March 02, 2015
Sadie and I pull into a parking space near the massage parlor but not directly in front of it. A small sign proclaiming “Foot massages" hangs in the window. Next to the sign is a picture of a foot with all its parts labeled in Chinese.
We prayed just before we left her house, ten minutes ago. We pray again now. “Father, go ahead of us. You know all about the women working in this place. You love them. Please let Your love shine through us." We take a gift bag from the backseat and go into the parlor. A woman stands behind the counter. “Massage?" she asks.
We tell her, no, we're from a church nearby and we're here with a gift for her. We just want to say hello.
The gift rattles her, and she looks around for something to offer us. “Water bottles?" She holds out one to each of us.
Sadie and I were told during our training to expect this, and we accept them, tell her thank you, and then leave.
When we are back in the car, we pray once more, thanking the Lord we were able to talk to a woman, to place the gift directly in her hands. We ask that the Bible verse—printed in Chinese—along with the candies and small treats inside the bag would be a testimony to His goodness, and we pray that the woman will be intrigued by the New Name business card and seek out more information.
New Name is a local ministry that partners with area churches to reach out and walk alongside women in sex trafficking and adult entertainment industries. It does this in two ways: 1) Outreach-pairs of women visit local adult entertainment venues with a gift bag containing a card with Scripture, candies, lotions, etc.; 2) Call Centers-women volunteers at churches make calls to women advertised online for prostitution, offering prayer and resources.
Since New Name was started in 2009 by Rez member Heather Anderson, it has expanded exponentially under its current leader, Anne, who attends another local church. Men and women at Resurrection have led weekly prayer times for New Name, donated generously to gift bags, and volunteered for outreach at various times since then. Due to the increasing numbers of volunteers from multiple churches, Anne encouraged local churches to start their own New Name chapters and thereby reach more venues. Currenly 12 chapters of New Name are based in local churches, each overseeing regular outreach, prayer, and gift bags for different venues.
Resurrection has not had its own New Name chapter—until now.
Resurrection attender Sadie Singer contacted Anne a couple months ago about joining New Name as a volunteer. A couple weeks later, I did the same. Sadie and I had never met, but Anne knew we both go to Rez, and she connected us. We both received New Name training and Anne helped us create an outreach route. She suspects all the businesses on our route are involved in sex and/or labor exploitation. We have visited each spa on our route twice now. On our second visit, we learned the names of two of the women, and one of them gave each of us a hug. All of them remembered us from our first visit. We will continue to visit these women every two weeks in the hope that we will be a visible sign of God's love for them. We have also planned our first Call Center night to phone women advertised for prostitution.
We want our New Name chapter to grow. If you are a Resurrection woman and this issue tugs at your heart, please contact Jen Underwood to find out ways you can be involved.
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October 28, 2014
In the last 5 weeks, Refuge for Women in Kentucky had to decline aid to 38 phone calls seeking shelter for a woman in distress, says Ked Frank, founder and executive director. The Christian home and rehab program provides sexually exploited women with one year of safe shelter, counseling, discipleship and job training support in a family-like environment. But it can’t keep up with the numbers of women hoping to escape a cycle of abuse.
Last Friday evening at Rez, more than 200 people from across Chicagoland celebrated the coming launch of Refuge for Women Chicago. Speakers included Ked and Michelle Frank, Congressman Peter Roskam, FBI Special Supervisory Agent Vick Lombardo, Congresswoman Barbara Wheeler, and survivor Debbie.
“The government can’t do this alone,” said Lombardo, citing the need for nonprofits and volunteers to offer a loving community for victims.
The five-year-old Kentucky-based ministry is expanding to meet needs in Miami, Las Vegas, and now Chicago. Besides aiding trafficked women, Refuge also offers help to women escaping the sexual exploitation of exotic dancing, prostituting and pornography. Thus far 87 women from 14 states have benefited, ranging from 18 to 56 years old. Ninety-three percent of them have succeeded in starting a life of dignity.
Debbie is one of them. Three years ago New Name leader Anne Polencheck and volunteers from local churches met Debbie at an adult entertainment venue only a few miles from Rez. Debbie was desperate for a better life for her and her unborn child. “God if you’re real, help me,” she prayed. Anne and her outreach partners offered to send her to Refuge for Women in Kentucky, the closest home that could help.
Last Friday night, Debbie tearfully described her healing journey with Refuge for Women. “In the last three years, I’ve learned no matter how broken I am, God still loves me,” she said. Since graduating the one-year program in 2012, Debbie has served on the worship team at her church, volunteered with Refuge, and continues to mother her 2-year-old daughter.
In 2015, Refuge for Women Chicago plans to open its doors and offer Christ’s compassion to wounded women here. To house and help one woman for one day, it costs $100. Friday’s event raised $17,000 toward the goal of a $300,000 annual budget.
If you missed the launch night event or if you want to learn more about Refuge for Women Chicago, there are many ways to get involved: