I had a dream last week. I was on a mountain playing guitar and singing a song about building a wall and standing in the gap in intercession for Bucharest (Ezekiel 22:29-30). As I sang, I lifted up my eyes and the mountain became filled with women praying for the city, commanding the darkness to leave and light to come. More and more women filled the mountain, and God was moved to answer our prayers. At one point in the song, I cried out, “Who will make a wall? Who will make a wall for this city?” and then I sang and called specifically for the sex industry to collapse.
One of my daily prayers has been that God would dismantle the sex industry in this city. This city has a reputation for hedonism and sexual immorality. I know I harp on it a lot, but it’s true, and I want to see the industry completely overturned by revival. People travel here from all over the world to “try out” the women. Sex shops litter the streets. Prostitutes walk the main drags and frequent the ritzy hotels. There’s more erotic massage parlors than McDonald’s restaurants, and they advertise more militantly. Nightclubs and discos, always a quick walk away, are always packed and always full of half-naked women and free-flowing alcohol. (Sometimes you can even see a good band there.) The webcam industry is entrenched, targeting students and young women with offers of good paychecks.
I’ve been militantly asking God to close down the clubs, the sex shops, the massage parlors, the prostitution rings, the pornography distributors, the webcam enterprises, and the escort services. I’m not gonna be happy until they’re all gone and the glory of God floods the streets of this city.
I don’t wanna see women duped into immorality, whether through sex trafficking, false ideas of what love is, personal vanity, the need to survive and feed their kids, or some dumb guy who tells them he loves them but doesn’t mean it a bit. I’m tired of it.
I don’t wanna see guys seduced by women, abusing women, hooting and hollering at them on the streets, treating them like sex objects, frequenting the massage parlors, tricked into immorality by women who don’t know what they’re doing and don’t get it that they’re destroying a nation of men by their carelessness.
I didn’t mean to go this direction for this post, but my heart is aching for this city, and one of the biggest, darkest blots over here is the sex industry. Dismantle it, Jesus. Take it apart and flood this city with your freedom.
Last night, on our way back from a church service, Ben and I were approached by two prostitutes asking us to, uhh, do what you do with prostitutes. It wasn’t in an ultra-seedy area of the city. It wasn’t by all the major entertainment venues. It was just along a main road near a grocery store, in full view of everyone. It wasn’t even that late at night or a weekend. It was about 9:30 pm on a Thursday.
My heart ached for these women. The one looked really bad, like she hadn’t eaten in a while. She was a Gypsy girl, really dirty, and was out here probably because she didn’t know how to read or write, didn’t have a state ID, had never gone to school, couldn’t get a job, and had some dead-beat husband off in jail for stealing a car or something, so she was left alone to care for 5 kids. We’ve met enough Gypsy women in that situation, so while I couldn’t get this particular girl’s story, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was about the same.
The other one looked more professional, more glamorous, like the prostitutes you see in the movies, but my heart broke for her too. Maybe she was a victim of human trafficking, maybe she got into it to make some quick money, maybe a boyfriend tricked her into it. I don’t know. Either way, past the makeup and high-heels was a broken girl who didn’t know what it meant to be made in the image of God and loved by Jesus with a love incorruptible and immeasurable.
They needed the Gospel. They needed to know Jesus. But I’d forgotten my tracts, my Romanian language skills petered out, and all we could say was, “No, we don’t want it. Christians. God.” We wanted to tell them that Jesus loved them, that He had created them for more than this, that they were far more valuable in God’s sight than the few dollars guys were willing to pay them.
But we couldn’t get anything out. The closest I could come up with was, “You’re more expensive than this,” which didn’t seem like a good option. So we turned and walked away.
Almost as soon as we left, a car drove up with a young guy driving. He rolled the window down and talked to the women. Maybe I couldn’t say anything to the prostitutes, but I could use my presence for some good. Ben and I stopped, turned around, and just watched. I looked in the guy’s eyes, trying to let him know, “I know what you’re doing, and this is not cool. This is a woman made in the image of God, and you are coming here to use her for your own selfish purposes. This is my city, and what you’re doing is not acceptable here.” I contemplated staying there like that, John Wayne-ing him, just staring at him, making him feel uncomfortable enough to drive away, but after a very, very long 30 seconds, we walked away, leaving the guy there with the women, and just prayed that Jesus would intervene, bringing the fear of God.
A little down the road, I turned back and while both women were still out there, the guy was gone. Maybe they were too expensive for him, maybe they didn’t quite measure up to his tastes, or just maybe God turned his heart and drove him away.
I praise God for averting that guy last night, but he’s one guy out of so many, and those are two women out of so many. I’m not gonna be content until I see the whole industry dismantled and overturned by the glory of God.
That title should increase my daily views.
