This post was originally published here by one of the members of The Walk
The rain had paused long enough for her to run down the street. The sidewalk was painted by the faded orange street lamps, and we were just supposed to drive by, continue on, keep going.
Of course I couldn't. She was obviously crying, so I pull around the block and park. "I'm just going to see if she's alright," I say to my coworker in my passenger seat.
I hate wearing shoes. Even flip flops, I just want bare feet. I'm sure I should be concerned about glass or nails or something else that could harm me. But tonight, I'm just not.
I open my car door, bare feet onto the rain-soaked pavement and run towards her. She's half running, half distraught, but she turns and stops when I ask if she's alright.
I don't really mind that we're in the middle of the road, that we may be in someone's way. I don't mind, the girl just needed a quick reminder; nothing gets in the way of love.
And that's all it really takes. A little desperation for change – or love or freedom or hope – and showing up bare. But I am always wishing there was something else. Something more.
Her mascara is old. It hasn't run neatly down her face like fresh mascara would do. Instead, little black specs have taken over her now grey cheeks and she wipes it like it might all go away for me not to see.
We just hug. Loose gravel sticks between my toes and we don't let go. Two strangers in the street, covered in rain and faded orange light.
"Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? Why don't women see how much they're worth? I make him so much money, and he treats me like s***." She talks like we're friends, no, sisters. I can't help but wonder if we are.
We're still hugging. Her hairspray and a trail of liquor hit my nose and I've got nothing left to say.
People keep telling me prostitution is a choice.
Her feet are bare too. She says they're in her pimps car – the handsome man in the silver car nearby – and I want to get her my flip flops. I want to get her in my car, and give her my flip flops. Or maybe we could go eat pancakes at an all-night diner, or just sit there in the car. My mind is racing, but she just needed a hug in the middle of the night, without an expectation for something in return.
They keep telling me it's a choice, but I've yet to see it once.
After four years out on those streets, building relationships with these women I quickly call my friends, knowing the stats of entry are still sitting at 12-14 year of age, and I can't see the choice here. I can see the money, the hacking of heart and soul, but not the choice. Can you?
Of course she needs to keep going. She's got someone she needs to get away from. She says I'm the nicest person she's ever met and I can't help but think that's such an overstatement of my efforts, but I've felt the embrace of a real hug too.
My coworker and I, We sit and watch for a while in the car. She yells at her pimp, proclaiming her love and her hate in one breath at him. We listen, we cringe. We watch him leave, come back, leave and come back again.
And there at the little white church with the bright graffiti wall, she slouches into a ball. He comes back, kneels, puts on her shoes, and we watch.
Her hair was wet, mascara old, shoes missing, tears falling, and they keep telling me to let them be, this is all their choice.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. - Romans 12: 9-13
To say the very least, what’s legal and illegal surrounding prostitution in Alberta is messy. So, when The Walk leadership team invited me out to their very first night of ministry at massage parlours, I was confused. If this is legal, should we bother them? Isn't this a choice? Is anything illegal really happening? If bad stuff is happening here, why are there hundreds in my city, with reviews readily available online, and yet no one is doing anything?
The night progressed quickly, and I understood because something is defined as legal, doesnt mean it is protective of the people involved. I remember one lady came out from a back room when the doorbell rang. She looked confused at a couple ladies saying hello and offering beautiful gift bags. She didn’t speak English. But looking at her in that smelly old place, did she have to? I was heartbroken. I considered all the women around the world and realized what is true for us and men alike: we are meant for love-- which gives us life, not lust-- which was obviously killing them.
So I sat down with one of the director’s of The Walk. I asked her some questions, and as always, she had some beautiful responses. I wanted to share them with you because I know how many questions I have, you may have some too. If after reading this you have more questions, feel free to write the leadership team at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Q&A: About Parlour Ministry
WHY DO MINISTRY IN PARLOURS IF THEY'RE LEGAL?
Although Massage Parlors are legal in Alberta, the sexual services that are offered in them really blur the lines between a real massage and a sexual favour. Many of the practices that happen in these particular massage parlours, mirror or lead into practices that are done in brothels. The purpose of this ministry is to bring light into these places as they too are apart of what makes up the core of sex trafficking.
WHO GOES INTO THESE BUSINESSES?
