As I walk out my front door, I tuck my head down and button up my jacket against the crisp night breeze. Going over my mental checklist, I make sure I have all the necessary layers I’ll need for the cold evening ahead of me. I feel apprehension welling up inside; I don’t know what to expect. But I also feel anticipation: eagerness to see what God has in store. Making my way to Málaga, I offer a litany of prayers to the Lord as I travel toward an unknown experience.
I meet other volunteers at a locale near the city center. After a bit of small talk, I get into the rhythm preparing the kits which will be handed out later that evening: hand sanitizer, Kleenexes, granola bars, wet wipes, bars of soap, lotion, etc. “How many kits are we preparing?” I ask. “Typically, between 40 and 60, so no one gets left out,” is the reply. As soon as the kits are prepared, the hot chocolate in the thermoses, and the pastries all loaded into the car, we head out.
Driving to our destination, I try making conversation...mostly I’m trying to figure out how this rookie should conduct himself. I’ve never done this before; this is the source of my uneasiness. There’s a lot of internal dialogue going on inside my head, and before too long we arrive at our destination: a warehouse district all closed up for the night. Slowly, we drive down the dimly lit lane, keeping a lookout. Not long after entering, we come across the first group of women, who come walking cheerfully up to the car they recognize. Then a harsh realization hits me: they are so young. We are here to minister to young ladies between their mid-teens to their mid-twenties, from Nigeria and Ghana, who have been trafficked and forced into prostitution! My heart sinks at the dark reality.
I’m here at the invitation of friends from Project Pearl Ministries. It’s a ministry here in Málaga, run by three young Spanish ladies, that ministers weekly to these trafficked women in hopes of helping whoever they can to escape the grips of their slave masters. Twice a week they come with practical love and prayers hoping to build trust with theses girls in order to help provide a way out for them. During their visits, they hand out the kits, and on cold nights provide a pastry and hot chocolate while engaging in conversation, hoping to find someone who has mustered up the courage to escape.
Our team has accompanied Project Pearl in a variety of ways: coaching to help the leaders and volunteers focus on vision and strategy, mini-retreats for them to have space to listen to God, and practical care, encouragement, and prayer as they go forth in this ministry. It’s an alliance for Kingdom advances! Tonight is a special night where I get to accompany them onto the frontlines and witness first-hand what Project Pearl pours themselves into week after week.
Stepping out of the car, I introduce myself as a minister here in Málaga and ask permission to pray for the young women. I ask their names—all the while pleading, “Jesus, what can I possibly pray that will infuse these women with hope and point them to the Good Shepherd amidst their tragic situation?” In an attempt to buy time to hear from God, I ask their names, and hear “Blessing, Precious, Favor, Joy,” among others. It’s here that the Spirit responds to my plea. He whispers, “Pray over them in my name the very names they’ve been given.”
There is something sacred that envelops the space as I begin to pray and ask for God’s blessing and favor over them—praying out that they are loved and precious to the Father, praying that they might find his joy, and that they would know that God himself is present and sees them!
At one moment I open my eyes and see five young girls, heads bowed, arms raised, praying in agreement with me. I feel like the street pastor of a unique gathering, beloved by Christ!
That night we met 41 young girls who’d been trafficked into prostitution, and there were others not there than evening—including all the Romanian girls who occupy another section of the warehouse district. This is a despicable injustice, but our three friends continue to face off with this darkness by brandishing the light and love of Christ faithfully every week.
I entered the evening unsure of what to expect and left with a deep sense of Jesus’s compassion in my heart. And you know what else? I’m eager to go back.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Randy Gonzales lives with his wife Doralicia and their two children in Málaga, Spain. They journey alongside leaders in Málaga, providing spiritual companionship, coaching, spiritual and character formation, and prayer, and create spaces for young adults and families who are spiritual seekers to encounter Jesus. They envision a gospel movement, marked by the presence and power of God, flowing from their work in Málaga to the rest of Spain.