The five girls on our team prayed together before we left our home that afternoon. We were going into the red light district in the city, where our contact has been talking and praying with the girls at a certain brothel once a week.
About fifty women and girls live and work at this brothel. In that area alone, there are 15,000 prostitutes. I learned that 80% of the prostitutes are sold into the trade against their will. And 95% of their children also become prostitutes. And what about the remaining 20%? They are there out of desperation. Life on the streets is full of starvation, drug addiction, violence.
The surrounding area felt dark and depressing. My heart raced as we wove our way from our parking spot through the markets. I didn’t know what to expect that afternoon. I stopped when I saw seven girls sitting outside of a dark stairway. We had arrived.
We greeted the girls and followed Jon up the narrow, old stairway. The edges of concrete steps crumbled and small stones bounced down the steps behind us.
We slowly made our way to the top floor, passing doors on both sides of each landing. At the top was a tiny room where several young women sat waiting for us. The room was open on the sides and covered with a tin roof. Two of the walls were part of the building and the other two were made up of railings, draped clothes, and stacked suitcases. We took off our shoes to enter the room. Inside was a gas stove, some shelves, a bed, and a small shrine of Hindu gods beside a picture of Jesus.
We did our best to make friends with the women and introduced ourselves in our broken Marati (local language). While Jon translated, Areli and I taught the women about how they are incredibly valuable to God. We told them they had infinite worth because God had created them.
At the end of the evening, Jon had some news for us. “There is an eleven-year-old girl who has lived here all her life,” he said. “Her name is Monica. Her mother was a prostitute, but she has died. An older woman here has taken care of her since then.”
Jon explained that this is very rare. If a mother dies – or is even gone for only a day – her children could be sold for that day or for the rest of their lives.
“We get to take Monica from here to live at the children’s home,” Jon said, with a big smile. He had been praying for several years that the lady who ran the house would have mercy on Monica and give her a chance at life.
I was so excited. There we were, about to witness a rescue from one of the worst situations on earth!
But as we left that night, we discovered we couldn’t take Monica with us just yet. She still had to pack her bags. It was such a disappointment that we couldn’t remove her from that desperate situation right away.
As we walked back down the crooked stairs, men kept coming and going from the brothel. It was a wake-up call to me to see the lives that so many women are forced to live. Many of them come from their villages to the city in search of work. But all they find is chaos and destitution.
Tomorrow, we will return. We prayed that night that we would leave the next day with Monica.