It’s a cold winter’s night in Buenos Aires, and people from ten different countries gather in a brightly lit subway station to pray, break into groups, and make sure each has gospel tracts, copies of the New Testament, cookies and hot chocolate to give away.
These Christians from Logos Hope, local missionaries, volunteers, and members of a nearby church prepare to walk the streets of Constitución, an area known for prostitution, drugs and crime. They will spend the next few hours speaking with women working on the streets; offering hot chocolate, conversation and prayer.
This red-light ministry began in 2018 while Logos Hope was in Ecuador. “Literally, just outside the port was the red-light area. It had never been that much in our faces before that,” says Renske Maasland (Netherlands). She co-leads the group along with Julian Villamizar (Colombia). “Why don’t we go out when the girls are working and try to talk with them?" was the idea that iniatiated the ministry. The crewmembers wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.
“Now we do it at least once a week in every port, and we always try to go in partnership with a local ministry. Because the ship is only in port for a few weeks, we might never see a working-girl-to-complete-restoration transformation. It could take a year or more to get a girl off the streets. That’s why it is so important to have a church or organisation to follow up."
It’s not just the red-light outreach group that’s involved. There’s a sewing group on board whose crewmembers make pouches that the crewmembers fill with a Bible, toiletries, chocolate, and a ‘love letter’ written to the girls from the perspective of God the Father; telling them of His love for them. "We give these out to those we make an especially strong connection with,” says the 21-year-old Renske. "The cookies also have messages written in icing, saying things like ‘loved’ or ‘Jesus loves you.’”
While hot chocolate and cookies seem like very simple things, they are great conversation-starters, especially in the winter months of South America. “One night in Buenos Aires,” team member Julian shares, “My group offered two women hot chocolate. One accepted it, but the other refused. She was very drunk and began talking loudly with another group member. This gave me the chance to speak with the second woman, Mariana,* while she drank her hot chocolate."
“Mariana told me about how she had been married with two children, and her husband had left her. She had no way to support her family, so she started working the streets. I could see the pain in her eyes, that she didn’t want to be doing it. I said, ‘I’m so sorry he left you, because that is not what a man is supposed to do. I want to apologise that you were treated this way.’"
“She began to cry. I shared with her about Jesus and how He is the best husband, how He loves her unconditionally, and how He is always there for her. And then I asked her if she’d like to accept Him into her life and heart, and she said yes. We prayed right there on the streets of Buenos Aires,” recalls Julian.
Mariana’s story is just one example of how God has used this outreach group to share His love with hurting women. “We are planting seeds and trusting God will work with what we’ve offered,” Renske says.
“I go out in ministry out of love for these women, but also in thankfulness to God. I’m thankful that, although from the outside, my circumstances looked different, He still went far to get me. No one is too far for God to reach. If He can use me to go that far for someone else, so they can experience what I did when I came to know Jesus, for me, that is a big thing.”