Right now, the overwhelming majority of people who come here via Google find us by searching for information on prostitutes in Bucharest. If you enter “prostitutes in Bucharest” into Google, I should be on the first page, unless it changed recently. This wasn’t intentional, but somehow a post I did on student prostitution way back here became really popular on Google and is attracting most of the hits. It’s slightly annoying, but I’ve been praying God uses it to reach people for Him.
Well, I started writing a post about our friend Sorin’s one-man stand against prostitution at a hotel in Bucharest, but then I realized my brother had already posted about it, and he did a darn fine job, so I decided just to re-post everything he said. Here it is, first appearing in Footsteps in the Deep:
My friend Sorin started work at a hotel about a month ago. He’s a dedicated Christian and a man of God, and he shares the gospel with zeal. We ‘hired’ him as our translator when Jake Martin came to Bucureşti for two weeks of evangelism. Anyhow, he got a job working at a hotel now as a bus boy. He loves the work. The pay is more than enough for him ($2/hour) and it includes one free meal every day and a couple tips here and there.
The biggest tippers are the foreign visitors seeking prostitutes, and they are certainly plentiful. Sorin told me that every night he sees many prostitutes come into the hotel, and it’s normal for a guest to ask him to find him one. They offer him 150 RON. 150 RON is only $45 US, but to put it in perspective, that’s almost a week’s pay for a public school teacher or two 12-hour shifts for Sorin or 10 trips to the theater or half a month’s rent for a college student (cockroaches included free of charge, of course). So you don’t want to say “no” to a guy offering you 150 RON for 5 minutes of work and a phone call.
Of course, although the laws are not always enforced, prostitution is very much illegal in Romania. (And, just like in the U.S., if a man is caught paying a woman for sex, she pays the fine. No, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?)
And my friend Sorin is a Christian and has always turned down the offers, stating bluntly, “I am a child of God. Why do you think I would do this thing? No, I will not find you a prostitute. And do not ask me to find someone else who will, because I will not help you in this.” Amen! I pray Sorin stays bold and the Lord blesses him so much that the other workers get jealous because of it.
But… something isn’t sitting well with me.
Of the 2 million people in Bucureşti, Sorin is one of at most 10,000 who are born-again believers. And of those 10,000, how many work at hotels? And of those, how many are willing to stand up for what’s right? And of those, how many refuse to give their co-workers the job?
And Sorin works in a small hotel. Imagine how many women are trafficked through the large ones. And add all those up throughout all of Bucureşti…
Yeah, you’re starting to feel what I’m feeling, aren’t you? A little sick to your stomach?
Pray for Bucureşti. There are many here in this city who are held in bondage to lust, and prostitution is just one of its many tentacles.
Pray for a release of godly, joy-filled holiness. Pray for men and women to become so captivated by Jesus that the idea of selling or buying sex would not even enter their minds. Pray for men and women who are whole and satisfied in Jesus, free. Pray for conviction to enter the hearts of the men who come here to abuse the law and human beings. Pray for conviction to enter the hearts of the women who use their bodies to manipulate and control men.
Pray for Bucureşti. We need it.
If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest checking out Benjamin Skinner’s book A Crime So Monstrous – Face to Face with Modern-Day Slavery. It’s an amazing work of journalism, brutal and intense in the reality of its subject. You can buy the book from Amazon or read a really good article about it here.
At one point in the book, Skinner describes underground brothels in Bucharest, where women are raped dozens of times every day. One pimp even offers to sell him one of his prostitutes, a girl with Down Syndrome, for the price of a used car. It’s sick and disturbing, but, honestly, when I read the book, what Skinner saw in Romania paled in comparison to the kind of slavery he saw in India, Africa, Haiti, and elsewhere, so it didn’t shock me like it should have.
One of the things that first got us interested in coming to Bucharest was to work against human trafficking. I saw myself as almost a Machine Gun Preacher type who’d come in and rescue all the trafficked women, lock up the pimps, and save Romania and the world from the evils of modern-day slavery. Now, as we’ve spent a year praying and asking God why He wants us here, I think I have a clearer picture that, ultimately, the thing that will end human trafficking is not one more awareness campaign or one more interdenominational nonprofit organization but the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When women get born-again, they won’t be duped into prostitution and sex slavery. When men get born-again, they won’t run underground brothels and massage parlors, and they won’t seek out their services. Educating people about human trafficking is a real necessity, but it will never end until the Gospel changes lives, it will only change shape and become some new form of evil.
The past few days, we’ve come face-to-face with some mild forms of modern-day slavery going on in Bucharest. If you can call any form of slavery mild. Slavery is slavery, however it’s packaged.
