Voices of the red-light district

written by See Keen TAN

“The red-light district is like a living hell!” exclaimed a transgender sex worker in an infamous area in Singapore.

“When we choose this path, we’re destined to a lifetime of loneliness,” said another.

“Will God forgive me for my sex change?” A heavy pause followed.

“I’m 27; I’ve no husband; I’ve two children, 5 and 3. I got into this work to pay off the huge medical bill my late husband left me with. My documents are impounded by the authorities. Pray for me to be released so I can go back home to my children!” cried a freelance sex worker from India.

"Will you pray for me?" a trafficked woman forced into sex work asked.

“Thank you for your gift,” shared a young meek brothel worker from Vietnam.

“It’s lovely that you can have dinner with us,” a brothel worker from China said as she tucked into a Lunar New Year reunion meal hosted by a group of Jesus followers.

“Can Jesus give me lots of money?” a brothel keeper said mockingly in Mandarin. The high income the pimps earn is a main attraction of working in the trade.

“This is the only job I know all these years. What else can I do?” lamented another pimp.

“Do you think I’m not racked with guilt each time I introduce a client to a lady?” a pimp confessed.

“Life is meaningless!” declared another.

“I cannot understand why you volunteers would show so much care and concern for our girls!” said a brothel caretaker.

“I truly believe in Jesus!” declared a freelance sex worker from Thailand, after hearing a volunteer share the gospel in her native tongue.

“I’m so happy Jesus is providing for me!” shared a former sex worker from Singapore who has since been restored and is embracing a new life in Christ.

“I acknowledge you, Jesus, as my Lord and Saviour,” a pimp prayed with a volunteer. Both have since gone on to study the Bible together.

Such voices are raw and real. These expressions unveil the harsh realities of life experienced by the red-light community in Singapore, a group of Jesus followers befriending these workers has discovered.

“These voices betray a poverty of the heart — a cry to be known and loved,” said Jan*, a befriender. “From those who seek physical intimacy to those who give it in order to survive, everyone needs Jesus.”

“How could I, as a follower of Jesus, radically love people — the way Jesus loved the woman caught in adultery and didn’t condemn her, leaving the scribes and Pharisees with absolutely no fight? I desire to know,” Jan asserted.

As Jan and her fellow workers seek to express the love of God to this community shunned by society at large, God is doing something amazing that they have yet to fully comprehend.

The years of relationship-building are bearing fruit. Many have read the hundreds of gospel tracts that the group has distributed to them in their native Asian languages. Several have watched the multi-lingual Jesus film on their digital devices. Every Christmas, many will emerge from their brothels to join in singing carols heartily with a team of carollers.

Some sex workers and pimps are beginning to find hope in God. Many are open to prayers. Some are keen on exploring the Bible. A few have left or are working towards leaving the prostitution trade for good.

“We are astounded by these developments. This was a community who had hardly known Jesus before We see the power of God at work, birthing forth Jesus followers one by one, slowly but surely,” said Kim*, a ministry team leader.

Join Jesus followers all over the world in expressing God’s love to communities that have not heard of the gospel. Find out more here: www.om.org 

*name changed

The red-light district in Singapore. Photo by Alex Coleman.

Stories from the Region

R67183

Revelling in the God of second chances

Alvin stared at the chaos of medical tubes hanging around him. 'Why?' he wondered as he lay helplessly on the hospital bed. How on earth was this part of God’s plan?

Read more