“Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent me.” John 11:41&42
My daughter and I recently took a trip to Germany, France, and Italy. We were originally scheduled for a trip to Rome, Italy in 2018, but I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had to cancel our trip to undergo cancer treatments. Although I was disheartened tremendously about this cancellation, I held out hope that someday God would allow me the chance to visit the place where it is believed that His most devoted servant, the Apostle Paul, spent his last days in the Mamertine Prison before being executed.
While I was battling cancer, a beloved friend who is a missionary, just happened to be home on furlough from France. My heaven sent friend as I named her when we first met years before, was by my side, praying for me, as I underwent a bilateral mastectomy, twelve rounds of chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery. She knew of my disappointment in not being able to visit Rome. She said hopefully someday, when I was healed, I would have the chance to not only visit there, but also her and her family wherever they might be stationed in Europe. By the end of 2018, I was declared cancer free and my friends moved from France to Germany.
Early this year, I let my friend know that I was thinking again about planning a trip for my daughter and me to visit Rome. If time and the cost of airline tickets permitted, we planned to visit her in Germany too. I started checking on flights directly to Rome, as well as flights to Germany. To my amazement, I found that it was actually cheaper to fly first to Germany and then on to Rome versus flying directly to Rome. Such a discovery made me feel that God was affirming our stop in Germany before traveling on to Rome, but I had no idea how big of an impact it would have.
While my daughter and I were excited to see Europe as tourists, I also wanted us to participate in the work of God through my friend’s ministry program for anti-human trafficking. She eagerly agreed to set up a ministry opportunity. Upon our arrival in Germany, we ate a quick lunch and went straight to her church. Once there, we were introduced to a group of volunteers. Then, we listened as my friend gave a brief presentation on anti-human trafficking. She spoke about the impact this mission work has on ladies who are employed as prostitutes in brothels in Germany and how prostitution is a legal occupation in this country.
One thing my friend quoted from Doctors of the World really summarized the sadness of the oldest profession in the world. She quoted, “Prostitution is rarely a choice, it is always violent.” She later shared with me that the life span of people who are trafficked is seven years. Armed with this information, a small group of volunteers struck out for several brothels in the area surrounding my friend’s small town. Another group, including my friend’s children and my daughter, stayed behind to prepare gift bags of various toiletry items that would be handed out to the ladies on future brothel visits.
Although I had no idea what to expect when arriving at the first brothel location, upon seeing this place, it seemed rather non-descript except for the large pieces of metal tin that acted as a fortified fence surrounding the building with a locked gate. There were no advertisement signs of any kind because the brothels are advertised online.
The area was not what I would have considered to be seedy. It was peppered with commercial businesses up and down the quiet street. We treaded with caution. We did not park our cars directly in front of the brothel because of the possibility the controllers or handlers of the prostitutes could track down where the mission volunteers and their families live.
My friend and another mission partner were the representatives that went in for the visits with the ladies. They have been many times before and are actually welcomed by the gatekeepers, if the gate is open, due to their bringing the toiletry gift bags for the ladies. These gift bags are intended to bring hope. Bible verses written in various languages are included.
The other group of mission volunteers, including me, stayed behind on the street, in front of the brothel, to participate in a prayer walk. We walked back and forth on the street, taking turns to pray out loud, quietly. We asked God to allow the gate to be open for the visit and for Him to move in the hearts of these ladies in a way that would let them know that He is able to set them free from a life of prostitution.
After a short time, my friend and her mission partner, appeared outside the brothel on the street exclaiming that the gate was open. They were allowed in for a visit. My friend stated that normally the gate is not unlocked until much later in the afternoon. However on this day, the gate was left open for one of the ladies because she is seeking to move away from the work of prostitution and has obtained a second job. We recognized that God had miraculously appointed her arrival from her second job to the brothel to coincide with the mission visit.
That afternoon, we continued on to a few more locations conducting the same routine of prayer walking for our friends as they entered in the brothels. At one point, I noticed there were weeds in the cracks of the sidewalk that had the most beautiful, tiny, yellow flowers blooming in the bright sun. As we continued to walk back and forth past these weeds, I sensed God reminding me of how the ladies of the brothels are like the tiny flowers in the weeds. They are often overlooked, ignored and trampled, but God has sent His light through my friend and all the other volunteers to help these Rahabs-in -the-making understand they are beautifully created by Him and indeed not forgotten.
At the end of this mission day, my friend and the other volunteer came back to report about the amazing amount of miracles God had performed through their visits in the brothels. They said they had not experienced the likes of this many miracles ever before. They excitedly told of one such miracle. They were able to pray with one of the ladies. She humbly told them that she knew God had sent them to her that very day. Hearing this tender testimony, made me think of Acts 16:14, when Paul spoke of the things about God to Lydia, the lady in Philippi, and the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul.
Later that evening, I shared my experience with my Bible study teacher back in the states, via text and she said, “Lots of people don’t understand how a prayer walk and simply praying at home are different.” This statement was thought provoking to me. On the last day of our visit, I told my friend’s teenage daughter that statement. She replied that God sometimes asks people to pray at home but there are other times that He asks them to go to a country and pray. She has witnessed this time and time again when her mother has gone to a country to prayer walk for the cause of anti-human trafficking.
This beautiful, wise beyond-her-years, teenager then told me that even Jesus opted at times to go and pray for someone rather than pray where He was, such as He did when He learned that Lazarus had died and departed for Bethany to display the power of prayer in person to Martha and Mary.
After reflecting on these words, I realized that God intentionally rerouted my trip to Rome, Italy in 2018 for His good purpose. Although I have prayed at home for years for my friend’s ministry, this time God asked me to go to the country of Germany and pray directly as I watched my heaven sent friend eagerly step into brothel after brothel as Jesus in disguise. Through these prayers, God allowed this Mary to see the glory of God first hand.
Written by Mary Newby