If you would have asked me six months ago about the prostitutes in my city, I would have said; "they choose to be a sex trade worker", "they can choose to not be one, if they want", "they are earning a viable income for themselves and their dependents". But if you asked me today it would be a different story.
My journey to find my place in the fight against human trafficking started with a friend challenging me to read "Invisible Chains" by Benjamin Perrin. Then I volunteered to coordinate a Defend Dignity Forum. A year later I saw a Facebook post about volunteers needed for the Salvation Army Women's Ministry to the women who work on the streets of my city. That Sunday in church our guest speaker challenged me to put myself in a place where I could love others with whom I would not normally associate, or consider difficult to love. So I said "YES" and began serving in the VAN MINISTRY. The Salvation Army Van goes out every evening from 9:00PM to 2:00AM and seeks to serve women with food, practical items, clothing and prayer as an "oasis" away from the streets!
At first I was moved by the tears which flowed when you pray with these women. Second, after doing some intentional praying that God would help me set aside my own judgmental attitudes and pre conceived ideas about prostitutes, I learned they are not UNLIKE me! They have suffered losses of loved ones, care about their families, like to look pretty, long to be loved, valued and respected. Third, I was not prepared to see how raw life is for these women. Mental illness, addiction and the cycle of abuse is at the root of it all. Lastly I realize, as do all the women I now volunteer with, that if I had been born under different circumstances, I too could be on the streets.
So ask me today about the prostitutes in my city? I would say they are victims which need protection. The only choice they make each day is to survive. They are caught in a cycle which, if they want to get out requires a tremendous amount of support. The poverty they live in disproves prostitution is a viable income generating business.
I am on a journey to find my place in this fight, for now, it's helping on the van one Sunday night a month! Praying for the women and the ministry for the other nights!
Melody Kilbank is actively involved in her home church Beulah Alliance in Edmonton, Alberta. As a real estate professional for over 10 years she has an appreciation for her city and the people in her community. Previously she was involved in full time pastoral ministry for 20 years. Hobbies include travelling with her husband Brian, baking (especially at Christmas time), photography, and golf.