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:
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.