Generally we see men of all walks of life entering these massage parlors, whether it be intentionally or unintentionally. Those who are oblivious to the nature of such businesses, are often shocked to be offered sexual favors during or near the end of the massage. As for the women who work in these businesses, the majority of them are mothers trying to provide for their family. Many of the situations we come across are ladies from S.E. Asia, who have come to Calgary to work and send money back home. Many of them also don't hold Canadian citizenship or don't speak English well (if at all), which forces them to hide and work behind walls. Typically they can make more money quickly in the sex industry than they could at a regular day time job. This often leaves these women vulnerable to be exploited by sex traffickers. There are also many Canadian women that work in this industry, some are students trying to pay off debt, others are single mothers.
DO YOU SEE ANY OPPOSITION?
There has only been one massage parlor which has openly discouraged us from coming back. Not because of anything we had done, but simply because of what Jesus is doing. His heart is to bring love and hope to these women and men and to ultimately see these businesses of exploitation shut down. When you walk in the love and light of Jesus, darkness has to flee! The enemy hates that, which is why we have seen push back or even tactics of intimidation from certain locations in the city. God won't stop pursuing their hearts, so neither will we.
ARE YOU EVER AFRAID?
I would be lying if I said there weren't moments of fear or anxiety. Having done this style of ministry both in other countries and now in my home city, I have learned a lot! You have got to put you entire hope and trust in Jesus; without him there is no favor, no purpose and no protection. There is always the risk of "what if" in anything in life you pursue. But if we are humble and obedient to the call of God, we can trust him to get us through the storms that may come.
WHAT DO YOU ACCOMPLISH IN A NIGHT?
By the world standards, what we "accomplish" in one night may not look like much. But in God's eyes we are taking back ground spiritually, then physically, through prayer and perseverance. When we deliver gifts to the girls in the massage parlours, we are planting small seeds of hope. Our heart is to build friendships with them in the hopes of encouraging them to find other means of employment or support that does not exploit them. This process of building trust is low and slow, due to the nature of how intently the girls are watched and controlled by the pimps or madams.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED SO FAR FROM THIS MINISTRY?
Some of the most profound things I have learned while doing this ministry are:
I have never been able to walk well in heels. While I love drooling over beautiful stems, I simply twist ankles and scare people when I try to walk. However, there on the third shelf from the bottom in that downtown Winners store gleamed a pair of Guess pumps I couldn't ignore. The print along the heels, all the strappy-goodness wrapping up the ankle, all the color, all the beauty: obviously I simply couldn't ignore them. Or maybe yes, I could.
I was determined to begin saving money, and knew I'd be the wisest in moving away from those shoes. In fact, I'd be even smarter to get out of the store altogether. And so I paced quickly from that shoe section of that downtown Winners store.
And then I walked back. I tried them on, all five inches of glory holding my weight like a solid foundation. I couldn't help but to imagine these shoes would probably make my entire life better. Of course they wouldn't, but I'd determined it to be true. I paid for those shoes and walked out of the store half grinning, and half ashamed. They were shoes, I don't know why I'd made it such a big deal.
It was a big deal. It turns out even the smallest of decisions can weigh heavily on our heart if we don't think long enough about what we're doing or are about to do. It's easy to determine to do anything, but brave people determine to do something specific instead.
I learned a couple things that day, and I hope they're helpful for you too:
>> Determination without reason is faulty: I can be determined about anything, but if it isn't specific, it won't last. Because I wanted to save money wasn't reason enough to keep me away from those heels. I would have done better to know what I was saving for. Having specific goals in mind like saving to go back to school, or saving for my own home would have been an easier target to keep in mind than simply saving.
>> Bad decisions don't help, they just try to haunt: Those shoes have sat in my closet for two years. They're only service to me is a reminder that I still can't walk in heels, nor am I so inclined. They're now the reminder of taking it slow when I need to make a decision too. I don't sit in regret over my purchase because I've learned to accept forgiveness from bad decisions, but every time I open my closet, I'm reminded of that day.
See in life we're told to gain wisdom. I think it's important to realize we're told to gain it. It is something we have to learn, not something we're handed or simply not gifted with. Wisdom is hard work, and requires more than determination. We need to have determination in specific goals. Lastly, when we do make bad decisions, we have to understand we weren't made for these to haunt us either. There is freedom for us when we choose wisely, and we won't have scars from what we chose not to participate in. But! We can still move forward from our bad decisions too. Honestly I shake my head when I see those shoes, but somewhere along the way I hope to make what was a bad decision for me become a blessing for someone else (I hear that's what God is in the business of doing anyhow).
