Updated: May 18, 2022
Last night, we went to the track to seek new outreach opportunities to expand our ministry. "The track" is a commonly used street term referring to the area where prostitutes and pimps work. It's called the track because the prostitute walks the area in laps, much like a track. I was heartbroken by the number of young girls out there.
With me was a friend with a similar past involving gangs and exploiting girls on the track. I believe that God uses our past experiences, good and bad, to further His Kingdom. My friend, familiar with the area, was able to show me all the hot spots to walk, the alleys they go to turn tricks, and where the pimps park to watch. I took down some notes and created a "track map" that will be helpful in future ministry outreach. Without his experience, I wouldn't have such critical insider information.
It got me thinking about my experiences and how, at one point, I was the one turning girls out. Instead of being personally trafficked, I wanted to regain my power by recruiting new girls and trafficking them. My method was to go to the local dope house and look for the weakest, most vulnerable young girls. I would be overly friendly and build rapport to sell them to my clientele instead of myself. I had become a pimp. I didn't realize that I was in survival mode at the time. I was tired of being the one at the bottom, being oppressed and exploited, and this was my way of trying to regain control of a life I had no control over.
Today, I teach a class to survivors of sex trafficking about being in "the life." One of the lessons I teach is about lateral oppression. I use the example of being in "the life" and having no power. The "John" (the buyer) holds the most power because he holds the money. The buyer uses this power over the pimp (the supplier), and the pimp has control over the girls (the product). It's a trickle-down effect of supply and demand. The girls are at the bottom of a line of oppression, and because there is no one left to oppress, they oppress each other.
Recently, I couldn't stop thinking about it during my time with God. I couldn't shake the memory of my time pimping girls. I was a predator preying on young, innocent girls for my self-preservation. As the shame and guilt washed over me, I thought of all the horrible things I introduced them to and the way I coached them in the life of prostitution. Since being set free, I've had a hard time dealing with this (this is the first time I am sharing about it publicly). But a wise woman once said to me, "You can't heal what you don't acknowledge." As I began to reminisce all the details and horrifically evil things I had done, God prompted me to deal with this part of my past.
For the Lord to take me further in this ministry, I needed to be free of the shame and guilt that kept me in bondage for so long. This had been buried for a long time, and I knew I had to bring it to the light, remove its power, and as a result, be set free. Shame is bondage, and I knew I needed to be set free from the bondage to be used by God. I sat there with the Lord and dug deep to bring every dark memory to the surface - all the shameful things I was guilty of doing to those girls - and gave it to Him. I named every awful thing, laid it at His feet, and said, "Here it is, God. I give these things to You. Please forgive me." In an instant, I felt the weight of this burden lift as the Father's love, and forgiveness washed over me like a fresh breeze. I felt so much lighter.
The Father's forgiveness is such a powerful thing. But I knew I wasn't finished. I still needed to do one more thing; I had to forgive myself, but I didn't know how I could. How could I forgive myself for stealing another person's innocence? For being so evil? It seemed impossible. But I can't walk in complete freedom and forgiveness if I still hold a charge against myself for my actions. I asked the Lord to help me forgive myself. He reminded me that I was in bondage at that time and that my choices were limited in bondage to the enemy. He reminded me that now I am free and making choices in freedom for His Kingdom. I once sacrificed others to save myself, but now I am offering myself to save them. FREEDOM! The guilt and shame are gone!
Today I am even more encouraged and committed to the cause. I am ready to give it all for these girls. Willing to give my life to save them from the life of prostitution and sex trafficking and point them to abundant life in Christ. I want to offer them the same hope that I was offered - a life of healing and redemption through relationship and salvation in Christ. I am laying down my life for His mission and His cause.
I shared this story with some of the ladies I teach in my survivor class and talked about what it looks like to honor the girls out there and extend forgiveness to ourselves. They were able to share areas of their story where they are working on forgiving themselves and brainstorm the idea of how they can honor the girls who are still out on the track. Later this month, I am taking my class of survivors to honor the girls who are still in "the life." We will meet at the track to pray for the girls and release balloons with messages of hope attached.
We need your prayers, financial support, and volunteers as we continue this life-changing ministry. May God equip us for every good work as we seek His Kingdom in our city.