(Michael is on outreach to Riga, Latvia. To learn more about the outreach, read this post here.)
Arthur, a middle-aged man with dark eyes and a worn face, stood his ground, but not without exposing a piece of his heart to me.
“I’m Lutheran. I know God,” he said. “And I’m scared to death about the day I meet him.”
Although it was the middle of the night, Old Town Riga, Latvia hummed with activity. Men from all over Europe flock there year-round to enjoy the nightlife and sex tourism in a cheap country. I was there to talk to people like Arthur and his customers. He manages one of the local strip clubs and was out advertising his business.
According to Arthur, no one can make a good living in Latvia. Jobs are scarce, the economy isn’t great. It’s either make money in whatever way possible or starve. To him, running a strip club is just a business that he’s done for many years and in several countries.
He talked and I listened for a long time. Then I asked him some questions that made him pause.
“You said you don’t really want to do this, that you have no choice,” I said. “But that isn’t true. Everyone has a choice. If you know God as you say, why not ask him to provide you with a new job? Have you tried to trust God for something else?”
He stood for a moment. Silent.
“Maybe you’re right,” Arthur finally replied. “But I have to live. It’s either them (the girls) or me. Somebody’s gotta make a living.”
Sexual exploitation is a big business in Riga, but as with all businesses it wouldn’t exist without a demand.
Not long after Arthur and I parted ways, my co-workers and I struck up a conversation with a group of ten men from Finland. They were in Riga for a guy’s weekend.
We gave every guy we met on the streets a booklet about the effects of participating in sexual exploitation. If our conversations weren’t enough to sway them from their “entertainment,” we pray the booklets would do more.
The 100 booklets we handed out that night may be just a drop in the ocean. But a single drop can make waves.
“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” – William Wilberforce, English abolitionist
photos by Rachel Snook