At first, it sounds a little bit odd for a man to serve God in the red-light district. Usually, men are the ones who are being served in the tea shops or brothels. Men are the customers and women provide the service. No wonder, people sometimes ask about how I feel serving God in the red-light district.
The first time I had contact with a ministry among women working in the sex work industry, was in Cambodia. I was a short-term worker teaching German homeschooling program and involved in a church which welcomed women working in this business. At that time, I started to wonder, if there would not be a possibility to also reach out to their customers.
When my family first came to Taiwan and visited Pearl Family Garden, the OMF-supported ministry to at-risk women, God put again a burden on my heart for the women but especially also for the men in the red-light districts. I’m thankful, that the Pearl team was open to the idea of reaching out to men in Wanhua and me being the first man in their midst.
Through the years Tera and her team have built up many relationships in the Pearl’s neighborhood. Being a man among my female colleagues allowed us to speak with men and women alike on our outreaches and to deepen the relationships with both.
Honestly, in the beginning it was a little weird to approach the sex workers. It wasn’t so much a problem because of their appearance. In my opinion, in Europe we are quite used to see bare skin. You can see more on a beach when you’re on holiday in Italy than I saw on the streets in Wanhua. My problem was more about how to relate to these women.
However, the more time passed, the more I got to know their stories and I began to see the ladies in a different light. These women are often a little bit older. Most of them have children and a story to tell about their broken family relationships. Being a father myself, helped me to relate to them. Knowing their backgrounds, their stories, helped me so see them in a new light and to get more understanding of why they are doing what they do.
Being a man (especially a white man) proves to be quite an advantage in Wanhua. Despite locals telling me that Wanhua is not a safe place, I never felt at risk at any time. In fact, people are very friendly towards me. Many times, I found out that a rude behavior and a harsh face often hides a sensitive and kindhearted personality. It touches me over and over again, when those men open not only their door but also their heart and I can get a glimpse of what’s hidden inside. Getting to know them, helped me to understand that most of them spend their time in Wanhua to fill their lonely and bored hearts.
My Chinese name means “Role model”. By God’s grace, I hope that Jesus uses my time in Wanhua to become a role model on how men can relate to women with respect, dignity, and love. I really long to see more men changed by Jesus and willing to read the Bible or attending the Sunday Service at the Pearl. As a family, we also wish to be a testimony to men and women and to give them the opportunity to have family around them, as the relationship with their own family is often broken.
Thank you for praying with us!
Chris Niederberger– Taipei
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