Taking action

Anna and Sarah consider what God has done since pioneer outreaches started in red-light areas of a European capital city 17 years ago.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” — Isaiah 61:1 (NIV)

Hearts stirred to begin red-light ministry

On a Friday night in spring 17 years ago, Anna* went on her first outreach to talk to ladies trapped in prostitution. She walked along a street in one of Europe’s capital cities where women were standing waiting on customers. “When I saw the ladies, it really broke me and I started to cry,” said Anna. She asked herself: “Where is the Church in this? We need to do something!” Then she realised: “The Lord was showing me: ‘You need to be involved.’”

Anna had joined her OM colleague, Sarah*, and other believers who were pioneering outreaches in red-light areas. They had noticed many brothels throughout the city (later counting over 350 studios), which prompted them to find out about the women’s circumstances. Awareness of human trafficking led to prayer meetings, outreaches and then forming an organisation to provide holistic support. The two OM workers have served alongside the partner organisation from the start.  

Creating Christian media to take into brothels

Outreach workers sought to communicate the gospel in brothels and on the street. However, their efforts were often hindered by language barriers or because ladies were being watched. Sarah wished the team had Christian literature they could leave with individuals to read later.

“I saw nothing to give to the ladies,” said Sarah, who felt the available tracts didn’t have a message or design that would resonate or connect. “So I wrote the first tract.”

Sarah began writing or sourcing content for leaflets, booklets and cards. Together with their partners and OM’s media ministry, they designed resources specifically for women in prostitution. So far, 18 print and digital publications in 17 different languages have been produced with over 77,000 copies printed. Other partner organisations have printed additional copies for their ministries.

The first leaflet told the story of Hagar in the Bible who encountered God in her desperate situation. Sarah remembers the moment she distributed it. “The leaflet was so eye-catching, they loved it,” she said. “Everybody was just reading it. All these ladies on bar stools, in high heels, reading.”

Sarah has seen eyes light up when she presented a new booklet. Some women have requested something to read, saying they need it for their soul. One lady expressed how she loved the last booklet, which gave her “so much peace.”

“I came to faith through the literature you gave me,” another lady, Janka*, told Sarah. “Later, in my despair, I called to Jesus; I asked Him to help me and He heard me.” Janka felt Jesus’ presence and she received strength and hope. Following this experience, she took steps towards leaving prostitution.

“Pray that ladies would call on the name of the Lord. He has promised He will hear and answer prayer,” Sarah urged, knowing of others who have had dreams and visions.

Support on the journey out of prostitution 

As women accepted help to start a new life, the red-light ministry identified a need for training to prepare them for employment. A programme was started in 2016, which began with Anna teaching sewing and developed into offering further courses.

“It’s not so much about sewing; it’s about so much more,” said Anna. “It’s about knowing the women, being there for them and supporting them. For some, recovery takes a long time, it depends on how damaged they are.” Most of her students have been victims of human trafficking.

After successfully sewing an item, one student was excited to show it to others. “She was over the moon,” Anna shared. “We see the women’s joy. Working with your hands is very healing.”

“The goal is to integrate back into working society,” Anna explained. “To come on time, work with me as their boss and work as a team — qualifications you need to find a job.” Students have moved on to employment and one lady planned to become a social worker to help more people to get out of prostitution. Another woman thanked Anna, saying: “You believed in me, helped get my life into order.” Anna described how “she was just beaming!”

While individuals receive training, counselling and support to rebuild their lives, outreach workers experience that ultimate rescue and healing comes from God. “Usually, it is a long road for individuals leaving prostitution because they are traumatised and there are many consequences,” Sarah explained. “The Holy Spirit needs to, and can, help them — we have seen this happen.”

Strength to be God’s light in a tough milieu

“Before we go out to speak to women on the street and in brothels, we always pray the verse [from 1 John 4:4], which says: ‘greater is He that is in you, than he who is in the world’ (KJV),” said Sarah. “It’s a declaration that the light of Jesus in us is stronger than the darkness we go into.”

“Going on outreach is not an easy job. You see vulgar and offensive things,” acknowledged Anna. “It’s not for everyone.” Similarly, Sarah stated: “It’s probably a calling. Also because you see a lot of horrible pornography. For me, the pictures don’t stick, whereas for others, it’s really traumatic.” The outreach workers are supervised and trained in self-care.

Sarah and Anna persevere despite the challenging environment. Although both are now past retirement age, their heart for the ladies spurs them on. Sarah went on 100 of the 147 outreaches in 2023, and Anna rejoined her after passing on the responsibility for the sewing class. Meanwhile, Sarah is training the partner organisation’s new staff members.

“As a result of 17 years of outreaches, we saw many new beginnings of ladies leaving prostitution,” Sarah reflected. “Every single one is different and there are many mountains that need to be moved. Three ladies were baptised in 2023 and others started new jobs.”

“May the Lord continue to guide us, use us, give us wisdom and strength,” Sarah expressed. “To do good and help the marginalised and vulnerable. He is able!”

Give thanks for restored lives and pray for more individuals to call on Jesus’ name. Pray for wisdom for MediaWorks graphic designers and partners as they create media. Pray for outreach workers serving in this difficult ministry.

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