OM workers Anna* and Sarah* knock boldly on brothel doors in Central Europe, requesting permission to speak to the ladies inside. OM writer Inger reflects on responses they encounter as they come to chat, offer a gift and share a message of hope.
I attached a small cloth flower to a pretty bag filled with treats—the final touch to gifts that an OM outreach team would take to women working in prostitution in Europe.
“The ladies love the flowers and keep them,” Anna explained to our production line of five, as we helped prepare over 100 presents for an upcoming outreach. “They put it in their hair or display it in their room,” Anna continued. “One lady showed us the bouquet she now has.”
Anna and Sarah regularly drive to a town that has around ten brothels, often bringing gifts decorated with a flower. I remember driving past the town once; no one spoke as we observed billboard after billboard advertising how many girls are available and how much they cost.
I held another inexpensive flower. The ladies keep these, treasuring them. I thought about the lady who had accumulated a bouquet. How long has she been there? How little joy must there be in her life to delightedly show off this tiny bunch of blossoms?
I looked down at the boxes packed with colourful gifts, each one representing a woman who ended up in a place she didn’t want to be. Each providing an opportunity to build trust and leave contact details behind. Each flower is also a symbol that someone cares and came, expecting nothing in return.
Sarah told me about talking to Kathrin* in a brothel where ladies live and work in a room for up to two weeks before there is a change-over.
“I offered Kathrin a leaflet published by OM EAST called ‘You are beautiful, my sister!’” said Sarah. “When she took it, she exclaimed: ‘Now I get my own copy!’” When Kathrin arrived in her room, she had found the same leaflet. She believed the previous woman had left it there for the next person.
This was not a hotel room with a Bible, but a brothel chamber with an evangelistic leaflet.
I considered, too, was the other occupant throwing Kathrin a life-line? The leaflet is a letter expressing the father-heart of God, who longs to give the women a new identity and guide them towards His good plan for their lives. It amazed me again to be reminded there is no place where Scripture cannot reach, and it struck me how much more it meant for Kathrin to receive a copy in person. I hope she will also accept the words within as a letter of love from God the Father, written specifically for her.
“They think we are crazy!” Anna replied, when I asked what it was like to go into brothels. “The first time we came, the girls thought, ‘What are these weird women doing here? Women don’t come in here!’”
Now, Anna and Sarah regularly speak to ladies in a number of areas in Central Europe. Both in their sixties, they have become mother-figures, often welcomed with the title “Mama!”
“They think I’m the most beautiful woman they have ever seen!” Sarah declared.
“They come and stroke our faces,” added Anna.
I wondered at this. How can it be that women, groomed to appeal, look at two outreach workers and see a beauty never encountered before? The OM workers expressed their wish to be able to communicate Jesus simply by turning up, since Christ lives in their hearts and His character can be reflected through them. The response makes me think this is happening—that part of the beauty individuals notice is Jesus.
Isaiah 52:7a came to mind, which says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news.” (NIV)
The beauty of messengers willing to carry the gospel.
A letter of love pointing to the source of the beauty.
And a gift to convey that God has not forgotten them.
It inspires me that there is no knowing what people pick up on when meeting followers of Jesus and no limit to what He can do.
“Prayer is key; we can talk to the ladies in brothels but if it is not carried in prayer, we could just as well go home,” Anna emphasised. “It is only through God’s power that things can really change. He is answering prayer that women will be able to get out and start a new life!”
Please pray for God’s protection over outreach teams in Central Europe and wisdom as they communicate the gospel to those whose lives are marked by abuse, control and fear. Praise God for those who have been helped to leave; please pray they find healing, truth and hope in Christ.
Photo: Julia Haupt