ANTITRAFFICKING WORK

Berlin

My passion and desire to love the women who are being trafficked is the main thing that brought me to Berlin, so it has been incredibly impactful to be able to work with the antitrafficking ministries here. There are multiple Christian ministries with different focuses in Berlin that deal with antitrafficking, and we got the chance to work with and meet people from all the organizations.

Neustrart is a café that is open to vulnerable women as a place of rest and comfort; they serve food and drinks as well as give clothing to the women free of charge. They open for different shifts throughout the week and have volunteers and trained social workers who talk and build relationships with the women. I had the opportunity to work in one of the shifts with some of the other workers of the café. I loved talking with the social workers and volunteers about their experiences, stories, and what God has done in and through that café.

It was so special to be able to connect, talk with, serve, and love some of these women. Praise God that through my limited German and their limited English we were able to hold some good conversation! My favorite moment was during the end of the shift; it was a little slow in the café and we all started singing songs and Mary played the guitar. It was a moment of hope and pure joy in such a dark place with so many dark stories.

Alabaster Jar is another ministry who works out of the same café but also engages in brothel and street outreach. We got the privilege to be a part of one of their street outreach nights as a part of the prayer team. I really appreciate the huge focus and push that all these ministries have on prayer. They don’t allow an outreach group to go out to the streets or brothels without a prayer team following close behind; this work is so dark and heavy that it is impossible to do without prayer.

For a typical night with Alabaster Jar, they would have a prayer team, café team, and frontline team. Since the outreach focus for the night was street outreach, the frontline team were the group of core people who went and talked with the women and gave some gifts to them. In the meantime, the café was open as a safe haven for the women. While the frontline team talked with the women on the street, we followed them at a distance and prayed for the team, the women, and everyone else involved.

I have watched a few documentaries on sex trafficking and prostitution, but I watched all of those in the comfort of my own home where I was far removed from the situation. It was surreal to be walking those streets and seeing what was going on in person.

 Kurfürstenstraße is known as the “prostitute mile;” it is where most street prostitution happens and is also where the café is located. These women were just waiting on the side of the street for a client or job. My heart broke for each one of them. Most of the women on Kurfürstenstraße are from eastern Europe with the street sectioned off into Hungarian, Romanian, German, and trans sections. We walked by the cafes where the pimps hung out and kept a close eye on the women. It didn’t feel real to see it all in person and knowing that this wasn’t just a rare occurrence; this was the reality of the street every night.

Photo: Christian Lohse //// Kurfürstenstraße

The next outreach we got to be a part of was called Beauty for Ashes. It is a newer ministry in Berlin that focuses on connecting churches to antitrafficking efforts and engages in outreaches in brothels, massage parlors, strip clubs, and the streets. The ministries we worked with only allowed people who will be there for a consistent basis to be on the frontline team for relationship building purposes, so we were also on the prayer team for that outreach.

I honestly wasn’t super pumped to be on the prayer team and preferred to be on the frontline team. Praying for so long was daunting and I doubted the importance, but God surprised me, and it turned out to be such a neat experience. This issue is too big for anyone to tackle on their own; there isn’t one “answer” that will stop sex trafficking. Prayer is actually the most we can do; it is more important than any of the other ministries! The Holy Spirit filled us and gave us the words to pray, and I left these prayer walks so encouraged and hopeful.  We also baked muffins and packaged them up with encouraging messages on them for the women. Although this was a super small act, I trust that God can use our small acts of faithfulness for something way greater than we could imagine.

The summer months are peak for street prostitution because of the long days, good weather, and tourists. The women who are on the street and in the brothels have all different stories. Some of them are providing for their families back home, some were trafficked, most of them came from “lover boys,” and pretty much all of them are being controlled and manipulated by their pimps. An example of the lover boy method is when a guy comes into a woman’s life when she is at a vulnerable state, builds a relationship with her and makes her fall in love with him, and then runs into a ‘problem’ where she must be the one to provide and the only way is through prostitution. The lover boys work for the pimps so the women are just being indirectly controlled by the pimps.

The legalization of prostitution in Germany creates a gateway for trafficking and lots of other illegal activity meaning that the business of prostitution is super shady and complex. The team said that they have seen a lot of younger girls on the street which breaks my heart into pieces; some as young as 14 with forged documents (because prostitutes must be 18 to legally work). There are many messed up and illegal things happening behind the curtain, and the mafias can only get away with what they are doing with government support. The people on the frontline said that they often encounter the police; not protecting the women but patronizing and flirting with them. The picture I included below is one of the largest sex shops in Berlin on Kurfürstenstraße with the illegal activity happening in the back rooms.

A verse that gave me encouragement this week was Habakkuk 1:5 — “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, and it is easy to be super discouraged and sad when thinking about it. However, God will somehow use the evil for His good purpose and plan. I am encouraged to know that God sees and knows every detail of what is going on, He is a God of justice, He cares so deeply for His daughters who are being treated so unjustly and inhumanely, and He is doing a work that you would not believe if told.

Thanks for following along my journey and praying for and with me. If you want to learn more about this injustice, please watch this documentary Nefarious (https://youtu.be/MFaDHgXPbUg). It is the most educational and well done documentary I have ever seen.

-Olivia

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