The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
When we meet them, we begin by showing them that there is a way of hope, because they all want to get out of their situation.
Every night, thousands of young women leave their small apartments to go to certain streets of the big cities in France to sell their bodies to customers.
As shadows in the night. Victims of human trafficking, of African and Eastern European origin. Nationwide, their number is estimated to be 4,000.
Friends of Rahab
In 2008, God touched my heart and inspired me to seek his will for my life. Soon after that, I and some others came in touch with a young woman from Nigeria in the street and were touched by her story.
Let me call her Glory. At the age of six, her parents sold her as a slave to a couple, in xchange for a plot of land.
She had to do all the work the other servants, slaves in fact, didn’t want to do. She was often beaten. At the age of thirteen she was raped and became pregnant. After the birth of her child, her ordeal became worse as she was considered a pariah with a bastard child.
Because she did not bring in enough money, this couple sold her to a network of pimps who forced her to take a long journey through several African countries, Spain and Italy, on to France.
The encounter with Glory led to the formation of Les amies de Rahab (‘The friends of Rahab’), first in Nantes, then also in other cities.
The vision God entrusted to us is to accompany the women victims of human trafficking on the path of freedom in Christ. We created several groups: a prayer group, a group of volunteer visitors, a practical assistance group.
When I first met women like Glory in the street, I was so naïve to believe everything they said. After having met many of them, I know that everything they say in the beginning is false: their names, their age, their papers, their history, etc.
In fact, their whole recruitment is based on lies. They arrive with a dream, to live a better life and to send money to their families in the village.
Sometimes all this is done with the complicity of parents or family members. Some girls know that they will prostitute themselves, others do not.
They are not told that they will be in the street for hours, that it will rain, that it will snow. When they arrive here, they realize the trap in which they fell. They are confronted with the problem of papers and deplorable living conditions.
And they are told to repay a debt to their recruiters, ranging from 40,000 to 65,000 euros.
Fear and violence
Many of them are marked by a spirit of fear. Sometimes there is the fear that they will be cursed if they do not pay their debts. Then there is the violence.
Physical violence by local pimps. Customers also can be aggressive, violent, perverse. These women are often racketeered by unscrupulous thugs who steal their cell phones or something else. They are insulted by passers-by and hunted by the police.
There is also violence among these women themselves, because often they live with three or four others in one studio. Fights are numerous. They do not trust each other.
The phenomenon of dissociation is often observed. To survive all the forced sexual acts, they learn to block their emotions and let the mind be absent from their body.
All of this makes these women, these girls, traumatized. They need to see, hear and feel the love of God in a practical way. Their greatest enemy is loneliness.
Objective and approach
When we meet them, we begin by showing them that there is a way of hope, because they all want to get out of their situation, even if, at times, they seem to express the opposite. Then we try to accompany them on this path.
Even so, it is still a long way to the final stage, which is leaving them to pursue their new-found life themselves.
A key element of our work is prayer. We intercede for these women, alone or in prayer groups. We pray with them in the street, when we meet them at home or when we accompany them for some administrative step.
Furthermore, we bring them a message from the Word of God who changes hearts and transforms lives. We read the Bible with them, individually or in groups.
Although these women are victims, they know that they have made bad choices and that what they do with their bodies is not pleasing to God.
Some unfortunately fall into the trap of love of money or justify their actions for all kinds of reasons but most of them want to change their life.
The gospel is the good news of both forgiveness and true freedom.Then we offer practical help, as indicated in Matthew 25.
We bring clothes. Why? Because of the children. Some of these women try to escape their prostitution situation by seeking a French man to get them pregnant and obtain a residence permit.
The problem is that they are left alone, with their child. We bring food. We visit them at several occasions, after aggression, childbirth, or attempted suicide.
Authorities or police sometimes call upon us to intervene in such difficult situations. Sometimes we offer financial help, until they can support themselves or receive help from the state.
I often wondered why God called me as a man to reach out to these women. Certainly, to give them another image of a father, and another image of a man. They need fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters in the real sense of the term.
This article is a summary and translation of Summary of Marcel Georgel, ‘Filles de Dieu en esclavage, Traite des êtres humains à des fins d’exploitation sexuelle’, in Evert Van de Poll (ed.), Mission intégrale–Vivre, annoncer et manifester l’Évangile, pour que le monde croie.... Charols (France), Excelsis, 2017, p. 133-142..
This article first appeared in the July 2018 edition of Vista Magazine.