>The car pulled up beside a corrugated iron maze of buildings. I stepped over rubbish and fought off the stench of rotting trash mingled with urine. We passed through a gate into a series of room like shacks. Drunk men wandered in the courtyard.
Though I was out of place, I was divinely out of place. I had stepped into my first brothel in Juba. Most of the women were from surrounding nations. But some were Sudanese and many very very young.
The rooms were only known by numbers and were barely big enough for the beds they contained. These were the women’s working AND living space. We stepped out of the mid afternoon sun into the shade of one of the rooms that had tennage girl in it. She was here by choice, quite good at her “profession” and hadn’t yet discovered she was worth so much more than she thought.
She was sick so we prayed and held her. She held onto me for dear life. I wondered was this first pure touch she had had in weeks or months? I could feel the love of a Father who weeps for his broken daughters pouring out into the void of her heart.
More women invited us in and soon we were having a prayer meeting / counseling session/ time to hear stories. We were different. We didn’t come to preach at them and tell them they were wrong and should leave. Already they felt such shame.
We came to lift up their downcast faces and look them in their eyes and call out their destiny. You are beautiful. God is not mad at you. He loves you and weeps at your pain. We came to listen and value their stories. What has caused you to come here? Story after story unfolded.
Many were sent by families to make ends meet. Some were widowed and this was the only option they could find. Some were brought under false pretenses thinking their work would be respectable in a restaurant (which is human trafficking by the way). Some of the younger ones had been sleeping on the street and were being repeatedly raped every night and figured they might as well have a bed and get paid.
Speaking of being paid. This is not a lot of money we are talking of. Basic survival expense including rent and food in the brothel we were visiting was about 30 SDG/day. This means the women need 5-6 customers/day just to break even. If they go into debt they become slaves to the owners of the brothel and are subject to beatings, being locked in sweltering rooms with no ventilation and other horrific things. Let me translate that for you. $12 USD/day. Less than $3 USD PER “hit” (customer). They are selling themselves for the same price as a carton of mango juice.
What can be done? We have had the JOY of ransoming 2 precious girls out of prostitution and a third on the way next week to bring them home to be with us and be rehabilitated. It will cost us about $125 to pay off her debts. We are so so overjoyed we can help bring precious gems to freedom.
One of the ones who live with us now, Kateh- she is planting bambe (sweet potatoes), going to school and beginning to look and act like a 14 year old instead of the old woman I hugged when I greeted her on her arrival.
But what about the women who are too old to come home here? We are working with partner ministries in neighboring countries of their origin to get them rehabilitation and job training. If they don’t have anything to return to, they will come back. So we will get them out and get them connected and our friends in other countries will receive them and help them be restored.
The need is great. I will be making regular trips to Juba to work with our newly adopted Iris base there who is focusing on these issues. We have partnered and adopted Confident Children Out of Conflict as the newest part of our Iris Sudan family: adopting their centers and work to help raise awareness abroad, be a part of sowing into their needs practically and financially, providing spiritual counsel and support, and just to be family together reaching out to the most broken and vulnerable of South Sudan’s populaces.