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The Hope Dealers of Honduras
Image: Spencer Platt / Getty

Late one evening in April 1997, Betsy Hake put down her felt-wrapped Bibles and gift bags and sat down on the curb between two prostitutes. A bilingual missionary from Indiana, she was exhausted from trying to reach the scantily clad women and transvestites around the downtown district of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.

Hake asked the two, "Is there anybody here who would like to trust Jesus? Who wants to really believe that Jesus can change your life?"

Nancy, who was younger and dressed more conservatively than Vilma, took a closer look at Hake. "Well, okay. I guess I'll do that." After a short discussion, Hake guided Nancy in a prayer of confession.

Encouraged, Hake turned to Vilma.

"I'm so ashamed to tell you this," said Vilma. "Nancy's my daughter. The real reason I went to the streets was because I wanted to give a different life to my child. When she got halfway through high school and saw the kind of money I was making, she followed me here. I can't make her stop!"

Vilma then told Hake that she had been praying silently alongside Nancy for an exit from the streets.

"I finally realized I couldn't do it on my own strength—that I needed Jesus."

That night, Vilma left the streets and never looked back. But when Hake offered Nancy a ride home, she declined. "You know, I would like to do that. But I owe 500 lempira [US$24] on my rent. I really need to make that money." She left in search of her next trick.

At that moment, Hake realized it would take more than reciting the sinner's prayer to persuade prostitutes to leave the sex trade. She decided to reshape her outreach by integrating efforts to overcome the poverty ...

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September 2013

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