By Nicole Lee (story) and William Bagsby (video)
Editor’s note: Brandy is an IMB worker that is also part of a prayer group that regularly reaches out to women who have been exploited by the sex industry in Prague, Czech Republic. Below is an account of Brandy’s experiences.
Brandy stood at the brothel window, hoping Magda would talk to her again. Others had come over and leaned out to greet the ladies, but Magda held back — hesitant, ashamed. In the past she had been friendly, even tearfully grateful for the friendship offered by Brandy’s team, but this night was different.
They had been inside the brothel around Christmas, giving out gift bags. Magda pulled Brandy into her small kitchen and offered her tea. Further back was her room, decorated with pictures of children and personal mementos. She welcomed Brandy’s attention and eagerly talked and prayed with her. She cried that someone cared enough to come—happy to have a friend that didn’t want anything from her just this once.
But this night was different. She held back and didn’t want to show her face. When she finally approached the window and said hello, the reason for her hesitancy became apparent — all of her front teeth were missing.
She had gone home to Bulgaria over Christmas to visit her family, but her husband beat her and sent her back to Prague — back to work. Although Magda says her husband doesn’t really know what she does, she has to make money and doesn’t have many options, so she’s made her bed at the club and hung her pictures on the walls of her brothel bedroom.
Magda had not always been a prostitute. Brandy recalled Magda’s lifeless demeanor the first time they met last fall.
“She was a new girl — she had only been there maybe two weeks. Her eyes were just dead, it was so sad.” Brandy said.
Owners aren’t always accepting of Brandy and others going into their brothel, but one’s receptivity allows them an opportunity to share Jesus more freely. Video © 2014 IMB / William Bagsby
But they filled with tears as Magda first received the hugs and kisses of compassion. “Why are you here? I don’t get it — why would you want to be here with me, with us?” she asked.
Unfortunately Magda is gone now, and Brandy doesn’t know where she is — maybe to another European city; maybe back home to her abusive husband. The girls in the brothel just said she’d “moved on.” Maybe she took with her a small glimpse of God’s love. Maybe it made a difference.
I JUST KNEW
This is the world Brandy confronts with the Gospel. “The first time I entered a brothel, I just knew — I knew this was where God wanted me,” she said. “The ladies were real. They were approachable. They wanted to know that someone cares.”
The work is slow and shows few results. The women involved in this lifestyle have layers of pain and sin and abuse. For Brandy, an IMB missionary, it was hard at first to realize she couldn’t rescue them — that there were no quick fixes in the red-light district. She felt that if she wasn’t presenting the Gospel verbally, then she wasn’t doing her job. But her perspective has changed.
“I had to get to the point where I’m OK praying for them, telling them, ‘I love you, I’m here for you and you have worth. Jesus loves you and made you and you are beautiful in Jesus’ eyes.’ That’s not what they get from anybody else,” Brandy said.
Brandy isn’t alone in her desire to reach into the darkest corners of city. IMB workers are engaging the problem of human trafficking in eight European cities besides Prague — in Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Armenia and Bulgaria (view the interactive for more). In each case the work is slow and progress is marked in flickers of hope rather than dramatic rescues.
But fueled by the compassion of Christ, the workers continue on.
Brandy visits numerous brothels on Friday nights as she goes out with her team. Each is different, yet the same. Each is dark, dominated by a bar area. Somewhere nearby is posted a price list and an explanation of services offered by the girls. Either in the back or off to the sides there are rooms for those services to be rendered.
But one brothel is more likely to have foreigners like Romanians or Bulgarians and is mostly for Czech men; another is more upper class to serve the bachelor parties from the UK or business clients, their girls younger and prettier. Another specializes in girls from Nigeria.
The Nigerian girls are the ones who are most likely trafficked in the classical sense — taken against their will and brought to Europe, left with no way to escape and nowhere to go. By the time they reach Europe they usually have already been raped many times and often have HIV or AIDS.
But they are the least likely to complain or try to flee because they are believers in the spirit world and have been cursed by a spiritual leader before leaving their country. Fear for their lives and their family’s safety back home holds them captive and makes them more compliant. (ReadSylvie’s Story for a more detailed account.)
CHRISTMAS WITH PROSTITUTES
Southern Baptist worker, Brandy, joins others to share a Christmas dinner with some of the girls they visit in brothels. Video © 2014 IMB / William Bagsby
Between the brothels, Brandy and her team talk and pray with women on the street. These women usually have a pimp close by and vary in age from late teens to early 40s, although there are a few who defy the average.
“I’ve seen pregnant ladies and grandmas in this one area,” Brandy said. “I mean like nine months pregnant, and the grandma is in her 60s.” Sometimes these ladies will take time to talk and pray while looking over their shoulders to make certain their pimp isn’t watching.
Brandy’s hope in these weekly visits is to build relationships of trust that will lead to opportunities to share Christ. She will invite the women to meet for lunch or coffee during the daytime and give them a window of normalcy in their otherwise sex-saturated life.
She and Magda went out for pizza one day and Magda talked of regular things — weather, home, family — showing pictures of her children, grateful that someone cares about these details of her life.
“I want these women to know that they have worth because Christ loves them and died for their sins,” Brandy said.
Her team shares gifts and Scriptures, knowing God’s word never comes back void. As much as they’d like to see big changes happen quickly, they’ve learned that most changes are incremental and take place internally.
“There’s only one thing I can give them that will ever make a difference in their lives, and that is the knowledge that Jesus Christ died for their sins. Everything else is temporary, but that is eternal,” Brandy said. “That’s why I do what I do.”
Speak up about human exploitation
Take the time to pray as you read through this story and watch the video clips.
Get involved right where you are through Project Help, a special initiative through WMU to help teach and equip Southern Baptists to fight human exploitation in their own communities.
Give to Lottie Moon offering which funnels 100% of funds raised to missionaries on the field like Brandy.
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For more information about the exploited and human trafficking, check out the
Nefarious: Merchant of Souls Human Trafficking Informational Event.
2 Days – 2 Locations From Which to Choose
Sponsored by Love Loud & the Baptist Convention of Iowa
Saturday, May 31, 10:00 a.m.
Friendship Baptist Center
1526 MLK Jr. Pkwy, Des Moines
Friday, June 6, 6:30 p.m.
Immanuel Baptist Church
1900 F Avenue, Cedar Rapids