Winter outreaches in Sofia
On these bitterly cold winter nights, we go out on the highway around Sofia expecting to see four or five women. Such had been the case for most of December. We think maybe some of the women took time off due to the cold, or maybe for the holidays.
For three consecutive Sundays we did Christmas outreaches. Under communism in Bulgaria, when Christmas was not openly celebrated, New Year’s was the big holiday. So we took advantage of December 23, December 30 and January 6 to take the story of Christmas “on the road”. We saw only six or seven girls the first two times, so imagine our surprise when we saw 11 women the night of January 6! It was an interesting and most blessed night for us….
Word spread quickly that we had Christmas cookies, hot chocolate and coffee, gift bags for the women, and special gifts for their children. At one point, there were four or five women around the car, smiling and talking excitedly. Several of the women told us how they look forward to our Sunday visits, and one shared how she normally did not work on Sundays, but that she now comes out because she knows we will be there with a cup of hot coffee and an encouraging word, and that it is the highlight of her week. WE are encouraged when we hear such words from the girls!
Then, one of the younger women asked us, “Why do you do this? Why do you come out here in the cold night to see us?” We answered, “Because we love you, and we want to show Jesus’ love to you.” Another woman asked, “But doesn’t Jesus think what we do is a sin?” We responded, “He does see what you are doing and this is a sin, but He loves you and wants a better life for you. Are you really happy doing this work?” Most of the women said they did not like it, but that they could not find any other work. We told those gathered the story of Jesus’ conversation with the woman caught in adultery in John 8, how no stones were thrown at her because none are without sin, and how Jesus is able to forgive our sins, no matter what we do or how terrible we think we are. With His words “Go now and leave your life of sin”, Jesus saved her from stoning as well as from an eternity in hell.
Then came a whopper of a question. “How is this MY sin, when I am out here night after night, in the cold, working to take care of my family? If I do not come home tonight with some money, my children will not eat. All of these things are being done TO me. I do not have a choice; my family is relying on me.” Tough question. Even tougher to answer. The women run into the trees and bushes along the side of the road to hide whenever the police come around, and this happened right at that moment, before we could reply to her question. Maybe we will be able to address it with her in the coming weeks.
Please pray for these women as they begin to trust us more and share more of their hearts with us. Pray for us that God will give us the right words to answer their hard questions. Pray for them that they will see that God really does love and value them and wants more for them.
January 11 is “Human Trafficking Awareness Day” in the United States. Europe’s day is October 18. No matter the date, please continue to pray for the end of sex trafficking in Bulgaria and around the entire world. Although not original to me, this is a great way to remember to pray for the women and girls who are caught up in this modern-day slavery:
--As you drive, at every RED LIGHT pray for the Red Light Districts all over the world.
--Every time you enjoy a CUP OF COFFEE, think of the girls we visit each Sunday, especially on those cold winter nights, giving them a hot cup of coffee, an encouraging word, and sometimes a gift we’ve made especially for them.
--Every time you see a STOP SIGN, pray for sex trafficking to stop all over the word, and for those ministries everywhere which are reaching out with the love of Jesus to these women and girls, and even to the men and boys involved.
--Every time you see your CHILDREN or grandchildren, pray for those children around the world who are most at risk and vulnerable to falling into the trap of human trafficking.
“If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again, he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
--John 8: 7-11 (NIV)