Friday, June 4, 2010

Mentoring Prostitutes

I began a four-year discipleship program with my youth pastor when I was 12 years old. One of the things he taught me about was how to keep a prayer diary and to pray regularly for missionaries and world issues. I remember from these early days, developing a heart specifically for prostitues. I prayed that the Lord would raise up people to love them in purity and pay them to bring them home and care for them as human beings, rather than for their regular services. This is a prayer that has stayed with me over the years, until not so long ago, I realized I was now old enough to be part of the answer.

Last year, one of Jason's mentors gave him a book to read called "Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire," by Jim Cymbala. It rocked him and inspired his prayer life in a way I hadn't seen in him before. As a result, we began staying at church after first service to pray through 2nd service. It was in one of those prayer times that the Lord began speaking to my heart about my role in ministry to prostitues.

It may not come as a large surprise that Jason was not immediately inclined in the direction I was feeling pulled. He didn't want to have anyone over for dinner, but he was open to me exploring other opportunities with already established ministries. This was when I learned about Heather Veitch. Heather is a former stripper, who came to the Lord, and after a season of separation, she now goes back into strip clubs to share Christ with other girls. Heather is based in Las Vegas, so I knew I wouldn't be working with her, but I started looking in Dallas for similar ministries. Needless to say, Heather is unique, and I didn't find anything quite along those lines. I think Jason was a bit relieved.

After a fairly extensive online search, I found Homeward Bound. Homeward Bound is an inhouse treatment center that works with the Dallas Police Department in what they call "Prostitution Diversion Initiative." Police Officers were noting an alarming trend: truck drivers coming through the city, hiring prostitutes, using their services, and then killing them before they continued out of town within a day, virtually untrackable. The officers realized this was happening in alarming numbers, and these women were dying as Jane Doe's. As a result, they set up a monthly sting operation to focus more intently on arresting prostitutes, essentially to protect them from the liabilities of their work. Many of these women are then given the option of a jail sentence, or a period of time at Homeward Bound, where they can get tools to change their life patterns if they want the help. This is where I come in. As part of their design for rehabilitation, Homeward Bound has a mentoring program to allow these women to interact with other ladies from different walks of life, to share their stories and to be encouraged. I decided to become a mentor.

Homeward Bound is located in Oak Cliff, which is in South Dallas, and does not have a reputation for safety or high end living. The first night I went to the training session, my drivers side car window was shattered, but fortunately nothing was taken. I wasn't able to get it repaired til the next day, and wouldn't you just know it snowed that night! The beauty of it, though, was that I didn't mind much at all! My heart was so full with this amazing opportunity that lay before me. What a privilege to sow positive seeds into the lives of these women, and expand my own life experience through the stories of their lives.

I met many women over the 5 months I was able to participate in this program, and even had the privilege of leading the first young girl I met with to the Lord. Another woman was already a Christian and lead Bible Studies in the unit, but sadly returned to crack and an abusive boyfriend just a couple weeks after her release. Another woman ran away from home at 15 and found she was able to make a very nice living in prostitution, and therefore found no motivation to stop, until she realized dealing drugs was just as lucrative. Yet another woman, self-admitted to the center, was working on her PhD while gainfully employed at three jobs. One job was for the bills, the 2nd was for her drugs, and the 3rd was for extra money. She had always been a very functional addict, and therefore was never really motivated to stop. When her live-in boyfriend found out, they decided together that it was time. She had never sold herself, but had other racy jobs to help satisfy her income requirements. The last woman I met with, had "changed teams" as she phrased it, after many abusive relationships with men. Her girlfriend lived in Houston, and she was encouraging her to stay there, so she could start her life over in Dallas around people who would be a better influence. She said her conscience convicted her of her lifestyle so much that she wasn't even able to enjoy it! It was also, she said, the only thing keeping her out of church. After our conversation she seemed prone to revert to her "original team," and I told her I would pray for the right people to continue to encourage her in the right direction.

My impact in the lives of these women was small, but they repeatedly commented on how nice it was to have some time out with someone who was positive and could speak encouragement into their lives. As Jason & I transition to Missouri, I hope in some way I will be the answer to other people's prayers... and maybe even my own.

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