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Three ways you can help the exploited find unconditional love in Christ
April 23, 2015
By Laura Fielding
SOUTHEAST ASIA—About a year ago, Emily Ryman* hadn’t even met a prostitute, much less imagined herself running a halfway house.
But after God burdened this IMB worker’s heart for the exploited in this part of Southeast Asia — which is a source country for human trafficking and becoming a destination for child sex tourism — she knew that awareness wasn’t enough. She had to act.
“Once you know how fiercely God loves these people, you can’t just turn your back,” Ryman says.
One of her Southeast Asian Christian friends had persuaded some prostitutes to leave their profession, but that left the women with no income for their families.
“They were forced to choose between putting the child in an orphanage or returning to prostitution,” Ryman says. “So the women would always return to their sin, as opposed to giving up their kids.”
Ryman, 38, is the founder and director of Freedom House. The idea is to provide these women with an all-expenses-paid place to rehabilitate, learn job skills and heal with their children — a “free, safe, loving place” to live for six months while they rebuild their lives.
"We go out at night and talk with women working in the sex industry and try to encourage them that they were created for a greater purpose,” Ryman says. “We’ve made some great friends and learned a lot about what their lives are really like.”
The house opened in the fall of 2014, but no women have gone through the program yet. Many women have said “yes” and then backed out, but Ryman says, “God’s timing is always perfect, even when it’s inconvenient to me.”
Through trying to reach prostitutes who hang out behind the local train station, Ryman and her team discovered a large group of street children whose mothers are almost all prostitutes.
Although a Muslim organization had started a free library for the children to have a place to play, they were doing nothing to improve their lives or education. The library leaders asked Ryman’s team to teach the children, ages 4-12, about sexually transmitted diseases.
The team was shocked, but realized these children are subjected to abuse and inappropriate behavior in their environments.
“These kids are little more than a side effect of the job to their mothers, so the women don’t make an effort to protect or care for their kids. If anything, they are contributing to their exploitation.”
Ryman’s team has been able to build relationships with about 20 street children, teach them important life lessons, show them love and “tell them how precious they are to Jesus,” Ryman says. She hopes to expand their influence there as God allows and continue giving these children a safe place to turn to.
Here are three ways you can get involved with Freedom House:
1. ADVOCATE: Become a OneLife advocate (onelifematters.org/advocates) for the “One Freedom House” project, and help raise prayer and financial support. Of course, money is necessary, but prayer is really what’s vital. “We need people to stand guard for us in prayer and to fight for us in prayer,” Ryman says.
2. EDUCATE: Youth workers can make an impact for the future by discipling junior high boys into Christ-like men who respect women, shun pornography and stand up for the vulnerable and trafficked.
3. VOLUNTEER: Once Freedom House has residents, college-aged and above volunteers can teach skills, provide counseling, work with street children and prayerwalk.
“These women are God’s daughters. He loves them, and so we have to fight for them,” Ryman says. “These women have never heard someone tell them that God loves them. They’ve never had anyone fight for them.”
Click here to give to this project.
Laura Fielding is an IMB writer.