Today, we went out for outreach. We usually start at 9:30 and stop around noon. Today, we had gone to two brothels and it was only 11. So, we sat and debated rather we should go to another one or call it a day. We were all tired, but Mercy spoke up and said we should go to one more, so we did.
We walked in and we saw a girl named Elly who used to be very close to us. She showed up to all of our bible studies and memorized a lot of scripture when we first started doing outreach. But somewhere along the line, her heart got hardened. Now she hardly looks at us and always seems angry.
Today, we walked in on her praying over her door in the the name of Jesus. We asked if we could join her in prayer, she once again got angry at us and stormed away telling us she was too busy to talk to us.
We saw many girls in the bar area and started inviting them back into the hallway to talk to us. (The brothel owners get angry when we are in the bar area but don’t seem to mind when we are in the hallways with the girls’ rooms.) One girl followed us into the hallway. Her name is precious.
I introduced myself, quickly explained what Grace Gardens was and asked her if she would like to come to live there. She said yes right away and started to pack! What!?! That never happens! It seemed too good to be true. So Mercy walked into the room and talked to her in Pigeon to make sure she understood what I said.
Mercy found out that Precious has been divorced 5 years and is struggling to care for herself and her 17 year old daughter. She has a business and bought land and was building a house but she did not have the money for the roof and since the rains were coming, she needed money quickly and just arrived at this brothel yesterday. One night there and she knew she wanted out. So, she was ready to follow us.
Soon, others realized what was going on and people started surrounding the room. At least 3 different languages were being used around me as every talked about what would be needed before she would be allowed to leave. At first, the answer was no, they were not going to let her leave. I wasn’t sure who would fight us or how much of a fight they would put up, and I didn’t really want to find out.
Then an unexpected advocate spoke up. An older woman who we see every week in almost all of the brothels spoke up for us and for precious. This older woman sells items to the girls and holds there money for them as a sort of bank. We are always friendly to her, but she never stops to talk to us. I often wonder what she thinks or what she knows of Christ. Today, she spoke up and convinced the management of this brothel to allow precious to go with us.
The management hid in the office. We did not see its face, but girls ran back and forth as we sat on a filthy bed in the dark dirty room that precious was living. She had half of the room while a sheet down the middle availed the other half to another girl who sat on her bed and listened intently to all that was going on around her.
Finally the management sent word that they would release her if she paid her rent for the week. 6800 naira. That is about $35. Which is not a lot to us Americans, but in Jos, that is highway robbery. You can rent a small room in Jos for 12,000 naira a year. We argued and said she should only have to pay for one night and agreed to pay 1,000 Naira ($5). The management agreed, and then when we were packing raised the price to 2800 Naira ($14). We counter offered and agreed to 2000 naira ($10), but not a penny more.
The management agreed, we paid and started packing again. Then, the management came out of the office screaming and yelling and telling Precious to never show her face there again. It was then we saw the face of the management. It was Elly. When I first met Elly, she felt trapped and wanted a way out of the brothel. She was afraid to take our help or trust God to care for her and now here she stood. She is now the one trafficking other women and trapping them in the same dark place she has been trapped all these years.
I passed out my card to all the girls watching and promised to help any of them who called us for help. Then we took Precious to the car and to Grace Gardens. The girl who was helping negotiate the price of release, ran and jumped in the car with us at the last minute. She said she just wanted to make sure Precious was ok. So we took both girls to see Grace Gardens. Precious is still there tonight. Her friend went back to the brothel and promised to come to Grace Gardens soon. I pray that she does.
Today my eyes were opened even more to what a prison these girls have gotten themselves into. I am against paying to get girls out of brothels. I once paid a girls debt for her to leave the brothel, then she went right back a week later and I was out 8,000 naira. I feel I am obligated to use the funds entrusted to me in a way that glorifies God and giving money to brothel owners does not do that. I also feel that if women don’t have to take account for their own actions, they will not change. So, I usually tell girls to leave there stuff in the room for the brothel to sell to recoup their debt and I tell the girls to just walk out. When they are willing to do that, I know they are serious about getting help. Today, Precious had nothing in her room to leave or sell. As I sat there and the negotiating was going on, I prayed and ask God to give me wisdom. I know it is hard to have hard set rules when each situation is so different. As I prayed, I told the Lord that I didn’t want to participate in buying a woman even if it is to free her. I felt the Lord remind me that He paid for me. Much more than I was worth. He bought my freedom with the blood of Christ. Then, I literally felt bad that we haggled! 🙂
So, today our outreach team bought a woman’s freedom for $10. I think we got great deal! I pray she uses her freedom to the fullest!
“for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”1 Cor. 6:20