Early 2012 I was driving to Cape Town from Stellenbosch for a friend’s birthday party. I decided not to take my usual N1 route and took the N2, because I had a suspicion that it might be a quicker way to her home.
As I reached Baden Powell Drive I saw a woman next to the road and, being in the habit of offering lifts to hitch hikers, I stopped and picked her up. Her name was Michaella. She had a shawl covering her head, wore large sunglasses and had no front teeth. She told me she was from Durban and was visiting Cape Town because she is going through a divorce and needed some time away from her husband. She insisted that she could only speak and understand English, but she spoke it with a very strange accent. Initially I actually thought that she might be a transvestite!
She was heading to Muizenberg, which would mean that if I took her into Cape Town, I would be taking her away from her destination and away from the road to her destination. It was getting dark and the thought of leaving her to wait for another lift made me uncomfortable, so I decided to take her to Muizenberg.
I tried to make casual conversation: “What do you do?” “I am unemployed,” she replied quickly. “Okay, what type of work are you looking for?” “Anything.” It didn’t sink in that she was dodging my question, so, still curious, I asked “What did you do in Durban, before you came to Cape Town?” Defeated, she replied: “I was a nude model… for German men.” I didn’t know what to do with this, so I just laughed.
She tried to put my radio on, but it was broken. So we sat in uncomfortable silence for a while. Then she asked me what do I like. I replied, a bit confused at the abrupt and broad question: “Music”. She laughed and touched my knee, which confused me even more. “And what else?” she asked touching my shoulder. “Jesus…” and with that I decided I was going take this chance to tell her that she is loved. After all, we needed something to talk about on the way to Muizenberg.
I can get pretty fired up once I get going. “God does not count your sins against you.” “He does not think about your sins.” “You are holy, you are blameless, you are innocent.” “Nothing you could ever do could make God love you less. And nothing you could do, could ever make God love you more.”
She interrupted me. “Could you give me some money for supper for me and my children?” I was surprised that she interrupted me, but then I thought of Desmond Tutu saying “The gospel to a hungry person is food.” So I told her I would help her. I was quiet, trying to get back to my train of thought. She asked me something, but I couldn’t make it out. So she repeated: “Do you want to see my body?” and started lifting her top. “No! Stop!” I shouted. “I thought you wanted to see my body for the money…” she said sheepishly. I was shocked and went quiet. She asked if I was mad. “Not all men are like that, you know.”
I thought of the gospel and realized that even this was not going to get me to stop telling her about how madly God loves her. Actually, this was ideal. The light of the gospel is clearest in the darkness. Love is most apparent when it doesn’t make sense. So I continued. “You are his child.” “Nothing can come between you.” “God did not turn his face away from you in your divorce.” “He is not mad at you.” “He loves you, because He loves you, because He loves you.”
As I talked she directed me to what was not Muizenberg, but a part of Mitchell’s plain. “Here is fine,” she said. I stopped the car and she looked around. She told me to drive past the three young men walking down the road and we stopped again. I prayed for her, for her divorce, for her children. And then she looked at me, as if she was waiting for something. I remembered about the money and gave her R30, which isn’t a lot but at least she was not going to go to bed hungry. “No, you need to give me more,” she said. I was overcome by indignation. Then she said, with genuine fear in her voice, “You need to give at least R100. R100 is for those men,” pointing to the men that I just drove past.
Then it hit me. She is a prostitute. Those are her pimps. And instead of giving her a lift, I simply took her away from her place of work. She looked at me in fear, waiting for my response. If she climbed out of the car without enough money she was surely going to be beaten, or worse. I decided to give her everything I could, which was well over R100. She urged me to go to an ATM and get even more money but I told her no. She looked at me and said: “It’s okay. You gave me this and a lift and you told me the word of God.”
“But there is one more thing. Drive on and turn right,” she said. I was a bit rattled by the whole situation. She told me to stop.
She turned to me and said suddenly, with authority: “Numbers 6 from verse 22 says ‘And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them,” the tone of her voice rising.
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you.”
She laid her hands on me and increased her volume even more.
“The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.
So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”
She continued “And the word of the Lord shall NOT return void! I will give you proof!” At this point she started quoting obscure verses verbatim of examples of prophecy coming true, nearly working herself into a frenzy. Gasping for breath when she had the chance. I was laughing hysterically, enjoying the utter weirdness of it all.
In her frenzy her sunglasses and shawl fell off, exposing her face. She gave a mighty “AMEN!” and then said “Sjoe, I am exhausted by prophesying.” She gathered her belongings in my car and, as she climbed out, said to me: “Okay, liefie. Jy ry nou net reguit aan en dan draai jy links om uit te kom.” Adding: “En sluit jou deure!”* With that she left.
I realized it was all a lie. Like she hid her face, with sunglasses and a shawl, she hid herself behind an English speaking person from Durban, going through a divorce. She hid herself from her clients. I doubt her name was even Michaella. But in the end she showed me one true thing about herself, that she could speak Afrikaans. And that was her gift to me.
As I drove away, the ideas I shared with her became ever more clear to me. Nothing can hinder our relationship with God. Nothing can hold back his love. This woman did not want this life, but here she is and God is there with her.
*Translated, this means “Okay, sweetheart. To get out of here, turn left left up ahead. And lock your doors!”