It’s human trafficking awareness month and here at YWAM Lausanne we have a ministry that is very passionate about seeing God’s kingdom come to even the darkest of streets. ‘The Walk’ is a powerful initiative that ministers to many people each week. In this feature, we’ll provide an inside look into how God is working in this area of our community.
At least 3.9 million adults and children are bought and sold into commercial sexual servitude, forced and bonded labor.
Of those millions there are around 15,000 trafficked adults and children in Switzerland alone.
A massive 19% of the population in Switzerland are involved in the industry or use these services yearly.
There is a very long street in Lausanne, a paved two lane road that wraps around into the next street over with tall grey buildings, minimal street lights, and several alley ways. This street comes alive around 9:30 pm, any day of the week. Prostitution is legal here in Switzerland and it can be registered as a profession. Both legally and illegally you will find more than 30 women just on this one strip of town.
You can find girls from the age of 16 to women in their mid 40s coming from Nigeria, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, and Spain. They’re all coming to Switzerland for one reason and thats to make money. But, most of all you can see the need in their eyes for acceptance, love, and genuine compassion just as our father does for us.
Vanessa Randewijk, one of the leaders of ‘The walk’ and a long serving staff member here in Lausanne, had received the word, ‘compassion’. She thought “okay, compassion… for the children, for the young adults, through evangelism,” but God had different plans. A few weeks later her husband received a phone call. The phone call was from group of women from a town a half hour away looking to minister to the many women on the street in the city of Lausanne.
In January 2013 Vanessa started The Walk with others sharing this vision and took Jesus’ compassion to the streets and to these women who are trafficked.
They walk in obedience to what God has placed before them. Not really sure what would come from it. These women from The Walk gather hot tea, coffee, chocolate, and other snacks and take to the streets of Lausanne to find Gods lost sheep in the simplest of ways and offer nothing but love and a gentle spirit willing to show them compassion. Although they don’t know it, Jesus is meeting them there on that long and dark road and those alley ways under neon lights where they only expect to see customers. After all, that’s how it began for Lisa*.
There is so many ways God has moved in this area of Lausanne but one that would stick in the hearts with the women of The Walk ministry is a women named Lisa. They met Lisa in 2014 when as usual, they approached the women by offering tea or coffee, which lead to conversation as it often does with the girls. They went back every week and spoke to her and prayed for her on and off the street for a year and one day, she had had it with the streets.
She dreamt of becoming a beautician. One common prayer within the ladies of the ministry is that they always ask God for a way out of the industry for the people who are trapped in it. After a year of constant prayer and support from the women of the ministry, God provided her with some financial support for some training in the beauty area and an opportunity to get a diploma.
It’s been 2 years and they have become friends with Lisa. She has now done a few courses at a local church about going deeper into a relationship with Christ, with the support of the women in the ministry. She is now working on getting out of the street permanently and towards her dreams of owning a business for beauty.
Just like Jesus does for us, Vanessa and the team aim meet people where they’re at. They are the hands and feet of Jesus, meeting many of those people where they’re at, bringing God’s love and hope to that very strip, even if they don’t recognize it through their simple gestures of coffee or tea and conversation.
Sex trafficking is real. We fear that some of us are too far removed from the reality of it to allow to sink in. But every week, the ministry team push to build relationships with these people who have suffered from the injustice and abuse.
But the truth is, our God is even bigger and is wildly in love with everyone. No matter where they are in “their walk”.
And The Bible says Gods word never returns void. Just like Lisa deciding to walk away only from the strength of God and him making a way out for her before she even knew it. One thing we can all do is join in by praying and interceding on behalf of the exploited and trafficked. We can contend for justice and healing by supporting ‘The Walk’ ministry as they help exploited women. We can be educated, aware, and ready to share God’s love with all those involved.
John 13:34-35, ESV A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Matthew 18:12, ESV And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.
Will you join us in prayer?
*the name of the women has been changed to protect her privacy
images by Jukka Veltheim