Today’s post is by Shannon Wilson, a co-founder of The Red Light Outreach—a ministry in a major Chinese city to women trapped in prostitution. I met Shannon when I lived in China and I am good friends with many of the women involved. Today, Shannon shares her story of her first encounter with the rampant prostitution in China and what she and others in her city are doing to bring Hope. You can read more about their ministry and learn how to get involved at RedLightOutreach.org.
I remember the first time I turned the corner to walk down her street so vividly. Darkness enveloped me to the point of leaving me gasping for breath. My eyes immediately filled with tears, I was so shocked by the brokenness of it all. I was so taken aback by the oppression, the dozens of women sitting on plastic stools outside what looked like mini garage doors. The street was filthy, with trash on the sidewalks, stray dogs wandering around and dozens of men walking in and out of these garage doors. Prostitution in Asia is a multi-billion dollar industry. You wouldn’t know it, hanging out with the women who are trapped in the shops on every street corner. Most shops are eerily dirty and dark, with yellowed walls from all the cigarette smoke and broken down facilities from the frequency of being used. We continued to walk down the street, crying out to the Redeemer of all things to redeem this filthy alley, to redeem the brokenness of the people who were blankly staring at us as we walked by. As we walked by we passed one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in the five years I’ve lived here. She was sitting alone, and we approached her and made small talk. She seemed hesitant to talk to us, looking around to see if anyone was watching her. Since then I’ve learned she’s anything but shy; she’s extremely feisty and can be fierce when customers come around.
She is one of an estimated 80,000 prostituted women in our average city of 12 million people. Her story is the same as many of the women we’ve met: she’s married, has a child and moved to the city out of the poverty stricken countryside in hopes of providing a better life for her family. Somewhere along the lines she was lured into prostitution. One time we met a woman on her first day on the job. She spoke candidly and with skepticism that the work would be worth the money promised her. She didn’t want to be there; she wanted to return to her family in the countryside but was fearful of what would happen if she left the brothel. Another time we met a girl who said she was eighteen but didn’t look a day over fifteen. She had been taken from her home province up north and brought here to be sold dozens of times a day. Every time we stopped by to say hi to her she would shamefully tug at her inappropriately short dress, trying to hide her “occupation” from us.
In January 2010 when God began to move
our hearts for these women we instinctively knew the best thing we could do for these women was to pray. We’ve spent countless hours walking the streets of red light districts praying for freedom from oppression, begging God to break the chains locking the women into this industry and worshiping the Creator of the broken people we so long to bring hope and new life to. As we worship God in these areas there is such immense, tangible power brought into this darkness. We’ve literally had women run out of brothels as we sing about the love and freedom of Jesus, asking to be our friends and offering to bring us into the brothel and introduce us to the 8-10 women working with them. When we invite Jesus to move and have His way in these places, we meet pimps who oversee hundreds of women prostituted in one single club, who then invite us to come back to hang out with the women. When we read scripture over the alleyways, God gives us opportunities to share the hope of the gospel with women, pimps and customers, sometimes all in one day!
When I think about 80,000 women outside my door selling their bodies daily for money, I am easily overwhelmed. There’s nothing I can do, an American entrepreneur, to help all 80,000 women. But I believe in a God who knows them by name and whose heart grieves for them to know True love and True peace. In response to a vision God has given us, we have opened an American style bakery in hopes of one day having a storefront where we can hire women out of the sex industry and provide honest employment for them. The bakery would not only provide them with opportunities to learn basic business skills, but would also allow women a safe environment to heal and learn how to have healthy relationships with one another and with people in society. We dream about having a safe house to provide safe living accommodations for women who previously lived in abusive brothels. With HIV and sexually transmitted diseases spreading rampantly across Asia, we desire to provide them with the medical care their bodies will need. We continue to pray for opportunities to love these women, the same way Jesus loves us.
We know God is working in our city and using Red Light Outreach to bring hope and new life to the streets of this place. These are His people and He longs to redeem their stories. We are currently praying for initial funding for the bakery and for a safe house, as well as a team of 8-10 people who will come work with us full-time in hopes of seeing our city transformed by the power of the gospel of Jesus. Will you pray with us? Will you join us?
Please leave your comments at the bottom to encourage Shannon and others involved! Share this post with your friends! Do anything you can to raise awareness!