Anyone a size six and a half?
Reflecting on the meaning of Easter and the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross, one of the things really weighing on my heart was the last thing my Savior said as He laid down His life for me: “It is Finished”. One of the many beautiful things about the Bible is the way that the Lord enlightens our mind and can show us so many wonderful truths contained in a simple verse. I would love to share the ways He has allowed my life to be enriched by this verse.
The first thing one has to understand when contemplating the cross and the incredible sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf is that it is truly a gift in which, if we are to live a victorious life, we need to claim as personal. Trust me, with a past like mine I find it pretty amazing that while on the cross, Jesus knew the ways I would let Him down. He knew the mistakes I was going to make and yet, still, He chose to give Himself up on my behalf that, if I were to claim His promises and make Him Lord of my life, I could have eternal life. That right there is pretty humbling in and of itself.
One of the chief tools that I find the enemy tries to use way too often on me is the lie that I have fallen too far from the grip of God’s grace. It feels as if God’s hand reaches far and I can touch the tips of His fingers but my hand is never fully in His. This phrase ‘It Is Finished’ translates in Greek to tetelestai which means “paid in full”. I remind myself there is no accompanying asterisk and post script saying “balance owing for Carmen”. Though it is human nature, to even think such a thing takes away from the wonder and the majesty of the cross. God, by His very nature is unchanging; a God whose hand can go as far as He chooses for it to go and I stand amazed and humbled that He reached for me and grasped tightly hand in hand.
After having been saved for a few years and making some pretty major changes in my life in order to follow Jesus more closely, I would reflect often on my past and wonder where I would be without Him. This led me to feeling sorry for the girl I had been; almost feeling like I had left her behind in a way in the darkness I had been so trapped in. In an amazing revelation I received at a Young Adults sermon only a few short weeks ago, the Lord told me in no uncertain terms to stop feeling sorry for her for she had not been left behind in the darkness but was me, was this new creation made in His image and had been restored to the light. The shackles I felt falling from my soul which had weighed me down for so long gave me such relief I couldn’t help but laugh inside an immense joy. On the cross, my Savior took my sins upon Him and when I was saved, I was able to claim His victory for me. “It is Finished” should be my battle cry. When the enemy tries to bring up my past to condemn me, I, through the power of Christ in me, have been given the right to look right at those lies and say “It IS finished”. As Jesus came forth from the grave after 3 days to be restored to life, I was given the chance to have my past erased and step forward into victory.
Another lie that the enemy likes to throw at me is that my past may be forgiven but what about the mistakes I make in my present. Shouldn’t I have somehow become perfect the moment I was saved? Obviously the answer to such a ridiculous statement is a resounding no but that isn’t always how it feels. Recently, I had a few days of being angry with God and I could feel myself falling down the rabbit hole of running from Him because in my skewed frame of mind I felt like it was easier to keep running than to turn back, apologize, and get back on track. I was being influenced to believe that, in choosing to come back, I had to somehow make enough of an amends to God to be allowed back into His presence and His favor. How silly I was to believe, first of all, that I was ever going to be able to make such a sacrifice and, second, that the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross wasn’t enough. Truthfully, because my sins have been paid in full, all I need to do is say “Lord, I’m sorry. Let’s fix this now” and I’m good. Yes, it’s that simple and that is what is so wonderful about grace.
One of the greatest things I’m able to see when I look at the cross is the immense amount of love my Savior displayed. I am a huge critic of my own life. If I have problems loving myself and God knows me inside out, how can He still choose to love me? The wonderful truth He spoke to me on this very question is this; mine is not the job to wonder why or question how but rather I have been given an opportunity to simply accept and live in that love; to live in that wonderful place of gratitude and acceptance. I am a child of the one true King and He loves me. What a truth to cling to in a world that is so fleeting. A truth made whole when He paid the price for me, in full.
Sometimes it is easy to let the spirit of doubt weasel its way into our minds, and even our hearts, while it tries convincing us that nothing this incredibly awful could ever be resurrected from evil into good. I get this thought because I'm not a stranger to it either. When we walk the streets and see the same women walking and working; the same men driving & lusting, it can seem like the worst sort of losing battle.
BUT ITS NOT.
