Lily* was standing on the overpass, wondering what to do with her life and how to make ends meet, as busy city traffic whizzed underneath.
Then a woman came up to her. She talked to Lily for a moment, then offered her a job as a house helper.
The woman’s offer seemed like a gift from the sky. Lily, born the eighth of 12 children, was no stranger to working for others. Her family didn’t make much money, and most of the time they had little food to share — or worse, they suffered malnourishment and starvation.
Two of Lily’s sisters worked in a garment factory to help the family. Lily lived with them to help keep house until she turned 15, and then she also started working in a garment factory.
After four years of hard work, Lily decided to go back to her home village. There she began taking care of a sister’s baby, hoping to help out that way instead.
But after babysitting the infant for eight months, her sister became angry. Babysitting one baby was such an easy thing, she said, and Lily should be helping out more. So Lily’s sister ordered her back to the garment factory. Lily refused and the two sisters argued so heatedly that Lily left home. Except she had nowhere to go.
That’s when Lily met the woman on the overpass, offering her a job as house helper. Lily knew how to keep house, so she started working for the woman as a cook and cleaner. However, after only a few months of work, the master of the house tried to sexually abuse Lily. Frightened, she fled the house and once again found herself with no place to go.
In a busy market she met a second woman who offered her what sounded like a better job. The woman promised her more money, a better life. Desperate, Lily agreed to the job without knowing all the details. The woman took Lily to the country’s second largest brothe — and sold her as a sex worker.
Imprisoned, Lily worked for the brothel for two terrible years.
Lily longed to run away from the brothel and be free, but she was trapped. A captive, terrified. That’s when Aminul* showed up. He was kind and told her he loved her. Like a saviour, Aminul helped her escape the brothel and married her. Lily was given a second chance as a beloved wife.
For once, Lily was truly happy. She gave birth to a beautiful son in the second year of their marriage.
It wasn’t until Lily got pregnant a second time that she noticed a disturbing change in her husband. He started coming home late almost every night — and Lily found out why. He’d started going to a brothel again, meeting with new and different women.
Broken-hearted, Lily confronted him and he argued with her angrily. He struck her, again and again. Once again Lily was trapped, but this time it was with the husband who had once claimed great love for her. She fought back for herself and for her marriage, but Aminul wouldn’t listen.
After a few months of arguments and beatings, Aminul simply stopped coming home. He left Lily and their two children for good.
Left without any help and desperate for income, Lily went back to selling sex or begging to meet the needs of her children. She had a third child now, and It was impossible to feed and take care of them all. When she realised they were all in danger of starving, Lily made the heart-breaking decision to give two of her precious children for adoption. Only one of her sons stayed with her.
And that’s when Lily went back to the overpass, looking out over the noisy jumble of trucks and buses and wondering what to do with her life, just like she’d done before. But this time it wasn’t a woman in need of housekeeping who approached her. It was a director for the Children’s Uplift Programme (CUP) who spotted her there, begging for money.
CUP, an organisation that offers an emergency night shelter and safe place for women to stay, also provides training in employable skills to women who have left the sex industry. The director talked to Lily about the opportunities through CUP, like learning to sew and make sari blankets.
Time and time again Lily had reached out for hope of employment and escape from poverty, but this time, however, it was an honest believer in Jesus who offered the training. Lily left the overpass and went with the director to CUP’s office.
And that’s when things began to look up for Lily.
Now Lily is almost finished with her training, and she’s in the process of getting a job with an associated business.
She has heard of God’s love through CUP’s staff and services — a love that stays and pursues her, and a love that will never leave her. Through the word she hears every day, Lily has come to know the supernatural work Jesus has done on her behal, so she can walk away from the overpass, from the brothel, and find hope — and home — in him.
Thank God for the Children’s Uplift Programme and the services it provides women to find good employment and a way out of poverty and desperation. Ask God to send more workers to CUP and for him to direct the right people to CUP’s ministry. Consider donating to CUP at Project Number BD 98336.
Pray for Lily, that she will grow in the Lord and raise her son to love him. Pray for her other children who have since been adopted, that God will give them godly believers as new parents, and that they will raise these children in the Lord.
Pray for South Asia and the millions of women and girls caught up in the sex trade there. The lives they live and the abuses they suffer are almost unimaginable. Cry out to God on behalf of these hurting women and ask Him to send rescue. Ask God to change the laws that allow these businesses to operate. Pray that many of these brothels will be shut down, and that the church will find ways to go into the hard places and reach these communities for Christ.
Pray for Lily and the thousands like her in South Asia. For Freedom, SIM’s anti-trafficking and exploitation ministry, supports ministries like CUP, and also trains and equips SIM workers and local churches to prevent and respond to trafficking in their communities. If you’d like to serve in an anti-trafficking ministry please email Intl.ForFreedom@sim.org for more information. You can also support For Freedom through prayer or giving. To learn more about the ministry of CUP, visit www.childrensupliftprogramme.org
*Names have been changed. Representative image used.