Prayer and chocolate open doors of ministry among prostitutes
In France, legalized prostitution includes paying taxes, accruing vacation time and having access to social services such as health care. But despite the fact that a secular government has given legitimacy to this profession, its dependents are still robbed of their hope and dignity.
Jenna* is an IMB worker in France who is engaging prostitutes. She has seen first-hand the abuse and pain suffered by these, learning that most prostitutes have a history of sexual abuse, broken families and extreme poverty. Their lifestyle puts them at high risk for diseases, mental disorders, addictions and further abuse at the hands of their clients, making their life a hopeless cycle of despair. This lifestyle is certainly not a coveted one.
“When speaking with locals it seems the overwhelming feeling is that all of these women have chosen prostitution in their own free will,” Jenna said, “however, this is simply not what I know to be true.”
Most women on the streets are either victims of circumstance or something far more sinister. Sex trafficking is a thriving industry in France. Many prostitutes have been brought from other countries, had their passports taken, experience physical, sexual, emotional, financial abuse, and are often forced into dependant substance use. Threats and intimidation are an every day reality for these women. Many French women are in the same situation, having been identified as vulnerable and sought out for recruitment by those looking to make a profit from the industry.
Chocolate and love
Since September, on a weekly basis, Jenna’s team has walked the streets of the city to seek out relationships with these women. They pray as they walk and take chocolate along to give away.
“We greet each woman, offer her chocolate and tell her that God loves her and thinks she is special,” Jenna said.
This simple act of kindness is sometimes all it takes to break through the tough exterior. Jenna has had one woman agree to meet her later for dinner and many now welcome Jenna when they see her coming.
“In some areas of the city the women know us by name…or at least by the type of chocolate we hand out,” Jenna said. “Our hope is that soon we will be known as the ones who offer restoration through Christ, instead of just offering chocolate.”
Jenna began her ministry by saturating the streets with prayer. For an entire year, she focused on prayer walking and encouraged her team to do the same.
“Once you are in tune with God through prayer, you begin to sense the Spirit’s moving in a much more real way,” she said. “There’s something powerful that happens when you can look someone in the eye and pray for their soul.”
Now that Jenna and her team are actually meeting the ladies, they are certain that prayer was an important first step in preparing the way.
“It is clear to me that these doors may not have been opened without obeying the Lord and praying first, in order to soften the ground and humble my own heart,” Jenna said.
Jenna and her partner, Rachel*, hoping to make a lasting impact on the lives of these ladies, not only through relationship but through recruiting more people to come alongside and help them. They have been pursuing a documentary project in which they will conduct in-depth interviews with 1-5 women and share their stories with others. Jenna hopes is to use it as a means to deepen relationships with the women as well as educate the church about the depth of depravity in France.
“It is important to us that American Christians know what is happening here, how to pray for it and what they can do to be involved. If the documentary comes to fruition it will be subtitled in English and made available to churches and individuals in the States,” Jenna said.
Jenna and her team are also working on developing partnerships with local associations who already have relationships with the women on the street. They hope to gain credibility and access so that they can more easily share the Gospel of hope to these women.
“The documentary, the chocolates, the prayer walking are simply tools for getting to the end goal of radical transformation through a relationship with Christ,” Jenna said.
*Names have been changed for security purposes
Posted by Karen Pearce on Jan 19, 2011