petitions.  We must say STOP to human traffic. (stopthetraffik.org).

Susana Mefford Pritchard
Denia (Alicante) Spain
November 2008