Sex Trafficking – NightLight – Restoration Ministry

NightLight International and their affiliate, NightLight Branson, strive to reach, rescue, and restore those that find themselves caught up in the sex trafficking industry.  Sarah Austin, their Outreach Coordinator, tells us how the Lord led her to minister to these women in the places where they work.


Reaching Others by Sharing Your Faith

sex trafficking nightlight“I bet I can guess which church you ladies go to,” Katie* exclaimed as she passed us in the parking lot. We gave one another knowing glances, smiled at her, and engaged. “OK,” we said, “Take a guess!” And Katie did guess the church that my other three team members regularly attended. We laughed with her and asked about her story. She was alone in our city and going to school. Her daughter was living with her mother in another state. And she was dancing at this strip club to make ends meet.

“Can we pray with you?” we asked. She agreed, and we huddled up in the parking lot and prayed with Katie. In a few short minutes, we had learned a lot of true things about her, but rather than focusing on the true things, we prayed truth over her. That she was made in the glory and likeness of God the Father. That He loved her. That we loved her. And that no matter her circumstances, the Lord was with her. Before our prayer ended, Katie prayed for herself and for our team; in fact, she prayed Scripture over herself! She was no stranger to the church but had been burned by it and didn’t feel worthy to attend any more.

And that was my very first outreach experience with the organization, Nightlight, where I am now the outreach coordinator. I was hooked.

When God Says “It’s Time”

I continued to volunteer with NightLight for a year, leading a team into my city’s strip clubs and sex trafficking areas, handing out gifts and cookies, engaging with the women who work in these places, and building relationships with them outside the clubs. The Lord began to stir in my heart the possibility of coming on staff three months after I began volunteering, but he kept pressing me to wait. And then at the end of last summer, the Lord said, “It’s time.”

Restoring Those in the Sex Trafficking Industry

Fast forward to today. NightLight, the ministry I work for, is compelled by love to reach out to, rescue, and restore those who’ve been negatively impacted by commercial sexual exploitation, including, but not limited to those working in strip clubs, massage parlors, street and online prostitution, pornography, and sex trafficking. I work for our Springfield/Branson location, reaching out to women with the help of volunteers—women and men—who the Lord has gifted in small talk, making the best of awkward situations, and loving well without agendas.

Women Ministering to Women

So how do we minister to those caught up in sex trafficking? What does that look like? Well, it doesn’t look anything like a Liam Nieson movie (#takenReference). My teams spend quite a lot of time in prayer before and after every outreach because if we have learned anything by going into the dark places in our city, it is this: The battle belongs to the Lord! So often, the week leading up to outreach is wrought with chaos, busyness, illness, and exhaustion for every single volunteer. I am confident that the Lord brings us to the end of ourselves on outreach evenings, so he can be made much of in our weakness!

After a time of prayer and equipping, our teams go into the city. NightLight has been going into Springfield’s strip clubs for four years, and as upside down as it sounds, we have a lot of favor in the clubs. The bouncers and doormen have commented that the women get along better after we leave, and they so appreciate that we see the women for who they really are rather than pieces of meat. And the women? Those who’ve been dancing a long time know exactly who “the church ladies” are and vouch for us to the new girls (and sometimes even the management). We take baked treats and small gifts to give away every month, and we simply engage with the women like we would another mom from the PTA.**

Time is of the Essence

Employee turnover in the clubs is high, so sometimes we only get one opportunity to bless the girls we meet. Other times, we get to know a woman over several months or years and are able to take our relationship with her outside the club. We hope and pray that these women will come to know their true identity in Christ and make a decision to follow him the rest of their lives, so we prayerfully pursue them in relationship and surround them with a community who will speak truth and light into their lives and support them when they decide to pursue a better life. I haven’t seen Katie since my first outreach, but I think and pray for her often.

As for me, I laugh when I think about how the Lord called and equipped me—an introvert of introverts—to go into strip clubs and make small talk with women. I never would have come to this work in these dark places without his placing these hurting women on my heart. John 1:5 inspires me almost daily: “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

 

* Name changed to protect privacy

** The men on our teams? Our men selflessly support us by being our eyes and ears in the parking lots, watching and praying in the cars. We love that the Lord made them our protectors. We welcome them as security for us while we’re on outreach. They don’t go into the clubs!


Sarah Austin – Outreach Coordinator – Nightlight Branson

 

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NightLight is one of many anti-trafficking organizations that exist around the globe. If we’re not in your city, a quick Internet search of your city’s name + “sex trafficking” should yield the names of organizations that are close to you.
  1. Educate yourself.  [I could write another blog post of resources we recommend, there are that many…]
  2. Pray. You can pray for the organizations and victims in your city. Pray for the strip clubs, massage parlors, adult gift stores, etc. in your city. Also, pray for individuals and churches in your city to reach out to these people and places.
  3. Support. Many organizations are in constant need of supplies and money. NightLight Branson regularly needs gifts donated to give away on outreach and supplies for women coming out of the industry.
  4. Shop. NightLight Design provides jobs for Thai women in Bangkok who have left Thailand’s commercial industry. Their jewelry is gorgeous, and a purchase helps NightLight pay these women a living wage.
  5. Volunteer. Not everyone is called to go on outreach, but there are other ways you can get involved. Accountants, lawyers, designers, marketers, small business owners, web developers, and so many others can have a place in solving this problem. If you have a skill or talent you’d like to use to make an impact on the commercial sex industry, there is probably a place for you to serve.

Sarah Austin

About the Author

Sarah Austin