In Search of Hope on Riga’s Streets

(by Sarah Young, YWAM Madison staff member currently working with Freedom 61 in Latvia)


Last night opened my eyes to the realities of life on the street. We brought tea, coffee and dessert to girls trapped in prostitution. But it wasn’t until we were packing up to go home that the young women finally came out to us. That’s when I discovered how much shame they feel for what they are going through.

That night, I learned that drug dealers hide drugs in window panes to keep the girls high and dependent on them. Taxi drivers are also in on this scheme.

YWAM Madison Riga Latvia Freedom 61 Human Trafficking Drug Addiction 2

Can you see the little white syringe in the window sill?

That night, I met “Oksana,” a single mother from Russia who’s a prostitute in Riga. “I know Jesus. I know he loves me,” she said. “But the devil is too strong for me. He defeated me!”

I couldn’t hold my tears back any longer. “I’m not a perfect person,” I said, telling her about my life before Jesus. She was shocked to learn what I had been like.

“I know Jesus loves you so much, especially now,” I said through my tears. “He would wake me up in the morning when I was still in America to pray for you and other girls working the street. Jesus told me to move here with my family and to make that cupcake for you so we could share our stories together.”

I told her how I wept whenever I talked to people back home about what happens on Riga’s streets.

“My heart breaks for you even though we’ve just met. Imagine how much more deeply God’s heart is moved when He knows and loves you so completely.”

She clung to me in a desperate hug. I didn’t want to leave her. I wanted to drive her and her son to the center right then and there. But I couldn’t. It had to be her choice. She must say no to the street and yes to help.

That night I learned how hard it is knowing that the girls want to stop selling their bodies but won’t. I learned that my new friends are scared and frightened.

YWAM Madison Riga Latvia Freedom 61 Human Trafficking Cupcakes to show we care

Sarah made these pumpkin cupcakes from scratch for the girls.

Pray for girls like “Oksana.” She’s not the only one with a story like this. She’s not the only mom out there trying to provide food for her children. She’s addicted to drugs and alcohol and she knows Jesus is knocking at her door. She just refuses to open it. Pray for these precious daughters.

YWAM Madison Riga Latvia Freedom 61 Human Trafficking Care Packages

In her work with Freedom 61, Sarah reaches out to these girls several nights a week by taking them food and care packages (like this), and by spending time with them. Freedom 61 provides training and employment to the girls who leave prostitution. They’re also building a transition center to help the girls overcome addiction and experience God’s healing power and restoration. For more on their work, visit