There's this story in scripture about an old man and his old wife. They've been promised by God himself that they'll see as many kids in their arms as there are stars in the sky. Though a city kid, I can just imagine the scene. Two oldies sitting beneath a quiet fire, hearing this promise from God and looking slowly at what they already know in their hearts to be beyond imagination. Their hearts beating to thick it pulsates through their skulls, and there it is. A sky full of stars like the sea full of water. Are you kidding me Lord?! That's what I'd be thinking anyhow. Of course Sarah's laughing because it seems ridiculous and I wonder if that is my heart, or your heart sometimes with trafficking too? Just shaking our head at the thought of all we hope for, against all hope.
Let me encourage you friend. God kept His promise to Abraham and Sarah. And He's keeping His promise of freedom for the 27 million too.
I was fortunate to be involved with a team that traveled through Germany and the Czech Republic. The mission was to share Gods love in practical ways to the women and men involved in the sex industry. I am excited to share two stories from that experience.
Strip Clubs in Prague
The team was in one of the many strip clubs in Prague, and we had been praying against trafficking and the abuse that happens in the sex industry all around the world. We would give encouraging notes and gifts to the women, and one woman burst into tears because she felt incredible love. The interesting event this evening though would have to be with a group of young men leaving the club. I had written a note, which read something to the effects of, “Women are princesses, they are children of God and they are to be protected and cherished.” We were leaving just ahead of them, and I felt a nudge to turn around and give one of the guys the note. Was very nervous, but I decided to go with the leading. The young man I handed it to, read the note and began to laugh. He then preceded to hand the note to the next guy and he laughed, and it happened similar as each man in the group of about 10 guys read the note. As they were laughing at the note I thought to myself, thank you Jesus for multiplying the impact. The first man could have read it and threw it away, but instead all 10 guys were reminded that women are valuable and precious. They may have laughed it off but I pray that note stuck with some of them.
Street Prostitution in Europe
We also went to the streets, to find women involved in prostitution and give them gifts and encouraging notes. The city that I am from has many events and organizations that give out “free” things, one such event, if you don’t mind standing in lines, you can eat free pancakes for an entire week. I found a very different story in Europe. I’ll never forget the time my female friend and I went up to one of the ladies. She was faced away from me when I got her attention by speaking. She turned around and the first thing I noticed was the eyes. They were hopeless, sad, abused. I felt that when she saw me her first thought was, “what is this man going to do to me tonight” I held out my hands with the gifts, and in broken German I said this is for you. She looked at me like she had no context, no event she could compare this to, and asked ,”why” she said it over and over again, “why, why, why” and I said it was because she was loved and valuable. I don’t know her story, I don’t know her past or what happened since, but I know that she was undone by the love she received in the simple gift and the words, you are beautiful and valuable.
As a man, I can say that these experiences, along with many others, have continued to shape my view of God, and His view of women. They are so precious to Him, and to be valued here on earth by men in such a way they see God's pure love for them.
Here at The Walk, time and time again we see both men and women who are struggling to understand what love is. We love having the opportunity to speak love over their lives, so we walk at three am to show them just how special they are... even right where they are.
If you would think about that for even a moment, perhaps you could see how difficult that might be: Women walking the streets waiting for Johns but unexpectedly being gifted with Starbucks, Bath & Body or Perfume by strange friends who don't care about the current surroundings while they chat about kids or grand kids or the weather. Perhaps a John pulls over to the side of the road and we are able to bless them with a love letter while they're just looking for someone to fill something deeper than they care to admit or understand.
What if love were really meant to be unconditional? What if we're not just to meet people in the good spaces of their life? What if we're meant to walk around at three am invading the sex industry; them full of lust, us filled with love?
Following is a spoken word by one of Calgary's finest young artists, Deborah. It captures our heart for people most accurately. You can check out more of her beautiful work here.
Be blessed and know, you're so loved.
We need to learn to accept love.
Not the everyday generic stuff. But. The love that we crave. That which we most thoroughly desire — the love of a father. All other loves are derivative, secondary, less than.
We need the love that transcends all, that is before all, the love that feeds our innermost needs. The love that penetrates intimately. We need that love. God’s love. Our attempts to learn to love ourselves fail, have failed and always will because in our brokenness we are incapable of looking within and seeing even a glimpse of the beauty we’ve been formed in. We barely see God. How could we see the image we’ve been made in? We can’t find love from within, it must come from without. From a God that is without conditions, without criteria, without a list of things we need to live up to, do well, or be good at.
A love without expectations. Without complications. A love that loves because for it love is as natural as breathing A love that loves because for it to love is to be.
See, God IS love.
