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I never thought I would be sitting at a table full of women comparing their daily quotas of paid sex. Linda, a former top madam in Australia, who once grossed $30,000 per week, remarked that in her days on the street the "girls" serviced around five clients a day; now they have to accommodate ten to fifteen. Juanita, from Costa Rica, looked shocked. "Fifteen? I did a hundred a day, on a double shift! The men lined up outside the door and we had only ten minutes with each one."

I was attending a conference of 45 Christian groups involved in ministry to women in prostitution, with 30 countries represented. Ostensibly, I was interviewing the ministry leaders, but they mostly stayed silent. Instead, former prostitutes themselves told heart-breaking stories of degradation and transformation.

Juanita, for example, was sold into sexual slavery by her own mother at the age of four. While other children went to school, she worked in a brothel, earning for her mother the higher rates paid for young girls. Eventually she had two children of her own, whom her mother took from her. With no education and no other skills, she continued working in the brothel, in the process becoming addicted to alcohol and cocaine.

One day a customer grew enraged when she wouldn't do what he asked, and hit her on the head with a baseball bat. She lay in a hospital bed, desperate. "I got on my knees and pled with God. I wanted somehow to escape prostitution, to become a real mother to my children. And God gave me a vision. He said, 'Look for Rahab Foundation.' I didn't even know the word Rahab." She found the organization's phone number, though, and a few days later Juanita showed up, bruised and bandaged, at Rahab's door.

"I need help," she said, sobbing. ...

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Philip Yancey
Philip Yancey is editor at large of Christianity Today and cochair of the editorial board for Books and Culture. Yancey's most recent book is What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters. His other books include Prayer (2006), Rumors of Another World (2003), Reaching for the Invisible God (2000), The Bible Jesus Read (1999), What's So Amazing About Grace? (1998), The Jesus I Never Knew (1995), Where is God When It Hurts (1990), and many others. His Christianity Today column ran from 1985 to 2009.
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In the Magazine

January 2005

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