Following Him Into China’s Red-Light Districts

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Editor’s note: As China Partnership prays and shares this month about ministry in cities, we wanted to shine a light on one of China’s darkest areas: the sex trade. Although ministry in these districts is extremely sensitive, God is moving. One woman who works with the people of China’s red-light districts shares a few of her experiences over the years, and invites us to join her in prayer for the people of these hidden places.


Here’s a little about me: I am a daughter of our Heavenly Father. This country has become our home because of the love and acceptance we have received from its people. Father has specifically called me into the darkest, forgotten corners of this country: the red-light districts. These districts may be forgotten, or rather, unnoticed, by even those who live round the corner. But he does not forget. He sees, he knows—most importantly, he LOVES. And he has a plan for the redemption of the evil and brokenness we have seen there. 

What does God require of us? To do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with him. What does that look like? Most of the time, all we can do is pray to him to bring true light into this darkness. So here I am now, showing you, through my journal entries over the years, a glimpse of what happens on these streets. 

I share these journal entries so that you know what I pray, and can join me in praying, too. God hears our prayers. The work done on our knees petitioning our Mighty Father can powerfully change the things we don’t see—yes, even in seemingly dark places.  

April 9

On recent outreach evenings, Father has been allowing me to gain a better understanding of what is happening, especially in the spiritual realm. By his grace, we have built strong relationships with local make-up shop owners. Many women and men go to these shops to get their make-up done every night before going to work in brothels, karaoke bars (known as KTV), and nightclubs. 


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The make-up bosses we are friendly with allow us to sit in their shops while men and women wait in line or get their make-up done. We are able to talk and build relationships with these men and women. We have learned that this area has become notorious for male prostitutes. Boys as young as sixteen work in bars and night clubs, serving older, wealthy women. In contrast to many of the girls we have rescued over the years, who come from impoverished families in villages and have been deceived or trafficked into this work, some of these young men are educated university students. Some of the older, wealthy women have bought luxury goods, cars and even apartments for their young “boyfriends.”

Although on the outside it appears that these young men have chosen this, we know too well that there is no “choice” at all. Once they accept lavish gifts from their clients, they become slaves, not only to these women, but also to other idols they have allowed to take priority in their lives. They think these choices will give them freedom, but it is not true freedom—it is actually bondage. Please pray that these boys and young men will know the truth, because only the truth will set them free.

July 29

Tonight we randomly walked into a massage shop where three teenage girls were smoking, drinking beer, and playing cards. My friends and I sat down next to each girl and watched them play. We did not make small talk about how much massages were (no point, it’s obvious this wasn’t really a massage joint) or why we were there. Unbeknownst to them, we were lifting them up.

Next, we wandered into another massage shop because the brothel boss made eye contact. She welcomed us to sit, and she ended up sharing her life story with us. She talked about how she regrets the decisions she has made, which led to leaving her husband and sons behind in the village because she “chose the naughty life” in the city.

At the end of the night, I asked a young pimp how long he has done this work, and whether he had pursued other jobs. I encouraged him that he was made for more than life in the red-light districts. I could tell he desired that, too. He said he can’t do anything about it because he was “uncultured,” and this was his fate. 

January 17

 I’ve been traveling, and last night I went out for outreach near my hotel. Interestingly, for the first time since coming to China, I was able to actually go inside a KTV. In my city, KTV’s are highly guarded by the mafia, and there is no way to get in. We are only able to approach those who work inside by going to make-up shops and hair salons as they prepare for work. But in this city, the KTV scene operates differently, so we were able to walk freely into the KTVs to see our friends inside. I walked up the stairs to one and saw a line of women sitting at the top of the stairs, waiting for customers to arrive. The place was seedy—full of tacky pictures on sound-proof, padded walls, and smelling of alcohol, cigarettes and sweat.

I spoke to a few girls. My friend told me that one of the girls I spoke to has her mother working as a cleaner at the KTV. “Her mother sees her here?” I thought. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around that. No matter how long I have served in these areas, or just when I think I’ve heard all the stories, I continue to be shocked at the brokenness that is evident. Our visit was cut short when the new boss of the KTV cursed us and kicked us out. 

We finished the night at another KTV where there was a “sorting room” full of women waiting to be “picked” by customers. After spending some time in the sorting room, it was time for us to leave. Outside, my friend and I looked at each other. We needed a moment to pull ourselves together. At that point, all we could do was pray. We took comfort in each other, but more importantly, in the Father who led us there to love these women where they are and to usher them out of this darkness. 

March 3

Our hearts have been broken this week. We stumbled across a new area we had never known about before. In an alleyway, women stood on the street, waiting for customers to pick them. It was so dark and narrow that there was no other reason for anyone to be there. This discovery was even more harrowing because nearly every woman there was over the age of forty; some were close to sixty.

These women are mothers and grandmothers. It broke our hearts. One friend who witnessed this hasn’t been able to function for days. Our hearts are burdened because the Father’s heart hurts for these women—his beloved daughters. There are no words, but please lift them up. Some have family they don’t want to return to, or who don’t want to take care of them. Our friends shared with a few women about the Father’s love for them.

I hope this gives you a glimpse of what we see in red-light districts here. In almost every conversation, someone asks why we are there. We usually tell them that we are there to love and care for people in the red-light districts. They ask further, “Why are you here to talk to us and to care about us?” We tell them that Jesus loves them, and does not want them to continue doing a job that hurts themselves and others.

Often, they don’t ask further. They simply do not know how to respond.


Ella Lee (a pseudonym) has been called to minister to and love those in the red-light districts of China. 

 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray for men and women in the red-light districts of China to experience truth that brings freedom. Pray that they will encounter the Father’s love of the Father and be released from darkness and bondage. Please lift up these men and women who are ignored or forgotten by so many others.

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Further Reading

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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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Qingdao: Good Soil for the Gospel
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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