You can imagine my surprise as I stood there staring at Him.
This was the third and final brothel we visited that morning. They were such dark places with no sign of hope except for the occasional smile made by one of the women.
And yet, in this moment my hope had been restored and promise filled the air.
I was staring one of my sisters in the face. Above her room were pictures of Jesus, and I stood there in awe of the fact that we found Him here. She asked for prayer so we did just that.
Her dark sari was draped over her head. Her hands out wide. Surrendered.
I always say that Jesus knows each one of these women by name. He knows her story. He knows her pain. On this day, He let me see for myself how true that really is. He is the Shepherd, we are His sheep. There is nothing that can stop Him from going after one of His sheep. Not even the evil of human trafficking.
In going to India, I really wanted to visit a red light district. I didn’t want to go to be a spectator, but to take my understanding of human trafficking in India to a deeper level. If God is calling us to do this work full time, I want to learn as much as I possibly can. By God’s grace, He made a way for us to have that experience.
The day came and we drove over to the district. We got out of the car and began our journey down the small lane. It was as if we smashed into a wall of darkness - the landscape changed, the air was different - we were walking into hell on earth.
We went into the first brothel where one of the women gave us a brief tour. Her room had two beds with curtains that could be pulled down for privacy. Two women lived and worked in this small room simultaneously. Across from the beds was a small faucet with a bucket - their bathroom.
After saying our goodbyes, we walked down the lane to the second brothel. This one was very different from the first and at this one we met with a woman who held a “higher rank” within the brothel. She worked there, but also managed some of the other women. She had worked her way up into a room with windows. The light was beaming in, creating quite the contrast from the rest of the building. We briefly sat down and I tried to soak it all in. There were smaller rooms off to the side, a man making food on the floor, and a woman who had endured years of abuse and torture standing in front of me. After a few minutes we left, but the realization of sunlight being such a privilege in this place is something I couldn’t forget.
The third brothel we entered was a little further down the lane. We climbed up two stories on a steep ladder into the attic. The “kitchen” was the first thing we saw. It was just a bunch of pots and pans on the floor. We couldn’t stand up straight in this part of the attic. It was hot and very humid, but apparently mild compared to what it normally is. We took a peek into a room across the kitchen, then turned into another room that had two tiny “stalls.” These tiny little rooms were only big enough to house the bed itself. There was one with a mattress and a bed frame, the other with only a mattress on the floor.
My heart broke for what I heard next: In the little room with the mattress and frame, it cost $2.50 for service. In the room with the mattress on the floor, $1.50. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I couldn’t begin to wrap my head around the fact that a human life could be worth so little.
After that, we stepped into the back room and we were introduced to a woman who, we would soon find out, had recently became a Christian. When I initially saw the pictures on her wall, I wasn’t sure what it meant. It’s common in Hinduism to add Jesus into the mix, but they clarified right away that she had denounced all other gods and accepted Jesus as her one and only Savior.
I couldn’t help but see her as God sees her - the dark sari removed and a bridal gown of bright and shining linen put on.
He is enthralled with the beauty of His daughter. He knows her name, her story, and her pain. He has taken her from death to life and given her a crown to signify the great riches of His grace. She is no longer defined by current circumstances, but by her Father’s love for her. She is being renewed, transformed, made whole.
The beauty of the Gospel was found in the most evil place I’ve ever been exposed to. And that made it all the more radiant and glorious. It made me stand in awe of The Shepherd. He intimately and intentionally cares for each of us if we let Him.
As for her, she is getting older and her time in the brothel is running out. The customers aren’t coming around like they used to. She will soon be told that she is taking up valuable space and will be forced to leave the only thing she’s ever known.
When she’s out of the brothel, she wants to be baptized. She understands the significance of the decision she’s made and wants to be able to reflect that with her life, which she currently cannot do. In the coming days, she will experience physical freedom, but she will also get to show the world the spiritual freedom she’s already found. Someone, somewhere in India will baptize her. They will lower her dark sari into the water and when she stands, her radiant wedding gown will be on display for all to see. Oh, how I wish I could experience this with her! What a life changing moment it will be.
Finding my Beloved in the brothel was my favorite moment of the trip. He taught me so much in those brief moments with her. He reminded me that His love is relentless and never-ending. He pursues us and He draws us near to Him no matter what our current condition or circumstances might be. Only He can restore and redeem us. Only He can give us the peace that surpasses understanding. Only He can heal the deep, gaping wounds of our heart and soul.
We need Him more than the air we breathe.
He’s the only hope we have of surviving the brokenness our world is saturated with. That’s why fighting human trafficking without Him makes no sense.