In March 2019, God began stirring my husband’s heart and mine about possibly relocating from Memphis, Tennessee, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, through my husband’s job. His employer has an office here, and at the time, it was just a wild idea that quickly became a wide-open door from the Lord.
After a few short months of deliberation, we sold our home and most of our belongings and moved our family of six to the Netherlands. While my husband’s job was our means of getting here, we knew that God had a plan for our family, and we wanted to be faithful. We began praying for opportunities to be involved in what God was already doing in the Netherlands.
We began praying for opportunities to be involved in what God was already doing.
After settling into our new surroundings, God opened the door for ministry in the Red Light District. God had been burdening my heart for victims of sex trafficking, but I honestly wasn’t sure where to start. One Sunday morning at our church, I was providentially connected to a woman visiting from the U.S. who runs Countervail Group, a nonprofit organization serving victims of commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
For several years, she regularly traveled to the Netherlands to build relationships with women, meet their physical needs, and connect them to resources that would empower them to find freedom outside of the district, with the ultimate hope of finding true freedom in Christ. Later that Sunday evening, I walked with her in the Red Light District, learning more about reaching these women.
COVID in the Red Light District
Shortly after she returned to the U.S., the world shut down due to COVID-19. While this meant my friend was unable to return, I was able to go in her place.
Through the connections I made in the Red Light District two weeks prior, I was able to meet real needs for groceries as these women found themselves suddenly without income due to the national lockdown. It started with a couple of women and then began to grow, and with support from my church, I delivered groceries weekly to several women.
This was a massive opportunity to build relationships and establish trust with these precious women outside their work environment. Every encounter was covered in prayer as all of this was very new to me, and I was learning as I went. The women were very grateful for the food, and several graciously opened their homes and invited me inside each week for tea and good conversation.
These women can be guarded, and trust can take a long time to build, but it was sweet to see God doing just that as I arrived each week with a bag of groceries. Each delivery was unique to each girl, considering her requests and preferences, and included a handwritten note of encouragement to remind her of hope.
The more I got to know these women and heard their stories, the more God began growing in me a heart of love and compassion for them. Most women working in the Amsterdam sex industry come from Eastern Europe. Typically, these countries practice Eastern Orthodox Christianity or Catholicism, so most women would identify with these religions.
I’ve found they are open to spiritual conversations and have often asked me to pray for them. It became my practice to pray with them each time we visited. One particular friend commented that my prayers were so personal. I think they’ve only ever seen religion as a list of rules and merely a formality, so a genuine relationship with God is very foreign to them.
God gave many women an opportunity to dream of life outside the Red Light—and several were able to make that dream a reality.
I have seen God bring several of these friends out of prostitution. I’m still praying for their ultimate salvation, but I’m thankful for what God is doing in their lives and have seen how he is drawing them to himself. COVID provided much-needed rest for these women, and God used it for their good, as it gave them an opportunity to dream of life outside the Red Light—and several were able to make that dream a reality.
Light in the Darkness
Since COVID regulations ended earlier this year in the Netherlands, the Red Light District is again open for business. Today, my primary way of connecting with more women is through weekly walks through the district. Sometimes it involves gifts that friends and I distribute. Other times we just do a prayer walk, asking God to allow fruitful conversations with the girls that can lead to further opportunities to connect outside of their workplace. Each time we visit the Red Light District, my prayer is that God would use us to bring light into the darkness.
During the past two years, God has been faithful to equip me as I walk by faith. I still battle feelings of inadequacy for this work, but I’m often reminded that God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Along the way, God has been gracious enough to raise others to walk this road with me, and I’m genuinely thankful not to do it alone.
Results can sometimes feel slow, but I’m learning and reminding myself often that God is responsible for the outcome—I’m just called to be obedient. I’m genuinely grateful for the opportunity to be part of what God is doing in the Red Light District of Amsterdam.