Monday, November 26, 2018

Fighting Against Human Trafficking

We had new teammates join us in Vienna this summer. Brian and Melissa Leak will be serving at WorldVenture's Europe Liaison for anti-human trafficking ministry. What exactly does this mean? They are still flushing this out, but the vision is to join the fight against human trafficking by equipping churches to get involved, networking with organizations working in this area, doing some direct work with women working in prostitution, and supporting efforts to get law changed. And it could be more! Visions and plans are still being formed.

This issue has been on my heart ever since we moved to Vienna, and I learned more about the situation with women in prostitution here. Sex work is legal in Austria, and over 90% of the women working in this area are not Austrian. This points to a huge percentage of the women being trafficked here, mostly from eastern Europe, China and Nigeria. There is an organization here called Herzwerk (Heart Factory) that reaches out directly to the women, helping to care for them, provide them with training and resources and hopefully assist them in breaking free from this industry.

Although this is not our area of ministry focus, I've been looking for ways to support this ministry over the years. One way has been to have our summer interns serve at Herzwerk in behind-the-scenes ministry. They have babysat for training programs, sorted clothing donations, and helped with logistics and food for an Art Therapy training conference. This past Saturday, I had another chance to support this type of ministry by hosting a home party for Hope for the Future, a small but growing organization that trains women in business skills and teaches them German, as well as teaches them how to sew beautifully-made hand bags. At the home party, friends came and learned about the organization and then purchased bags (either for themselves or as Christmas presents!).

Yesterday, our small group gathered and each family brought 75 cookies with them. We then stuffed small plastic bags and created 75 cookie packages with ribbons and Christmas ornaments on them. These bags, along with hundreds made by other small groups and churches in Vienna, will be given out by Herzwerk volunteers in one week to 800 women working in prostitution. These packages are one way that Herzwerk shows the women that they are loved and care for, and provides another way to connect with the women. Many of these women have no family in Vienna and won't receive gifts for Christmas. This is a tangible way to demonstrate love and care and is sometimes the first connection with a women who eventually comes out of prostitution and hears the gospel message from the Herzwerk workers.

For a brief look into one way that women are trafficked here to Vienna, I encourage you to watch this Hope for the Future video clip (with English subtitles) (log into Facebook first to watch).

We hope to have more opportunities to support this type of work in Vienna. Would you please pray this Christmas season for the women working in prostitution in Vienna, that God would reach them with a message of hope?