bars n brothels

last week, i went to see Les Miserables… 
at. the. movie. theater. 
we rarely go to the movie theater, so i was wide eyed and giddy like a kid in a candy shop like i am normally.
i went with my sister in law, Amber… aaaaand, we were the only two people in the theater.
we snuggled into our seats, watched every frame with our eyes glued to the screen, and belted out the tunes along with the cast.
i love the Les Mis story and the music. 
i’ve seen it on broadway. 
but this time, i watched it from a mothers perspective…
this time, Fantine’s story struck me deeply…
her sacrifice and hard work to provide for Cosette.
her hopelessness and the depth of her despair, driving her to a place where she stopped living, even before she died.
the brothel. 

watching this story play out in a movie is one thing – seeing it in ‘real life’ is another.

on friday nights, a small group from our church goes out from 10pm-3am to serve the late night crowd in our community. we call it the Living Water Bar ministry.
we pray for the Holy Spirit to lead us as we go to different bars in our town, offering coffee and water to those in need. and we pray for opportunities to connect with and pray for the people we meet.

last friday night i had the opportunity to go out with the group for the first time.
we went to the first bar we felt led to, and talked with the bouncers.  then the manager told us we could not serve there.
oh well. adam was able to pray with one of the bouncers before we left.
then we regrouped in the parking lot, praying about our next move.
nearby is an antique store we frequent and the whole area has a sense of darkness and desperation.
close by that bar and area is a strip club i have felt drawn to pray for the last 8 years we’ve lived here.
so i suggested – let’s go to Rachel’s!
as soon as we drove around the corner, my heart started pounding and i felt heat.
my spirit rose up and i started to pray.
this is what happens to me when i sense the Holy Spirit moving and prompting me to move.

we pulled up, stood outside with our coffee and water under the awning near the front door, prayed and waited.
The presence of the Holy Spirit was so strong.
we got the sense to go behind the building.
i heard the Lord whisper ‘back door’ and ‘the battle of Jericho‘.
so a few of us walked back and the spiritual heaviness increased.
we noticed the back door with a dumpster in front of it, and behind the strip club was a motel…
or rather, a brothel.
as we walked and prayed, i had a picture flash across my mind, of a woman being pushed out of the back door and then another picture flash of death over the empty swimming pool behind the club, next to the brothel.
we walked down the ally parking lot area, in between the club and the brothel.
we didn’t have any fear, but rather an awareness of the Lord’s protection.
we each prayed silently as we walked, a few cars came in and out of the lot in front of the brothel and we saw a few guys coming in and out of the brothel doors. we realized we would not be able to circle the building (as in the battle of Jericho), so we walked back toward the front of the club.
again we waited and prayed.
we offered coffee and water to a few people coming in and out of the club and then a young lady came out for a smoke break. my friend kristen engaged in conversation with her for a few minutes before she went back inside.
we then felt led to walk behind the building again.
this time, kristen and i saw two young ladies waiting outside one of the brothel doors.
we approached them, offering coffee and water while nick and james waited for us, watching out for us.
they said no thanks to the coffee water but as we talked with them for a few minutes, i asked ‘well, do you need prayer for anything? we’d love to pray for you!’
they said ‘yes’ and kristen prayed a prayer of God’s love, protection and care over them.
in the meantime, i kept my eyes open watching several guys come in and out of the brothel doors on the 2nd floor and go up and down the stairs. nick and james were watching too, keeping an eye out for us. one of the guys approached us, totally strung out, as we started praying. he was meeting the girls. they told him to wait until after we prayed for them…he walked away for a few minutes.
then as we were almost finished praying, he got ansy and came back saying, ‘sorry i need to rush this, but, umm… we’ve got stuff to do’.
{really dude? stuff to do? no shit. i think we are all aware of what you are doing.}
 we calmly said ‘that’s fine’ and thanked the girls for being open to us praying for them. then said good bye, telling them again how beautiful they are and sharing God’s love for them.
we walked back to the front of the club, and continued praying protection and for the light to shine thru the darkness all around that place.
while we were behind the club, adam had engaged in conversation with a guy leaving the club, who said he was a christian and ended up giving him a ride home. (hopefully adam will write a blog on that whole story another time).
then the young lady kristen had talked with earlier came out again. she talked with her some more and that young lady received prayer!
we prayed for our next step, and were led to a few other bars and prayed with a few other precious people the Lord led us to that night.

my heart was full and broken at the same time.
we were obedient to listen, hear God’s direction and minister to those He led us to.
but we don’t know what happened to the people we prayed for.
we have hope that God’s love covered them and protected them that night.
we hope and pray that one day they will surrender to their own personal relationship with Jesus.
and the Lord reminded me why we go ~ to listen to the story everyone has to share.
like the woman at the well in John 4:1-42, Jesus wants us to show His love and living water to those in need of Him.
like Fantine, some women feel they have no choice but to strip or prostitute themselves in order to provide their children. some are forced into a brothel life by human trafficking or bonded labor.
there is no simple answer to the desperate need the brothel cries out for.
but, there is love...
this is why we go out to pray for people in need.
  because as Christ followers, we are called to love the most desperate.
we are called to be light in darkness {Matthew 5:13-16}

this is an extremely sensitive subject matter.
i am no expert and there is no easy answer or quick fix.
but i do know God’s love can be the light in the darkness this world so desperately needs.
please, let me know your thoughts.