Laura* runs an anti-human trafficking training programme, the culmination of which equips participants to share God’s love with women in brothels.

We met virtually. A pixelated video-call connecting our two living rooms. Now, more than ever—when so much of our work, even our socialising, has moved online—I find myself surprised by how personal a virtual gathering can feel.

But towards the beginning of our conversation Laura used this phrase—“embodied encounters”—and I was struck by the significance of these two words in our current context. Video-calls are great, but nothing compares with a face-to-face, physical encounter.

For me, Laura’s phrase encapsulated everything she went on to say about her ministry.

“There is no weird feeling when we walk down these streets,” Laura told me, describing a red light district in a city in the Czech Republic where she serves, helping me to picture it. “We are used to these scenes.” These OM workers enter the world of the women they seek to serve. They sit with them, coming alongside them in the raw realities of their situations.

“We go to the brothels with small handmade gifts and literature. Once we have permission from the doormen we go inside and speak to the women,” Laura explained.

As we continue talking it transpires that the OM workers do far more listening than they do speaking, and when they do speak, their words are lovingly considered.

“Our conversations are different depending on the culture”, Laura shared, going on to effortlessly describe the nuances of each culture they encounter—Romanian, Czech, Slovakian, Nigerian—Laura is understanding and sensitive to each.

Laura tells me about one woman in particular. She came from a cult background and had been trafficked within the Czech Republic as a teenager. Despite a burning sensation she felt when holding the Bible an OM worker had given her, she was compelled to read it. When they met again months later the woman was transformed; she had encountered Jesus in the words she had read and had started to follow Him. With support in place, she was able to begin a new life.

As Laura talks about these brothel outreaches I’m struck by how significant and life-changing these embodied encounters are. Sadly, no virtual substitute will suffice, and with the country in lockdown the outreach ministry is paused. The brothels are closed, and the women are left with no income and many have nowhere to go.

But even in such times Laura sees signs of hope. “Some women have been making plans for their next steps but putting it off,” Laura explains, “With the brothels closed, here is their opportunity; the impetus they need to move on. We need to pray that this could be the start of a change for some of these women.”

Hope is tangible. At the centre of this ministry is a God who became flesh and dwelt among us. A God who is still present, in the darkest of places, walking with these women, encountering them and continuing His work of transformation.

Please pray for sex workers in the Czech Republic to encounter Jesus in these challenging times and experience the reality and proximity of His life-changing love.