Monday’s ministry was arduous, so much so that it is taking all of me to sit and write about it. But here goes…
As we hurried off the metro into the Omonia Square, Dina (a courageous woman who’s been working with the Nea Zoi ministry for 8 years building relationships and leading a few women out) led our team into the Red Light District of Athens. We reached a street that was lined with hazy lights that hovered over almost every door. Dina needn’t explain anything as soon as I saw the numbers of men walking in and out of the doors, going from one door to the next and heard the scream of a girl behind barred windows… These doors were the entrances to selfishness…brokenness...hopelessness. These doors were the sinister entrances to brothels.
Dina gave each of us girls the option of going into a brothel with her individually, so four of us took the opportunity. As I followed Dina into the dark room that was lit up with pink and red lights, I felt my heart sink. The Madame (usually ex-prostitute who is in charge of the girls, decides who is let in or not… this particular Madame is friends with Dina, so she let us in) greeted us as we entered the short hallway/waiting room. We followed her into the small kitchen where a red headed, Albanian girl named Mary sat. She was wearing nothing but lingerie and heels. Mary looked to be only a little older than myself, and the Madame is 62 (she made me guess her age). They were friendly, asking my name and how old I was, then politely exchanged pokerfaced smiles and emotionless laughs.
Whenever a potential client walked through the door, Mary hopped out of her chair, showed herself to the man, and returned to the kitchen smiling as if nothing had happened, as if she wasn’t just demoralized. It made me angry each time I heard a new client walking in and out of the brothel, knowing that they had probably just come from another lighted doorway. Many came just to look, because looking is free. And many would come in groups, as if what they were doing was normal recreation.
Mary’s face remained impassive during the rest of the conversation, and she rarely looked at me. But I could tell by the way she and the Madame interacted with Dina, they trusted her. They liked her and enjoyed her presence. Dina seemed to bring a peace to them in this sadistic place. She talked with them as equals. She exemplified gentleness, compassion, humility and love to them, and they had probably never before seen these characteristics from another person. I could not understand most of the dialect, but at one point, Mary began saying something and pointing to me. Dina explained that Mary was saying that I was a beautiful young girl who had a life… that I had something going for me, a future… one that she did not. Dina then told her that if she would leave this life, then she could visit me, learn and grow, and have a beautiful future too. Mary replied, “No, no. I am not deserving enough.” Immediately, tears swelled my eyes as I laid my hand on her arm and told her that I, too, have felt undeserving and worthless.
The word “undeserving” put knots in my heart. Film clips from my past played over and over in my head of all my different sins and all the times I gave in to Satan’s lies that I was "not deserving enough". I can’t do anything for this young woman but show her grace and love, the same grace and love that has been shown to me by God. And I pray that as she sees that grace and love, she discovers the overwhelming JOY that only God can fill us with.
My team was waiting and praying outside. That’s what we did while someone was in a brothel…we prayed, always with our eyes open. Prayer was our team’s strength as we were placed in this heavy, burdened ministry. But God faithfully gave us glimpses of hope for the restoration He offers. And only Christ offers New Life.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17