Have you ever wondered why a woman would sell her body to another? Is it desperation or greed? Or could it be forced and fear? These were just a few of the questions rambling around in my mind as we were driving past the women selling their wares. In fact, they are questions that have I asked myself many times in studying the story of the Sinful Woman. Many believe that the Sinful Woman was a harlot. But if this is true, what brought her to that place? What despair would drive her to do such a thing? Or what greed would cause her to devalue herself for a few coins? Or perhaps she was sold into such a life. Perhaps the fear instilled by her handler was just too powerful to break free of. What was the motivating factor of her life, and the lives of so many like her, that brings a person to sell his or her body?
Last Thursday Lindsey and I, along with Bennie and Boyan (our staff members at the Truth and Hope Foundation) went to a town in the south of Bulgaria to visit a friend of mine who has begun working with the prostitutes. We wanted to see how and what she is doing as she and another woman try to reach out to these brokenhearted women. She took us out on the highway where the women work and we were able to stop and talk with four of them. (Of course, could not take any pictures, but the photo above shows the highway along which they work.)
My friend has found an effective way to establish a relationship with these women by bringing them water or ice tea in the warmer months and hot tea or coffee in the colder months. As we spotted the first woman along the road there wasn’t a place to pull the car over and so we had to drive a bit further where we found a second woman. I was amazed to see that the first woman, the moment she recognized my friend’s car drive past, began walking to meet us. A good relationship has been established between my friend and these women, so much so that they want to come and talk to her.
As she offers them tea or coffee she asks how they are doing. She mostly allows them to guide the conversation and she later takes notes about each one as she tries to remember how many children they have and the different things they say about themselves. Before she leaves she always offers them a little handwritten card with a verse on it as she encourages them with the hope that only can be found in Christ Jesus. She is trying to build a good relationship with these women so that if the opportunity arises to help any of them to get out of this lifestyle they will know where to turn.
As we talked to the first two women we also offered them a candy cane along with the story of Jesus as well as the book Go in Peace! in Bulgarian as a gift. They both accepted and it is our prayer that they will read the book and that the story of the Sinful Woman, which is woven throughout, will bring God’s healing ointment to their wounded hearts. May they too hear Jesus whisper in their ears:
Your sins are forgiven. . . . Your faith has saved you; go in peace. –Luke 7:48,50
Next we found another woman, whom my friend had never seen before. It broke our hearts to hear her share that she had only started doing this six months prior and that she was soon to be a grandmother. It causes me to wonder how desperate her life must be, that at her age, she felt that this was her only option. She too accepted a book and later as we drove past, one last time, we saw her reading the back of it.
The most peculiar part of the day was just as we were pulling up to talk to another young woman a police car was approaching from the opposite direction. (My friend told us that the police were working the area the day before and that many of the women were in hiding because of this. Although prostitution isn’t exactly illegal in Bulgaria, it isn’t exactly legal either. So sometimes the police round up the women and take them in.) We decided to drive away since the police car was just beginning to turn in to where we were. As I turned around and looked, I saw the woman walk up to the police car and get in. She didn’t try to hide from it, which made us wonder what was really going on. In our innocent minds we hope that she was a decoy (since my friend had never seen her before) and that the police were running a sting operations to try to catch the Johns, but unfortunately it could be just about anything you could imagine in Bulgaria.
But perhaps what broke my heart the most was the pretty one who called herself Maria (a name we could tell was not her own). As we walked up to her we could tell that she had been crying and I cannot even begin to explain how scared and afraid she looked. As we tried to talk to her she looked much like a deer caught in the headlights. So fearful and wounded we knew that we couldn’t stay too long. She hesitantly accepted a cup of coffee, the small card with a verse about hope and a candy cane, but she was too afraid to accept the book. She kept looking behind us and at every car that drove past. Afraid that we may cause her to get in trouble by her handler we headed back to the car. As we did, another car stopped and she walked past us to climb into the passenger seat. Our guess is that she is only about fifteen years old.
What will happen to her? What will become of her life? My friend had previously established a relationship with another young girl about the same age, yet hadn’t seen her for quite some time. When inquiring about her among the women she discovered the tragic news that she had been sold to work in another town for 800 Euro—the equivalent of about 1100.00 dollars.
Many who are selling their bodies are not doing this by their own choosing. They have been forced into prostitution by their handlers and their lives are no longer their own. What is wrong with our society? Why would we, as a human race, overlook the selling of one human being to another for a moment of pleasure?
Although the issue seems too big for me to make a difference, I am open to do whatever it is God calls me to do. Every adventure is a learning opportunity from the Lord. And if I have the opportunity to go again I would like to ask a couple of questions. Those questions would be (not from a judgmental attitude but simply so that perhaps I can better understand and know how to help):
- Why do you do what you do?
- Is it by choice or were you forced?
- If we were to offer you help, what kind of help would you need?
Please pray for my friend who has such a heart for these women. And please pray that those who really want out that they will find a way out. My heart is to be able to work with the women who want out to help heal their broken hearts! Please pray for open doors as we meet with more people, like my friend, who are doing the legwork on the streets. May there be people across Bulgaria who have such a heart. And as they meet the few, the few who are brave enough to get out, may God use us at the Truth and Hope Foundation to help heal the brokenhearted. We can take comfort in knowing:
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. –Psalm 147:3
Lindsey, me, Bennie and Boyan with the Coffee, Tea and Books
Photo Taken by My Friend
(c) 2011 by Cherie Fresonke
If you would like to know more about the book we were offering the women visit our webpage and learn about Go in Peace!