HEY FRIENDS – So I held out a little while on sending an update as didn’t have enough to say and now I’ve probs left it to long and have too much to say; I’ve tried to keep it as condensed as possible. THE INTERESTING BIT IS TOWARDS THE END SO SKIP TO THAT BIT IF YOU DONT WANT TO READ IT ALL!
LIFE AT YWAM
I have been in Lake View Terrace, L.A for three weeks now exactly. Our base is in the middle of a beautiful valley, looking very dry and brown as we’re in a drought. We’re about half an hour from Dowtown LA (and we have no cars and poor public transport so we don’t get out loads) – outside our base one side is a neighbourhood of Gangs and the other side is a K.K.K community. We are well and truly in the ‘hood’ – on a next level from Essex or Nottingham! But we’re assured nothing bad has ever happened on base, and the sun is permanently shining which is enough to keep me happy.
Our team is made up of 27 people from 9 different countries, ranging between the ages of 17-26. 22 of these are girls who I share a cabin with…it is mad (in the positive and negative sense). But they are all great and it’s been so fun getting to know the different cultures and backgrounds. This joy is increased by the fact that they all think I’m very ‘proper’ … a word as Essex girl I’ve never been described as before.
The first week was mostly settling in/intro stuff and then the last two weeks we’ve had lectures on various ‘discipleship topics’ including the Nature of God, Grace, Hearing God’s Voice etc etc. The speakers have been amazing and I’m learning a ton. Our schedule starts at 7am and sometimes we have stuff til 10pm . Which is pretty full on but it’s all helpful! We have small groups and mentors and work duties (I’m on the site maintenance team, of course…) and LOADS of food and worship and lectures and all sorts of training bits.
Human Trafficking wise we’ve had various ‘focused’ sessions; we had a lady come speak to us who has set up multiple H.T Ministries internationally after being finding herself wandering down the red light district when she was an English teacher in South Korea and she began teaching English to the Prostitutes there. She was an incredible woman!
I’ve learnt sooo much about the industry and my eyes have been opened to just how huge and dark it is! We’ve looked a bit at the different types of trafficking, particularly the ‘Game’ of Sex trafficking. Just a couple of things – I didn’t realise that the majority of Prostitutes are manipulated and exploited into the trade. In America 100000 to 300000 children are commercially sexually exploited each year – the average age to enter prostitution is 12/13. One of the things that shocked me the most is that in LA 50 – 80% of the girls (not very specific I know) who are sold on the street have come from the Foster Care System. The foster care children in America and also in the UK are targeted by traffickers because of their vulnerability – their need for love, affirmation, and protection – so they are easily exploited. It’s so messed up – the Pimps train the girls to call them Daddy, they manipulate them so much into dependency on them. There’s just so much need for secure foster care and adoption – just one aspect that would hugely help this seemingly endless issue.
So after having training with a charity called Afterhours, on Friday I did my first ‘outreach’ in Downtown LA. 3 of us from our YWAM team went out with a wider team – we were split into two teams of 5 so I was with a lady, two guys and then another girl from YWAM. We went out from 12am – 2am, and all the time there was a team at the charity base praying for us and the people we meet. We drove down what is called the ‘Track’ which is the road where the girls are. It’s fully in the Ghetto – a very busy road and lots of Gangster looking people hanging around. But despite the scary looking place – I felt an amazing peace as we got out the car and walked around – a definite product of prayer. The street that we were on usually has up to 100 girls on various street corners but we were told that there had been a whole load of police around the area just before we’d got there, so there were hardly any! We only saw about 10-15 girls and interacted with 8 of these. They just stood around in bra’s and knickers or thongs in heals and flats. Some of them were really ‘done up’ and others looked very dirty and rugged. It’s so sad because the average age is 19, so most of them would have been younger than I am.
We had a conversation with a group of 3 girls on a corner and gave them all gift bags (this is what we do – give them bags with various gifts in as well as a card with our helpline number and we encourage them to call it if they need anything/ are looking to escape etc). But sadly we’re not allowed to talk to them for long because the pimps or their runners drive past regularly and check up on the girls, and we’d put them at risk of being beaten up more because they’ll lose business. As we were talking to these three another girl came and joined us – my heart is really broken for her. She was really shy and just looked so lost and fearful, she had such an innocent face and couldn’t have been older than 16, her show name is Destiny. We were able to pray with her but then had to leave straight away, but as we walked away we said goodbye and she just looked so desperate. Many of them are moved each week to different cities so they can’t build relationships. Another girl our team met was called Brianna and she had 3 children at home, one of whom was in hospital in a coma. These women have so little, and are oppressed and mistreated horrendously by the men who ‘own’ them and yet when you meet them you realise that they are just like you are me – they’re not scary or gross, they’re just girls like me who have been majorly mistreated and girls who are trapped.
It was amazing to be able to go out and meet with them, pray with them, and just care for them – showing love and support in such a dark dark industry. But it seems so hopeless; just giving them a gift bag seems so pathetic in light of how tragic their situation is but I have to trust that it makes a difference, them knowing they’re cared for by someone, and hope that they’ll have the boldness to call the help line and that the more we meet with them that the relationship would build! God wants them out of that and he’ll fight for them!
Anyway if you’ve got this far down the update thank you! I hope this has been interesting and that this stirs in you a desire to find out more about trafficking and to pray about it – because it really is a real reality worldwide, even in England.
Again a couple of prayer points:
– Pray for Destiny and Brianna – that they might find freedom. That we’d be able to find them again and have good conversations with them, encouraging them call the helpline.
– Pray for our Outreach teams that the ways in which we can reach girls would develop and that what we do would be effective. (We’ll be doing that every week.)
– Pray that my heart would grow for the girls and that I wouldn’t feel hopeless but believe that freedom will be found for these because that’s God’s heart for them.
THANKS SO MUCH! APOLOGIES ITS SO LONG!! LOVE TO YOU ALLLLL!
Luke 4.18 – Jesus said: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners…to set the oppressed free.”