I had been experiencing a long, quiet period of discouragement and fatigue, longing for revival, when the Lord suddenly turned my ministry upside down. He got my attention by making me aware of the trafficking of women, especially women from Nigeria.
While attending a conference for Christian street workers in Switzerland in January 2009, I heard a pastor sing a song about ‘Les filles de l’Est,’ the plight of girls trafficked from Eastern Europe. It moved me, and upon returning to Nantes I joined a Catholic street work called ‘Le Nid’ or ‘The Nest’. After I’d attended some meetings they invited me to go on the streets with them. The association did not really speak about God in their work, since it had become largely secularised. But I discovered young girls and women from an evangelical background who were selling their bodies all night to French customers.
I returned home devastated. I could not understand why these women would do such a thing.
I prayed that God would open a door for us and one day Le Nid received a phone call from ‘Doctors Without Frontiers’ concerning a women who seemed to be talking strangely. As my wife and I speak English, they asked us to meet with the woman. We discovered that God had convinced ‘Glory’ of her sin and brought her to Himself right on the street. She was without doubt born-again. God was laying a foundation to show that He and He only could get these women off the streets through their repentance and faith, and the transforming power of the message of His truth.
So my wife and I began to meet Glory for Bible studies and each week more and more women began to attend. It was the starting point of a movement that has overwhelmed us. In the course of this past year we have touched the lives of between 60 to 70 women and girls; many from Nigeria and others from the Eastern bloc.
We met these ladies at different levels: some only in the street, others on and off the streets as we helped with either practical needs or spiritual needs. Three or four of them gave their lives to Christ and left their work. A number of the women we talked to (it’s difficult to know exactly how many) admit they knew, when they were trafficked, that they would become sex workers. But almost all of them are victims.—Victims of poverty and of lies. Their traffickers lie about the length of time they will be involved in prostitution, telling them it will be six months only; and about the conditions they’ll face, that they will not work on the streets but in a room during the night. They also lie about the amount of money the girls will need to earn to pay them back, ‘forgetting’ to exchange the local currency into Euros. The normal price they must pay to be free from the traffickers is 65,000 Euros. The women are threatened with violence to their families back in Nigéria if they do not pay up. In addition, some are forced to go through voodoo ceremonies in which they must promise to pay the money back, or a curse will be put on them.
After one year of working with these women I am amazed by their transparency, their honesty, their fear of God and their repentant hearts. They are facing their sins. The names they call themselves have special significance: Grace, Glory, Faith, Favour, Blessing, Joy and Peace. They see God as their protector and defender and often start a sentence with, ‘When I am born again…,’ for they even see their salvation as conditioned by their prostitution. Here in France these women are the least of the least: women, African, black, English-speaking and street workers.
God is great and has raised up about nine churches in Nantes to do something about this situation. I was invited to each of these churches and every time I spoke about the women I wept. The Lord has now raised up two referees in each church to co-ordinate the work, plus a number of believers who have made this ministry their focus of service.
We demonstrate love to the women by giving them spiritual food–Bible studies, individual prayer times, Bibles, MP3s with the New Testament in English, music CDs and invitations to church services. But we also respond to the human needs for food, clothes, administrative help, language courses and other things. We are now in contact with different partners such as lawyers, police and doctors who can help and to whom we can also witness for Christ.
Why do I feel this responsibility? Maybe because I’m a ‘father figure’ and have the name of street pastor. But one thing is certain: I am not these women’s Saviour, only Jesus can redeem them.
One French politician has stated that in the years to come the weak and fragile in Europe will be marginalised more and more. There are thousands of Nigerian women in prostitution all over the continent. I am also concerned about the spiritual welfare of the clients of these women, and their traffickers.
Can we ask you to pray for us, and to help address this situation where you are, in any way God leads? Please contact OM France if you have any questions or comments.
‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.’ — Proverbs 31:8, New Living Translation