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Business proposition

"Business proposition" Continued...

Issue: "All's fair at the fair," Aug. 25, 2007

Rahab teams average three visits per week to bars in Patpong and Na Na Soi, another Bangkok red-light district. Team members start by getting acquainted, building trust in hopes of eventually sharing the gospel with prostitutes. Speaking in Thai, they strike up conversations and ask about the women's families and whether they have children. They hold the women's hands, embrace them, and comfort them.

"Some ask why we do that," Ning said. "They say, 'only men do that.'"

They can't talk about Christ in the bars, so instead they ask the workers about their health, and whether they want to leave the bars. The response is often yes, Ning said, but the women feel responsible to send money home for their children and families.

Another Rahab staffer, Salisa Mekha (whose nickname is "Toon"), says many of the bar girls are teenagers from the upcountry. They may come as young as 13 and often have had three or four abortions by the end of their teen years. She said all provinces in Thailand have the same problem with young women and prostitution. "They actually have family pressure," she said, adding that some are even urged to leave husbands and children to go earn money for their families. Some women are tricked into marrying a Farang and then are hired out for sex to others.

One way the ministry is able to attract women is through its outside residence for former club workers, Rahab House. They can live there for up to two years while they recover, develop skills for other types of employment, and work for the ministry. Ning says they are always looking for sponsors for the women; a sponsorship costs about $150 per month in U.S. currency. She estimates that in Rahab Ministries' 17-year existence, approximately 600 women have been saved out of the bars and have come to Christ.

Not all the women left their former lives through bar invitations. Some walk through Rahab's doors on their own via the ministry's business venture: a beauty salon. Between 20 and 30 women, who are attracted by the salon's good service and reasonable prices, visit each day before "work." Some former bar workers found new careers in hairdressing with Rahab.

Others who depart the sex trade work in Rahab's other revenue producing business: jewelry making, which sells through distributors in the United States, England, Australia, and New Zealand, and also sells through the internet. The ministry helps others through community college--type training so they can eventually leave Rahab House and support themselves.

A few Bangkok churches help support Rahab. The ministry is increasingly burdened to help the children of women who have left prostitution. With help from Habitat for Humanity, Rahab is constructing an 18-room house for women and their children. Ministries Geneva Global and Samaritan's Purse together fund the project, due to open in December. Currently 11 children (with their mothers) are in the ministry's care, living in rented homes.

According to Ning, Rahab Ministries has an amazing success rate among those who leave the bars. In her time there, Ning saw only one woman go back-for three days until she found another job. All who stayed out ultimately came to faith in Christ. The challenge is persuading them to get out to begin with. "We only get the ones that really, really want to leave," Zook said.

For most of the women, it's an economic decision. "It's hard," Ning said. "We don't have the money to throw at them to get them to come [to us]."

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