A young woman sat outside on a busy street, propped up against dirty concrete, an empty bottle on the pavement next to her. She stared listlessly, watching the blur of headlights passing by, listening to the rumble of motors and perpetual honking, the footsteps crossing her line of sight, the voices all around, some familiar, some foreign. Anything to distract from the pain in her abdomen.
Men periodically stopped to speak to her, but she waved them off in irritation. She’d already been kicked twice for responding this way. She tried to wave off another man who was saying something to her, but he wouldn’t leave. Finally, he picked up the bottle by her side and shook it in her face.
“How many have you had?”
She paused. It wasn’t the usual question, some variation of “Your rate? How much?” Slowly, she looked up and met his eyes. She recognized him as a rickshaw driver who often drove customers down this street, chatting with the women while he waited for the customer to return.
“I don’t know,” she answered truthfully.
She looked down at her swollen belly, at the little life she couldn’t stop from entering this sad world.
Her baby was born right there on the street in front of brothel #52, the rickshaw driver cutting the umbilical cord with a pocketknife and awkwardly handing her the slimy creature—her daughter. She couldn’t bring herself to name her.
The red light district
This street is in a red light district in Asia, only a few minutes walk from a train station where our monitors work. The team there works very hard to prevent girls from being deceived upon arriving in the city and sold on this street.
But for those who have already been sold to a brothel, there is a team of women that visits regularly. Over time they have become dear friends, welcomed in some of the brothel homes where few others have admittance. They encourage the women, sometimes bring supplies, and pray with them for their needs.
On this day, the group of women visited brothel #52. They walked up the steep, unlit staircase and into one of the rooms, up another small staircase to the second level. Another young woman—not the mother—placed the still yet unnamed baby girl in their arms. The baby’s mother was out.
“Will you pray for her?” the girl asked.
The group of visitors gently passed the baby around, cooing and smiling over her. Then they joined together with the brothel workers to pray and sing.
“The Lord bless you and keep you,
Make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you,
The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”
They were still praying when the mother walked up the stairs, returned from roaming the streets and reeking of tobacco and alcohol, the weight of hopelessness exuding from her entire being. With vacant eyes, she sat down with them; they offered her the baby, but she shook her head.
“What is the baby’s name?” one of the women asked.
“She doesn’t have a name,” said the mother. “Will you name her?”
They name her Mahiya*, which means joy.
A call to prayer
First Thessalonians, the 52nd book of the Bible, was Paul’s letter to a church prospering despite turbulent times. Exodus chapter 2, the 52nd chapter of the Bible, tells the story of Moses, a baby who prospered despite turbulent times. Pray for this baby, born to house #52, for prosperity despite being born prematurely to a young and desperate mother in a turbulent red light district.
Since Mahiya’s birth some three months ago, mother and baby have moved out of house #52 to another area. It has been difficult for our team to keep in contact and communicate with her because she remains in an alcohol-induced stupor most of the time.
Although her story is sad, it’s unfortunately a very real picture of life on this road.
We can’t always help people out of their circumstances or heal them of deep trauma, but Jesus invites us to enter into human suffering all the same. To sit with people in their pain, to be present, even when we can’t fix anything. To sing and pray over babies in seemingly hopeless situations.
Inspired to take action
We are inspired by these women who fearlessly engage day to day with human suffering. They show up, they persist, they hope, and they love well. They do not pronounce shame or judgment, but simply go and support, encourage and pray.
We are inspired by our transit monitors who passionately stand watch to prevent people from entering a life of slavery, exploitation, and trauma.
We are inspired by our Project Beautiful members who give monthly to keep more beautiful people free.
Love in a place like this isn’t easy or safe, but it will change everything. How can you love someone today? To learn more about our Project Beautiful community and the impact your monthly donation can make in preventing someone from entering a life of slavery, visit here. To find out more about our work across the globe, visit here.
*All content, data, and statistics current at the date and time of publishing.