Dhinanath couldn’t tear his eyes away from the scene before him. A car had quickly pulled up only a few metres in front of him and his colleague. He saw one of the car doors open and a young woman tumble out. Unconscious.
Being new to the area, Dhinanath wasn’t sure what was happening. He later found out the woman had been kidnapped, gang raped and discarded near the red-light district in the area.
Dhinanath couldn’t forget what he had seen. He wondered what would happen to that woman.
It actually gave me a lot of pain in my heart to see these women. When I came home, I started to pray for these ladies.
- Pastor Dhinanath
A few days later, he and a group of other GFA-supported pastors found themselves ministering near the red-light district. From afar, they could see women waiting for customers, and it grieved their hearts. Christ had shown love, compassion and forgiveness to prostitutes and other women caught in sin, and Pastor Dhinanath wanted these women to experience His grace, too. But he was not allowed to enter the red-light district for ministry. Not yet.
“It actually gave me a lot of pain in my heart [to see these women],” he says. “When I came home, I started to pray for these ladies … in this red-light district. It was not a one-time prayer; I kept praying for these ladies. I fasted and prayed for them so that the Lord will touch their lives, their lives will be changed.”
It was during those times of prayer and fasting that Pastor Dhinanath felt the Lord clearly leading him to minster among the women working in the red-light district. His wife, Lydia, also desired to help them, hoping they would know Christ’s saving grace and find new life in Him—a life of self-respect, dignity and peace.
Together, they waited on the Lord to begin their ministry among the prostitutes of the red-light district. Two years later, after receiving direction from his leaders and the necessary permissions from local authorities and the brothel owner, Pastor Dhinanath was standing among nearly 40 women, sharing about Jesus.
It was Pastor Dhinanath’s long-awaited answer to his earnest prayers. Every Thursday he entered the red-light district to minister to the ladies trapped in a world of disgrace and hopelessness.
Whenever these women set foot outside the district to run an errand or get some tea, they met faces that looked at them with disgust. These women knew they were hated by the people in their communities. They were only good to be used and to bring in money.
None of us working in a brothel comes there willingly. Nobody ever enjoys working as a sex worker.
But Pastor Dhinanath and Lydia knew of a Love that looks deep into a person’s heart and sees who they really are and who they will become. This love covers over a multitude of sins and welcomes the sinner, filthy rags and all, into safe and caring arms that can carry them through the darkest valleys and the scariest of hells. As Pastor Dhinanath extended this love of Christ to these precious women, many began to experience for themselves the love that changes from within. One woman was Athalia.
Athalia had been working as a prostitute for more than 10 years before leaving.
A year into her marriage and carrying her first child, she realized she married a drunkard and an abuser. Their poverty only exasperated the situation. There were times when she would boil green leaves because it was their only food supply. The abuse and the poverty drove her to live with her parents, which brought shame on the family. “Culturally, it’s very bad thing to stay with our parents while we are married,” Athalia says. “My parents were also not very rich. They were living hand-to-mouth existence, and they couldn’t financially support me also.”
"None of us working in a brothel comes there willingly,” Athalia says. “Nobody ever enjoys working as a sex worker. It’s only because of compulsion, some difficult moments or hardships that we go through that we come to a brothel. Now for my case, it was because of poverty. There was nothing that I could do to take care of my children, and that’s the reason why I was forced to engage in this kind of work. [That’s] the story similar to many of our ladies who work inside the brothel.”
Then Athalia met Pastor Dhinanath. They talked inside a tea shop, where she heard about Jesus Christ for the first time.
“Jesus loves you,” Pastor Dhinanath told her. “He wants to give you the best.”
Athalia took the pastor’s phone number and would call him with questions. Soon she was attending one of his churches, where she experienced peace and true love for the first time.
“Now in my life, the only thing I want to do is to call upon the Lord to ask Him to be my Lord and my Saviour,” Athalia says. “I want to know Him deeper every day in my life.”
As Pastor Dhinanath continues to minister among the women of the red-light district, more lives like Athalia’s are being transformed.
Still, he watches as women are transferred from one red-light district to another. He listens to their stories and sees how HIV ravages some of their bodies. But he and Lydia continue to love as Christ loved. They call these precious women “sisters” and organize medical camps. They also offer them tools, like sewing machines, that could help supplement their income so they can one day feel secure enough to leave the red-light district. Through this ministry, God is touching these women’s lives, just as Pastor Dhinanath prayed He would!