Conversation with pimp gives IMB missionary new perspective

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (BP) -- As an International Mission Board missionary, Martha Richards* ministered on South African streets among prostitutes, pimps, sex traffickers and drug dealers. In her journal "My Life on the Streets: A Journey of Hope," Richards shares some of the joys, sorrows and struggles she encountered during her outreach efforts.

"He was the enemy, and all I could see were the images of the battered and abused women of whom he and others like him took advantage," Richards wrote of the pimp she met.

Following is an excerpt from Richards's journal.

Change of heart

He didn't realize that I knew who and what he was.

I struggled to look at him, speak to him or even see him as God's loving creation. He was the enemy, and all I could see were the images of the battered and abused women of whom he and others like him took advantage. I saw the images my mind created of Lisha once I heard she was found beaten, broken and dead on a darkened city street. The girl I knew, however briefly, was gone.

I hadn't met Diallo before today, but he represents all of them.

My anger toward the pimps is overwhelming. To walk by them and [see] their smiling faces or hear their triumphant laughter. To see their disregard for the forced sacrifice of the women as they throw away the money earned on a bad hand of cards. To watch them feast as the girls they own go without food for a week. To see them laze in the sun or kick a ball -- playing while a young girl 20-feet away trembles in fear as she slides into a car with an unknown man.

Jesus tells me to love these traffickers and pimps. I want to ask why, but I already know the answer. Their sins are no worse than mine, and Jesus died for them as much as He did for me.

Love them.

Today was the first step. I sat in the park for several hours talking with Diallo. Previously I had watched him from a distance and knew some of the girls he owned. For him, I was a prospective target, a potential prostitute and an unknown in his realm.

Diallo was eloquent and kind, full of laughter and flirtation. To all appearances, he was a good-looking young man who claimed to be a Christian -- once he found out I was one. He offered to buy me a coke or snack and even invited me to join him for church on Sunday.

... He was adept at truly listening, devoting every word and glance to the woman before him. Isn't that what all women desire? He is too good to be true.

Today was the first time I realized how easy it would be for me to be trafficked. I am optimistic and trusting, always looking for the good in people. That's not bad, but it needs to be tempered with the reality of the world around us.

Lord, help me see Diallo -- and the others like him -- as you see him. Help me learn to love him and be willing to share the Gospel with him. Help me forgive him even when he doesn't desire it. Oh, Lord, please help him change!

Imagine what one trafficker and pimp -- saved by grace -- could accomplish among the others. Imagine the influence he could have for the glory of God.


*Name changed. The journal was released on the International Mission Board's website Africa Stories. Excerpts can be read online by clicking

[http://www.commissionstories.com/africa/features/view/my-life-on-the-streets-a-journey-of-hope]here, or the entire 28-page journal can be downloaded in PDF format here.