Hurricane Harvey and Sex Exploitation

One thing is for certain, natural disaster doesn’t discriminate. Also certain, natural disaster hits the poor and disenfranchised the hardest. For the past few days Brett and I have spent hours on the phone with family, friends, churches, and ministry partners who are picking up the pieces OR simply still surviving the effects of Hurricane Harvey. From a club manager’s friend stuck on a roof with her children, to our own family wading in waist high water surrounding their home, our stomachs have been knotted with impact as we have watched the news. 

Houston is my husband’s hometown. Houston formed him, and therefore helped to form us. His home church family that spent their lives wrangling, teaching, and feeding him has been impacted. Heritage Park Baptist Church, we are with you. Houston is a city stacked with steeples and BIG ones. Houston has birthed and held some incredible ministries.

Houston is also a hub for sex trafficking and sex exlpoitation- it is now underwater. With more massage parlors and strip clubs than any other U.S. City, Houston is known to professional sports teams as a go-to city for sex. But what does it matter now when the city is flooded and people are stranded? It matters greatly. We cannot forget that victims of sex exploitation and trafficking, already traumatized, could literally be swept away in the flood. I have sat up wondering, what about the women in brothels with no identification and already terrorized? Did the pimps ditch them? Who will we find trapped when the waters recede? What about the runaways selling their bodies, the women who don’t own their own phone, the ones who don’t have access to their belongings - who has been there for them? Where are they? We cannot forget them. 

Our JSL Houston team extends love to those many deem “unlovable” or “too tough”, women in the commercial sex industry as well as victims of sex trafficking. Many of our women have estranged relationships with their families, are couch hopping, living paycheck to paycheck, struggle with addiction and mental illness, are single moms and have endured countless years of sexual trauma - usually starting at an early age. Many of our women fall below the poverty line even though they might make hundreds or even thousands in one night. The money isn’t theirs - it belongs to the pimp, or the club, or their drug habit. In Houston alone we reach 200 women every month with the love of Christ, unconditionally. We partner with several ministry organizations around the city who are serving to fight exploitation and build a new identity for Houston and its people. Many of our partner ministries have been hit hard: safe homes, victims and individuals interacting directly with them. 

Like Rahab who “lived in the city wall” of Jericho when it came tumbling down, many of our women live in the city of Houston, now underwater. Those who are hit hardest, are those with the least amount of resources. Those who have no family and middle class or wealthy friends to bail them out. No one to tell them where to file the insurance claims and how to handle the paperwork. Our women, already traumatized and struggling in life and recovery, have now been slammed with a catastrophic flood to survive. What I know is that our women are resilient, but resiliency doesn’t happen without support. Resiliency isn’t “pull up your bootstraps and handle it”. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back after difficulty and no one can do that alone. 

So what is JSL doing to help? We are strategically gathering funds to help those most vulnerable in the wake of this disaster: victims of sex trafficking and sex exploitation, women in safe homes, single moms, the poor. We will be helping specifically Perpetual Help Home in Victoria, TX financially as they rebuild. If you want to give directly to PHH go to: www.perpetualhelphome.org  We are also in contact with Redeemed Ministries whose safe home in the Houston area was damaged and underwater. If you want to give directly to Redeemed visit: www.redeemedministries.com

Your support of JSL has blown us away in the past. You constantly have shown up and shown out where we have asked. Today, we are asking for donations in the wake of this disaster to support in relief efforts towards the least of these affected by Harvey. Please help us give aid to individuals and ministries across Houston and Southeast Texas. We desire to be a river of God’s love to those who feel forgotten and overlooked. 

Jesus is the rescue the church gets to extend in the form of physical help, finances, clothes, shoes, food, and connections. You are the body laid down for others that we get to embody before the world. It is time for the Bride to rise and shine. 
 

Emily Mills
Founder, Jesus Said Love