It is March of 2011 and my husband, Rich, and I climb into the very back seat of a twelve passenger van to head out to the streets of Phoenix, Arizona for the first time to look for prostitutes and women at risk. We will try to encourage them to get into the van with us or call a number where someone will pick them up and take them to a safe house.
Rich and I had just ended a ministry where we went into recovery homes to teach God’s word and pray for those broken and desperate. After seven years this season had come to an end, so we began praying and asking God what was next for us. Was there another ministry He desired us to volunteer at? That answer came quickly. We were also in search of a new church to call home and so we were visiting a church one Sunday when across the screen came an announcement of a ministry that needed volunteers. They had purchased an old hotel and were making it into a home for those in need. They also had many ministries working from that hotel. We thought a perfect opportunity to go and offer our services in any way possible.
We went for a tour of the facilities and filled out our application and handed it over to the executive director and left. Several weeks went by and I received a message on my phone to call if we were still interested in volunteering. When I returned the call they asked if we would consider volunteering for a ministry that went out to the streets of Phoenix and witnessed to prostitutes. They were having a training the very next Saturday night and immediately following they would get into vans and head out. What was the Lord doing?
Well, we said yes and 5 days later there we were getting into a van on its way to the dark streets of the city. We left at 10 o’clock PM and would return by 2 AM. Our hearts were pounding as we turned onto the “red light district” of Phoenix and saw our first woman. The van pulls over and teams of three women and two men would jump out of the van and the ladies would approach these women with a rose and a smile. They did this over and over, searching the streets. The entire time watching for pimps that may approach and get angry for taking the time of “their girls.”
I am thinking, "What in the world are we doing out here?" It was frightening yet exciting. We did not get out of the van that night we just watched and prayed. At the end of the evening they all began to talk about stopping at a strip club and seeing if they would let them in to give roses to the dancers. My husband and I are in total disbelief at this courageous group of people that are so bold for Christ and so willing to share His love with those that would seem to be impossible to reach. As the women approached the bouncer at the door to ask if they could go in, he said they could. He gave them 5 minutes to go in and give out the roses. The men were not allowed in and waited at the door. Suddenly around the corner where we parked the van and waited for them one of our ladies came running back to the van. Our hearts began to pound rapidly thinking she is being chased by someone. Out of breath she arrived at the van and said, “I need my ID to get in!” We all laughed with relief, yet again astonished that they were allowed to get in and witness to these ladies for even just a few brief moments.
Rich and I went home in those early hours of the morning amazed and frightened but desiring to do it again. Two weeks later we would climb back into that van, this time determined to get out and witness to a prostitute.
Crystal: As that big van turned into a convenience store and came to a stop for the first time on this evening I prepared myself to speak to a prostitute. I gripped that rose ready to jump out. The doors opened and as I start approaching this woman I greet her as my heart is pounding, and I am waiting for rejection. Rejection did not come on this night, but a smile and a hug as she took the rose I was handing her. I informed her we were with the church and just wanted to bless her and ask how she was doing tonight. She began immediately to open up to me about how tired she was of living this lifestyle on the streets doing what she needed to do to make money, but she couldn’t give up the drugs. I talked with her for several minutes and explained if she came with us there were people that were going to help her, care for her, and give her a place to live. She didn’t have to do this anymore. Although neither of us would mention the word prostitution, we both understood what we were referring to. I asked if I could pray with her and she said yes and after she hugged me and thanked me again for stopping she said, “I really want to come with you, but I don’t think I’m ready yet to give up the drugs.” I looked into her beautiful face and saw a woman in so much bondage to a world that was cruel and hurtful. I knew she truly did want to believe me and get in that van to receive the hope I offered, yet she could not comprehend living without this addiction that held on to her tightly.
I felt the Holy Spirit so strong with that encounter. I think of Crystal often even today and I have seen so many men, women and children on the streets each with their own story since that time. It would be that encounter that would draw me into this ministry on the streets of Phoenix.
I shiver when I think of these women getting into a strangers car over and over and over again. Are they terrified? What gives a woman the ability to get into an unknown situation and take her health and life and put it in the hands of a stranger? Money? Power? Drugs? Desperation? I was not sure, but I wanted to know.
In a ministry of heartbreak would come hope. This ministry changed us and would evolve into something bigger for my husband, myself and others that would come along beside us. Join me tomorrow for more amazing encounters as the Holy Spirit continues to change hearts and minds, and leads us to Him in all things.
Be a blessing to someone today!