NEWS | Anne Lim
Eternity #68 April 2016
A group of women from various churches in Perth are showing the love of Jesus to sex workers in city brothels by offering free massages and nail-painting services on a weekly basis.
The Pamper Van service was started by Sarah, a former prostitute and drug addict, and urban missionary Sharon Beel, who were looking for a way to invest in a ministry to sex workers.
“Over the years we’ve seen girls come to the Lord. We’ve seen girls miraculously healed and I’ve helped women who have been trafficked get out of that situation,” says Beel.
“Almost every girl I’ve had a lot to do with has had somebody try to take their life or they’ve tried to take their own life.”
Beel was not sure if the brothels would let them come inside, so they kitted out a van with cushions with the idea of inviting the prostitutes to come to them. But it turned out that the brothel managers were happy for them to offer the service inside, so they no longer have a van.
Regular Pamper Van volunteer Angeline Teo says a group of eight to ten women visit three brothels a week after working hours.
“We would like to do more but we don’t have enough volunteers to go around,” she said.
“The goal of the service is to show Jesus’ love for them, so we try to build relationships; we’re not there just to do a job and then leave. The goal is to show the girls that we really do care about them as a person.
“We found that sometimes the girls will say, ‘Oh, you girls are so nice, why free, why free?’ And we say, ‘Well, because we’re Christians and believe that Jesus loves you and we want to be able to show Jesus’ love to you.’ Sometimes they’ll ask more.”
While a few women have become Christians and left the sex industry, it is very slow work, Angeline says. “I don’t believe anyone wakes up one day and says ‘I’m going to be a prostitute.’ Their lives are always a mess,” she says. “One girl a year-and-a-half ago was high as a kite and one of the managers called us and said ‘Can you come and talk to this girl because she’s a complete mess?’ So a couple of our volunteers went in and just had a chat with her and prayed with her and she accepted Christ then and there, but it was another six months before she agreed to go to rehab.
“Another girl had a Christian background but was running away from God and ended up in one of the brothels. When I first encountered her she was amazed that we were in there and we prayed with her. Then she got pregnant and she was going to have an abortion, but we prayed and tried to talk her out of it. Eventually she didn’t have the abortion and the last I heard she’s been well and is not working any more.”
Inspired by the example of a Chinese prostitute who was going to church but couldn’t get out of the industry, Beel is now working on a new service called Alabaster.
A registered charity, it will help both Australian and overseas sex workers leave the industry by providing rehab from their chaotic lifestyle, assistance with visas, study and employment.