Saffires celebration talk
One year ago, Sarah and I were just two women with an armful of policies we’d spent 18 months preparing and a calling from God to take the good news about Jesus to the women of Leicester’s sex industry. We had no idea what to expect, how we’d be received, or even where we would go! So we prayed, and we got started. We never dreamed that today we’d be able to share with you the stories we have today. But I guess that just shows how much we underestimated God!
Over the last 12 months we have met some incredible women who are strong, brave, funny, feisty, and beautiful both inside and out. Some of them have slowly come to trust us more and more as we visit with them, others are still very reserved.
Sometimes I wish I could take everyone on outreach with me because I know that most people think that prostitutes are desperate women who are always in deep distress. The women we are getting to know do have significant struggles in life and some women in prostitution can often be in deep distress. But I wish you could meet these women and see that they are more than just women with difficult lives, but women who are unique and full of character and for whom there is great hope.
When we started last year, we expected that the fact that we were Christians would be an obstacle for the women. For some perhaps it is, but for most it’s just a bit of a surprise. They want to know why we visit, even why we would choose to visit them in particular. They even try and find common ground with us by sharing stories of childhood church attendance or things they’ve heard about God. It’s important to note that we don’t go on every visit intending to convert people, after all that’s God’s job not ours, but we do welcome questions about our faith and it’s surprising how many questions the women have. One woman asked us recently whether we’d always been Christians and what we believed, yet 10 months ago would barely speak to us when we visited. Now she misses us when we’re not able to go. Similarly, when we first started visiting one venue they didn’t seem keen for us to stay for more than a couple of minutes, but after visiting for a while and being able to stay much longer and talk with the women, they now ask us questions about faith and want to talk about things that concern them.
It’s amazing to see how God has answered our prayers over the last year. Whenever we start visiting a new place, we ask God where He wants us to go. We want Him to send us to the places where He’s already at work in the women, stirring up new life in them. Every door we’ve knocked on is a door He’s told us to knock on. And we have never been refused entry to a place when it is open. Some visits are quick, some are longer and we get to enjoy spending time with the women. We have been able to pray with 4 women and ask God to help them with difficult things they are facing. Who would ever imagine that a massage parlour would be a place of prayer?! We see women who are searching for something more in their lives, whether that’s practicing crystals or following star signs. One woman has even recently started talking about wanting to read her Bible again, and some women talk about praying themselves. As we’ve built relationships with women, they are sharing more personal, detailed prayer requests showing that they trust us more, that they believe we will pray for them, and perhaps that they hope God will answer our prayers. We believe He will answer their prayers too. At Easter we gave the women seasonal gifts attached with a tag that said ‘Jesus died to give you a new full life now, and a hope for the future’ and a couple of weeks later we received an email from one venue to thank us for those messages and for all that we do.
Sometimes I feel like we don’t do very much. More often than not, we turn up for a visit and if we are invited in we stay and chat about whatever crops up, anything from the tooth fairy to places we’d like to visit around the world. It often feels like all we do is chat and that we’re not really making a difference in the women’s lives. But several months ago we did ask whether there was anything we could do particularly to support them. ‘Nothing’ was the response ‘you’re already really kind and generous’. Initially I felt quite frustrated, didn’t they want us to help them get access to education courses, or support them with job applications? But then I realised, we give them something that very few people probably ever give them – time to be themselves, to talk about what they want to talk about, and to be listened to. It seems like nothing to me, but I’ve learnt that that’s actually a vastly important thing that shouldn’t be underestimated. By listening and giving our time, we are communicating to them that they are worth listening to, that they are worth my time, that they are precious. And yes, we want to help them with overcoming addiction and finding other jobs and ultimately see them exit prostitution, but above all of that, we want them to know that they are precious, both to us and to God.
But of course, the one who has really made all of this possible, and who has sustained us, is Jesus. And it’s because of Him that Saffires exists. It’s because of the way we have seen Him interact with women, the poor and the vulnerable through the pages of the Bible, that we understand how precious each individual is to Him. In Luke 7 we have a clear example of Jesus taking time to recognise and communicate the value in a woman who was rejected, ignored and shunned by the rest of society, even though to even allow her to touch Him was a scandalous, shameful thing. That’s how strong His love is for her, that He would allow Himself to be shamed in order to raise her up and give her hope. And we believe that His love is as strong for the women in the sex industry, and as His followers we want to take the good news about His love to them.
One year ago, Sarah and I were just two women with an armful of policies we’d spent 18 months preparing and a calling from God. Now, we stand here humbled by what we’ve seen God do and the amazing women we have met. Not only has He answered our prayers for the project and for women, but He’s been changing us too, teaching us more about who we are and who He is.
We believe that each one of the women we have met and spent time with this year is a precious jewel, waiting to be dug from the earth and shaped to perfection, with the light of God’s glory shining on them and revealing the worth He longs to give. And we believe God will do it in the coming years.