Stephen and Leslie Fail are members of Henderson Baptist in Auckland. For the past 20 years they have been directing YWAM’s training and ministry centre in Hamburg, Germany. Stephen has just completed a Graduate Diploma in Applied Theology with Carey College which he describes as a fantastic growth experience.
Known as “the gateway to the world,” Hamburg is one of the most beautiful and affluent cities in Germany. With Europe’s third largest port, trade is Hamburg’s lifeblood. Situated in the Northern reaches of the country, it’s a bustling cosmopolitan hub with a population of 1.8 million – a diverse city, a city of contrasts, a city with two very different faces.
The face that concerns us and our ministry team is the one that deals in the trade of people. Hamburg’s red light district is famous across Europe, promising the “Größe Freiheit”, the “great freedom”. Yet instead of freedom many are trapped in a world of addiction, deep seated pain and disillusionment.
Some time ago God began to touch our hearts for the needs of those who work in the sex industry. We prayed, asking God for a door to open what would enable us to share his love and hope. We had no idea how that prayer could be answered and there seemed little chance that we could ever break into this foreign world – but that all changed with a single phone call.
A pimp who was responsible for the girls from several brothels made a desperate call to the Salvation Army. He asked if someone could come and “cheer up his girls” because they weren’t doing very well emotionally. His rationale was simple: a depressed prostitute isn’t a profitable one and he was willing to do whatever it took to make his business profitable. But God had other ideas.
The Salvation Army contacted us. God truly works in mysterious ways – who’d have ever thought that a pimp would open the door for us to take the love of God directly into his own brothels.
So, each week, from evening through to the early hours of the next morning, a team of our staff dons Salvation Army jackets and heads out to several local brothels.
It’s a rather bizarre scene; scantily clad girls, transvestites and transsexuals sitting on stools outside small rooms as clients peruse them like merchandise; and, moving amongst them, our team members. Team members literally meet with the workers in their rooms in the time between clients. They listen, pray, offer hope and share God’s love with these girls.
Despite their tragic circumstances we’re amazed at the girls’ openness. One Bulgarian girl asked for a Bible. Reading it from cover to cover in just one week she asked for volume two. She was disappointed to discover there was only one but was so deeply impacted by what she read that she gave her life to Christ and has left prostitution.
Our new sister-in-Christ is one of several to make that life-changing decision. Of course countless people still remain trapped in this destructive and deceptive lifestyle but the team is making a difference one person at a time. Now other pimps are asking when a team can come and visit their girls.
It’s an incredible privilege to be part of what God is doing in this challenging yet wonderful city. Please take some time to pray for this wonderful ministry.