When young women, suffering from sex trafficking, come to this prayer room in a brothel, the Word of God reminds them of His promises. Glancing at three Bible verses on a chalkboard and her smooth-skinned face, I heard the Lord say, “Tell her I see only her purity and innocence. In a brothel of all places, I determined to obey the voice of the Lord.
A man – standing in one of the world’s largest red-light districts – I spoke the words “purity and innocence” over a very young woman in her late teens, maybe early 20s, who was seated before me in a brothel.
In a tiny room with a twin bed, the soft face beamed, revealing a smile to me and eight others who nodded agreement with the words I spoke. Two teammates from my church stood on either side of me.
Our team comprised of two men and four women – all from the United States – traveled over 8,000 miles to India. On this day, our guide led us down narrow, clogged streets lined with vendors and their wares. Having been the victim of sex trafficking years ago, she knew the territory. I was careful to keep my gaze fixed on her until our group reached its destination on the second floor of a large building.
We arrived at a well-hidden house of prayer located up several flights of steep, short, stair steps. Though modest, the prayer room is a spiritual oasis for girls and young women trapped in sex trafficking.
The Changing Destiny Project
We were guests of Changing Destiny Project (CDP), a non-profit organization committed to helping women and children – girls and boys – find freedom from sex trafficking. They provide food, shelter, and education. CDP’s reach extends from the largest cities in India, Nepal and Bangladesh to its hostels and a school many miles away from traffickers.
The founders of CDP insist on personal anonymity and ask their guests to refrain from identifying the locations of its hostels and schools for girls and boys in photos, stories or on social media. Our team similarly agreed to protect the identities of guides in the red-light district.
My team visited the house of prayer on day two of our mission to the brothels.
Another team consisting of two women and one man from Rez Church trekked up the same steep staircase 24 hours earlier, finding intense spiritual warfare around the prayer room. One of the young women who came for prayer bolted from the room after complaining of nightmares. That night one of our teammates dreamed she was aboard a train that careened off its rails and down a steep cliff.
With space for only a few plastic chairs and a bed, the prayer room is surrounded above, below and on its sides with other rooms for the girls and women who “work” in the building. Each building houses 50 to 70 rooms.
Opposite a chalkboard with Psalm 23, Philippians 4:4-7 and 1 Peter 3:3-4 written on it is a rustic, wood cross hanging on one of the prayer-room’s four walls.
The girls and young women come to the house of prayer with fears, sicknesses, pains, demonic torments, sorrows and, surprisingly, with joy and praise in their hearts and on their lips – a spirit the enemy of souls hates. They reported feeling better after our team prayed for relief from leg and hip pain, burning sensations in hands and feet, stomach and chest discomfort and, for the young woman who ran from the house of prayer, for deliverance from tormenting nightmares.
Some reflect “a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”
The Apostle Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:3-4 are directed to wives, yet the girls and young women who come to the prayer room – trafficked for the base pleasure and profit of Godless men – exhibit these qualities as they look for opportunities beyond the brothels.
Thanks to CDP, its partners and formerly trafficked women, a new generation of girls is learning real, new skills for life outside the brothel. My team observed an example of this on our first visit to the red-light district, the day before our hike up to the prayer room.
Our guide was a pastor’s wife who, for years, attempted different outreaches to the brothels but discovered – through trial and error – that prayer is the most effective and needed ministry. At least four women who were gravely ill with HIV/AIDS are now in perfect health, and attend church. Though CDP is a non-profit, it partners with churches and believers with first-hand experience in the red-light district.
We stopped at a white, iron-gated door while residents of the brothel sized up the strangers standing in the street. My female teammates were dressed in Indian garb, sarees; I, on the other hand, stuck out like a sore thumb in jeans and athletic shoes. At last the gate swung open and our group stepped in.
Inside we discovered a beauty shop that is as well hidden as the prayer room. It’s a classroom for girls and young women learning to do hair and nails. We met two girls – one who was learning the basics of pedicure from an instructor who was trafficked years ago.
While the girls shared their names, their safety is a concern if they’re identified publicly.
When one of the girls learned our team was going to visit CDP’s school and hostels many miles from the beauty shop, her excitement popped. “My son is there,” she said, taking a selfie for us to share with him.
Though she misses her son, the education and shelter CDP offers is better than what the brothel offers – an endless cycle of trafficking for mothers and children. Boys, surprisingly, are useful to traffickers in finding men who want sex with their mothers, aunts and sisters.
A project of CDP, the beauty shop is in a building owned by a woman with four others – all of them brothels. The owner recently indicated a willingness to lease an entire floor to CDP for a Freedom Business.
Opening new employment opportunities to trafficked girls and young women, the Freedom Business will close 14 rooms that are used for “work.” CDP leaders are intrigued by the work of the Los Angeles Dream Center, which provides care for body, soul and spirit through its Bible-based programs. They envision a Dream Center in the heart of the red-light district and plan to meet with LA Dream Center staff to learn from and be encouraged by their success in helping redeem broken lives.
Throughout the year, teams like ours from Rez Church comes to serve and care for the children. One of the largest churches in America, for example, provides medical missions trips to CDP’s projects in the red-light district and at its school and hostels. CDP welcomes opportunities to host other churches.
Our team was inspired by the prayer room and beauty shop, but the ladies were particularly eager to meet the children and rescued women who care for them. Suitcases filled with pajamas, Tootsie pops, pencils, coloring books and crayons awaited them. We boarded a plane for an unknown destination, excited at prospects of playing games, sharing testimonies, Bible stories and gifts with the girls and boys.
We were overwhelmed by their love for the guests from Colorado. What we received exceeded our wildest imaginations. The children – with hearts of worshipers like King David – performed biblical-themed dramas and led our team into the presence of the Lord with their heartfelt praise and dance.
They were eager to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoke in heavenly languages as we laid hands on and prayed for them.
About 30 boys and 70 girls rescued from brothels or from being trafficked in India’s largest cities, Nepal and Bangladesh attend CDP’s school and live in separate dormitories where house parents look after the children, ranging in age from 3 to 12. Some of the house moms and staff were trafficked and were themselves, traffickers, giving them extreme compassion and understanding for the children. Like the children, the house moms are extremely grateful for their freedom and the privilege of caring for them, including meal preparation.
Classrooms are spread out on the first floor of the boys’ hostel, where dedicated teachers provide K-12 instruction.
As guests, our team was invited into the classrooms.
Sitting beside CDP’s teachers or – in my case – leading a 5th-grade class alone, our team helped students with math, language, reading, handwriting, dance, worship and art. Besides the local language, all of the students speak English and, for some, several others. The students are respectful and eager to learn, knowing education is a key to a brighter future.
CDP is so committed to education that it’s building a new school on six acres for 400 rescued children – 200 boy and 200 girls – and eventually, 1,100 students total. Funding comes from generous givers like Rez Church, which provided tens of thousands of dollars to help build the school and dormitories. Its pastor, Jonathan Wiggins, believes caring for and educating orphans is close to the heart of God, and education is a wise investment.
CDP partners with donors who want to provide food, shelter and housing through child sponsorship (changingdestinyproject.org). It also solicits support for rescuers, who heroically deliver children from the red-light district and other places where they’re trafficked sexually, or forced to work as slaves. Financial gifts to fund the new school, which will provide education and job training, are needed.