Pimps in Bucharest will keep men, women, and children as slaves, forcing them to hit the streets begging, washing car windows, or selling their bodies for sex. When the day is over, the slaves return to their pimps and give them what they earned that day. Pimps use violence, fear, manipulation, and threats to keep people under their control. The government has recommended nobody give anything to beggars or window-washers, because it all just goes into the hands of the pimps, not to the poor and orphaned that you think you’re helping. It’s a screwed up, messed up, perverted system, and it makes me sick to think people can be so cruel to other human beings.
The other day, we heard about an older woman who was raised in an orphanage here. There were so many girls and so little order that the whole place devolved into a Lord of the Flies kind of scenario – violence was common-place, alliances were made for protection, and gangs sprouted up in a bizarre ad hoc system of martial law. In the absence of Jesus, darkness is very dark.
Every time we’re in a car, people try to wash our windows, and we’re reminded again of the darkness of the human heart without God and the need for the transforming power of the Gospel.
Why am I sharing all this? Not to scare you or make you stay away from Romania, because Bucharest (and this entire nation) are really very safe and very beautiful. Bucharest has been called “The Little Paris” and “Europe’s Best-Kept Secret”. We love it here. The people are passionate and loving, the weather is amazing (so far), the food is fantastic, and it’s a little crazy at times but really fun.
Before coming here, we expected to find some evidence of human trafficking, but a lot of what we’d been reading and hearing from people was that the EU had helped Romania take care of things, so it was no longer an issue. I’m sure things are better than they were, but the reality is that there is still stuff going on that would make your stomach turn. Some friends we’ve met here, Ryan and Andrea Crozier, just came back from an anti-human-trafficking convention in Italy, where they met with a handful of street prostitutes, the overwhelming majority of whom came from Romania. You can read about it here. Were they trafficked illegally, or did they just choose a lifestyle of prostitution? I don’t know, but if 9 out of 10 prostitutes in Italy are Romanian, that’s a problem. Not that it wouldn’t be a problem if they were all Italian.
We’ve met some cool people here who are trying to end human trafficking. Some of them are raising awareness and gathering data, others are housing former trafficked women and helping them get back into regular life, others are speaking at schools and trying to bring all the different anti-human-trafficking organizations in Romania together… Andreea Gavrila, who gave us a ride to church at Missio Dei today, just got done speaking at a Christian school, where some of the girls came up to her afterwards sharing how they had friends who had been trafficked into prostitution. One of the plans she’s working on is to get a group of young Christian women to befriend the prostitutes, show them the love of Jesus, and help them escape that lifestyle.
Please pray for Andreea, Ryan and Andrea Crozier, and everyone else in Romania who is working to end human trafficking, prostitution, and all forms of slavery in this nation. Pray that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would go forth and do what it does best, bring transformation and change.
Romania is largely a “post-Christian” nation. Most people call themselves Romanian Orthodox in terms of religious affiliation, but that usually means little more than they were baptized in a church building as an infant, they attend weddings in a church building, and their funeral will be conducted by a Romanian Orthodox priest one day.
Under Communist oppression, the church prospered, with men of God like Richard Wurmbrand refusing to surrender to a Godless regime.
Now, in the freedom of democracy and a free market economy, God isn’t outlawed but ignored – not crushed beneath the feet of an iron dictatorship but trampled by the suede shoes of a generation of self-interested Black Friday pleasure-seekers.
That’s about as poetic as I’ll get here, so relish that line for a moment everyone. Aaaah, OK, now let’s move on.
When God is pushed out of society, morality follows suite. In Bucharest, a city of 35 colleges and universities, there is a growing trend toward student prostitution, whether it be in the form of massage parlours, escort services, or web cam girls. Many of these students (men and women) make good money. Some work out of their homes, others gather in collectives, and still others work as employees of video studios or modern-day pimps.
I’ve been reading some articles and interviews with the guys and girls involved with the business, and while there are some who cry “human trafficking” and “sex slavery,” and it may be true that there are elements of both of those, what has alarmed me the most is that the majority of participants (mostly women), view their business as a decent way to make an income. Prostitution and web cam work in Romania can net anywhere between $400 to $4,000 a month depending on how often you want to work and what you’re willing to do. Prostitution, according to some studies, is by far the best paying job available to women in Romania.
Due to the flexible schedule and decent pay, students are flocking to it. If there is no God beyond money, and your body is just a bunch of tissue and bone and blood, and sex is just something that feels good like cracking your back or letting out a good sneeze, then why not make a decent salary selling yourself?
I know stuff like this goes on all over the world, and the situation is actually (from what I’ve been reading) much better in Romania than some other places, but it breaks my heart that people can degrade themselves so much that they’re willing to sell their bodies for the pleasure of some random guy who really only cares about himself.
We bear the image of God. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We were created for His pleasure, not for our own selfish pursuit of money or for some random guy who’s willing to pay for sex.