To Read: Click on song title to watch a video
from ‘Miss Saigon’
They are not nice, they’re mostly noise
They swear like men, they screw like boys
I know there’s nothing in their hearts
But every time I take one in my arms
The movie in my mind
The dream they leave behind
A scene I can’t erase
And in a strong GI’s embrace
Flee this life. Flee this place
The movie plays and plays
The screen before me fills
He takes me to New York
He gives me dollar bills
Our children laugh all day
And eat too much ice cream
And life is like a dream
The dream I long to find
The movie in my mind
From the Scriptures:
Then Joshua son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, ‘Go, view the land, especially Jericho.’ So they went, and entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and spent the night there. 2 The king of Jericho was told, ‘Some Israelites have come here tonight to search out the land.’ 3 Then the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab, ‘Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come only to search out the whole land.’ 4 But the woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, ‘True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. 5 And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them.’ 6 She had, however, brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof.
Miss Saigon is the musical where West Side Story meets Madame Butterfly. Star-crossed lovers, Vietnamese Bargirl Kim and GI Chris Scott, from different sides of a social, class and racial divide, find true love, lose each other, and in trying to make amends a life falls through the cracks as Kim kills herself so that her son may have the life she sings about in ‘The Movie in My Mind’.
It is a heart wrenching picture portraying the way our society subduespeople, particularly women, and then throws them away when we have had our way with them.
There have been more than a handful of times since I became a minister when I have met that strange combination of generosity and desperation that is the lot of bargirls such as Kim. I cherish each of those times as they have been moments when my eyes have been opened, I have been given wonderful lessons in humility, and they have helped me to learn how great is the love of God.
One particular occasion sticks in my mind. When I was a School Chaplain in Johannesburg our National Chaplains Conference went on an ‘undercover’ tour of Hillbrow’s Red Light District. The local 6th Formers had been spending their lunch money on more than cold drink and crisps and their chaplain had asked us to reflect on the situation.
A group of twelve of us spent the evening talking to girls and boys on street corners, visiting a project which helped teenage girls leave the streets, going to Peep Shows and a Strip Club. Towards the end of the evening, which included several of us being propositioned and the female school chaplain with us being ‘hit upon’ by some clients, we were entertained by a pole dancer. I had never seen things like this before and, prior to being ordained, had (at risk of being fired) even walked out of a company dinner when an unexpected floor show began.
During the evening I was revolted and disgusted and not a little frightened. I could not see anything attractive or desirable in what was being done. At the evening’s end we returned to our rooms at a local retreat house and were placed in a silent retreat until mid morning the following day. It was then we were given space to reflect on our experiences. When it came to my turn to speak I remember telling of the pole dancer and, with tears streaming from my eyes, I came to see and say that ‘she too was the Body of Christ’.
This has lived with me for over twenty years and whenever I find myself appalled by the condition in which someone else is found – regardless of how or why they came to be at the ‘wrong’ end of society – I hear the siren song of an anonymous pole dancer from the Red Light District of Johannesburg saying, ‘she too, is the Body of Christ’.
Rahab of Jericho and her sisters have taught me that all sorts of people can be instruments of salvation and, if I am ever to become more like Christ I need to own all people as members of the Family of God and spend myself in changing society so that all are valued equally.
God of life, we pray to you for all people:
for all women who have been excluded from a full-ﬂedged life for the only reason that it has been always like that.
for all people who are oppressed and abused.
for all people whose freedom and dignity are denied by systems and authorities.
for all those who are driven away from their houses and their homes because of their conscience and their convictions.
for all those who are in search of the meaning of their life within their own culture and religion.
for all those who have to labour too hard for too small a salary.
for all those who – from sheer necessity – have to sell their own body.
for those many desperate women and men who are at the mercy of the rich and the powerful
for all those who suffer, we pray to you.
André Quintelier, Philippines
Where do the ‘outsiders’ gather in your community?
They are not all standing on dimly-lit street corners.
Some are in inadequate housing, some underemployed,
some are even ‘shut-in’ in apparent comfort in a care home.
Find out where they are and add them to your prayers – they too are the Body of Christ.
If you feel called to act to change things please do.
Your offer of help is not likely to be turned away.
Encore: Click on song title to watch a video
The Last Night of the World is the ‘good news’ story at the beginning of Miss Saigon. Knowing the end it becomes bittersweet but nonetheless it does help us ask the question why things always have to be the way they are.
Prayers are from ‘Prayers Encircling the World’ and are copyright © SPCK: 1998.
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘A Song for Lent – 40 Days in the West End’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2018