My broken attempts to love fall short because I am incapable. My God is able. My God is love. And He wants me to accept the love He’s been lavishing on me since day one. A love that loves simply. No complications.
A love that’s ours for the taking.
This post was originally written by one of our authors here.
I’m always the sucker that wants to be all caught up in two places and one time. Though fully submersed in Eastern Europe, my heart longed with a desperation I’m unsure was even my own to be here, in my city, with my team. I say mine because I’m learning to take responsibility. I don’t own it, and I don’t want to. But I told Christ I’d be all out for all of Him. So I say mine, cause I don’t own it but He has most certainly pointed to it and called my name to be there.
After I'd gone to Europe and come back home, The Walk Team was honored to speak at a church about human trafficking and what God is doing in our city. Immediately afterwards we went out for breakfast as big as a mid-sized car and told stories of my being in Europe and their being right here. And after hearing this story from Calgary, I’d bared a big smile and wished the biggest wish that I could have been there in Europe and been right here in Calgary all at one time.
See we go out on our streets in our city and we meet the most beautiful people at the most outrageous of times who’ve been caught up in making not-so-easy money and dark, dark times.
Apparently there they were in those dark times meeting beautiful hearts when one Mr. John continues to cruise these familiar streets. Though we tried to stay away from roaming cars to be sure there is no confusion of who we are, he was motioning and our fearless leader couldn’t resist. Though fear would say he is preying she felt deep in her heart he must need some praying.
Something like fear and a rush of adrenaline plummeted straight from her heart down deep in her toes and she moved towards his slowly opening window. She’s prepared a letter for a moment such as this. A letter filled to the brim of God’s incredible love for him, and she’d not even known whom to address it to. And he takes the letter and drives away while she strolls back to the team, this great team, and they spend the time to just pray. Because they all knew he was preying but perhaps, just perhaps he could be praying.
No sooner he came back around in his car and motioned for the leader; the fiercely loving, tiny little leader bold enough to love the one who was preying. Instead one of our guys makes his way to the window and the man says no, I need to talk with her, the one that gave me this. And as he motioned towards the opened letter filled to the brim of His love she began to walk, nearly run towards him. He might punch her, but really, she’d been hoping he’d exchange preying for praying. And at the early hours of the morning a man in his car cruising streets for easy lust, said thank you. See he might have looked easy to judge, but there was a war deep and strenuous happening deep inside his heart. Where was he? How did he even get to this place?
He got out of the car and let the team come all around him and pray for him in the middle of the night. He got into his car, and drove home to his family, drove away from all that kept him in hurt and insecure. Sure, he’d have a big mess to clean up once getting home. But if the God of his prayers brought praying hands all around him as he struggled preying through these streets, than surely He is the God of restoring absolutely all things too. I couldn't believe my ears while we devoured waffles and lukewarm coffee. All around the world God was connecting and restoring. Perhaps I couldn't be in two places at one time, but my God, He certainly is.
Someone prayed for us after the church service and before the breakfast to bless and protect God’s work through our hands. They said ‘be with them in those ungodly hours’ to which our whole team hid bursting laughter from erupting through our teeth. Trust me, there is not an hour in which God doesn’t own. Cause at the early hours of this wild night Mr. John found himself wrapped in tears and the arms of supportive strangers before The King and I’m certain there isn’t an hour that isn’t His. Though I’d wished I could be both over there and right here, I am beyond aware and excited He being over there and certainly right here; and if I can be bold enough to say it, my friends, He owns the night.
Welcome to The Walk blog. Here you'll hear about the journey of some of our friends who were formerly in the sex industry. These friends vary from choosing the industry to being forcefully trafficked from very tender ages.
You'll also hear from some of our team lead on our journey with The Walk. Being part of a journey involving the sex industry is an incredible blessing. It brings life to us, and we're going to tell you all about it. We're also unafraid to share some of the toughest parts of this journey because we know you will be able to relate. We're excited to have guest posts from some pretty amazing people who too have journeyed through the sex industry in one form or another.
But mostly, you're going to hear hope, freedom, comradery and support for your very own journey on this blog. We're going to do our best here to show you just how loved, thought of, and prayed for you are. And so with pleasure, welcome!
If there is a subject you would like to see displayed here, please feel free to email us and let us know!
-Dee & The Walk Team
We're overcomers, we're wild lovers of life. We hope, we dream, and we fight for the freedom of those involved in the sex industry.