Thursday, March 19
Jesus: The way off the streets for prostitutes in Ecuador
By Dea Davidson
GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador (BP)—Their market value is $5. Another $5 will buy a pay-by-the-hour room. In a port city like Guayaquil, Ecuador, accessibility to cheap thrills is easy and the cost is minimal. Playing Russian roulette with AIDS and other diseases is the biggest drawback.
Women on the street corners of Ecuador’s largest city are as much a fixture as the downtown shopping stalls. Residents and visitors see them as a commodity, a service, a convenience. But not International Mission Board missionary Barbara Rivers of Houston.
Rivers and a group of Ecuadorian women also walk the city streets, mingling with the working women. But instead of miniskirts, halter tops and high heels, these women sport colorful polo shirts with a message of hope embroidered over their hearts.
Jesucristo Señal de Salida — Jesus Christ is the way out.
FINALLY A WAY OUT
María’s father was an abusive alcoholic, so she left home, intending to live with her grandmother in another city. A family friend agreed to help her — for a price. By the time she arrived in the city she was no longer an innocent 12-year-old girl.
Her grandmother had her placed in jail. She learned to drink liquor, smoke marijuana and use drugs.
María ended up in a brothel where she was forced to hand over her prostitution earnings. She escaped from that situation but took up with a man who fathered her first two children. Living on the streets, she had two more children with another man.
Then someone invited her to church. Not interested at first, she remained in her old life. Some female believers told her about God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ, prompting her to attend church. When the pastor invited her to pray a prayer of faith, she gave her life to Christ.
“Jesus filled the emptiness of my heart and changed my life completely,” María says. “My old life is in the past.” Now, she is married and works in a vegetable market.
“I can talk with other women who live in situations similar to mine and tell them that God wants to give them a new life,” she says. “I believe that God is using me to take His Word to others.”
María and others like her are living stories of redemption. These women bring hope to the streets as they minister alongside Rivers and Norma de Campos, an Ecuadorian pastor’s wife who began the work in 1998. The women introduce themselves, share Scripture and tell the prostitutes about God’s love.
“For most of them, no one has ever told them they love them or told them God loves them,” Rivers says.
Sharing testimonies connects new believers with the women still in bondage. Their stories are a glimpse of the inner beauty without camouflaging the ugliness that remains. The new believers repent from what they’ve done, Rivers says, but they encounter the same house, same people, same neighborhood.
Rather than dwell on the difficult circumstances, these Christians are devoted to seeing women on the streets come to know the One who died to buy their pardon. To reach them, Rivers, de Campos and their team hold events for the women’s families, offer getaway retreats to teach them about the love and forgiveness of God and lift up their efforts in prayer during monthly meetings. Approximately 30 women attend the two Bible studies offered each week.
Although they turn to Christ, some will still return to the streets. They struggle to move from lives of bondage to a full understanding of who they are in Christ.
“The best thing is for them to be convicted by the Holy Spirit instead of them doing what we tell them to do,” Rivers says. “They just don’t see that prostitution is wrong. It’s part of Satan’s lie.”
Dea Davidson covered this story as an overseas correspondent for the International Mission Board.