We have spent the first part of our trip in Amsterdam meeting with organizations, learning about their work here and exploring the beautiful canals and praying through the back alleyways.
In past years we have prepared for 3rd world issues…lack of water, filthy streets and extreme poverty. We now fin ourselves with lovely flower lined streets, drinkable water, and hot showers! Yet we encounter a new type of evil…the evil of treating people as a commodity.
Many of the girls working are from Latin countries, Eastern European countries and from Southeast Asia. Ironically as we have encountered trafficking and prostitution in other parts of the world, Amsterdam becomes the hub. It is unclear how many end up in Amsterdam by choice, through disillusionment, or trafficked.
There are not solid numbers of how many women working in the sex industry in Amsterdam are trafficked, but some have estimated that up to 75% are working against their will.
Trafficking is a lucrative business. An average slave in the American South in 1850 cost the equivalent of $40,000 in today’s money; today a slave costs an average of $90. (Free the Slaves).
The bottom line in meeting with various organizations is that very few choose the life of the Red Light District. A survey of a cross-section of women working in the red light district found that 92% would stop tomorrow if they had other options.
One of the organizations we visited has offered just that…another option. They started a culinary training program that aims to rehabilitate those forced to work in the sex industry throughout Amsterdam. These girls are rescued, housed in safe homes and trained in various restaurant jobs.
We enjoyed tasting their creations and supporting their efforts. Their tag line is “Eat well. Do good.” They are fighting trafficking in Amsterdam and making a difference…one life and meal at a time…yum!
On another day I sat in a small cafe and heard the stories of a woman who has befriended women in the Red Light District for the past 20 years. Each week she visits the ladies working the windows with a hot cup of coffee and sincere friendship. She offers a Bible study, hosts dinners at her home and is known to many as one who loves Jesus.
There is much information to process. Although there is much darkness in Amsterdam, we have seen the Light shining. In the organizations we met with, there is camaraderie working together to bring hope, spread the love of Jesus and to put their faith into action.
I have prayed Psalm 27:13-14 over the past years for our family. As we brainstorm, think and pray over Amsterdam, I pray it again…
“I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart