Behind the gold and glitter

27 Jun, 2013 | Hong Kong
OM International
Debbie from Hong Kong has been reaching out to sex workers near the OM base in Hong Kong for the past 1,5 years. Thanks to the help of volunteers, she is able to visit these women on a regular basis.
A soft knock and the door opens to let Debbie, from Hong Kong, in. The lady inside the tiny room is glad to see her, even if it means no income during the conversation. They sit down on the only piece of furniture, the bed, and the lady shares her burden. It is a story of desperation, loss, betrayal, poverty and shame.

Having arrived in Hong Kong from mainland China, Ying thought her dream had come true. All the girls in her village had hoped to marry a rich man from Hong Kong and live the life of luxury they had seen on television. Reality soon set in when she arrived in Hong Kong, however, and when her husband divorced her a few years and two children later, Ying's situation became desperate.

Ying’s story is not unique. She represents thousands of ladies in Hong Kong, many of whom live in the same neighbourhood where OM Hong Kong is located. Debbie explains that it is difficult to know how many are involved in prostitution, as it is illegal. But prostitution abounds.

For Debbie, it started with her decision to give God one year in Christian ministry as a response to the love she had received from Him. Joining OM South Africa’s training programme turned out to be a life-changing experience. During an outreach in Pretoria’s inner-city, she met street children, homeless people, drug abusers and prostitutes, and remembered having seen people with the same needs in Hong Kong. Even if South Africa was a different continent, the suffering and neglect were the same, and nobody seemed to care.

Debbie knew she could never go back to her old life—the secular job she once had in a nice neighbourhood. What she had seen, especially among the prostitutes in Pretoria, had touched her heart.

Back in Hong Kong, hoping to help the prostitutes in her own country, she quickly found that very few tried to help or reach them for Christ. There was one organisation doing part-time work, which she joined as a volunteer. When the OM Hong Kong office relocated to an area where marginalised people live, her trained eye quickly spotted the brothels. With permission from her OM leader, she set to work.

"Within 20 minutes from the office, there are at least 20 buildings housing prostitutes," says Debbie, "and each building has at least 10 ladies working there." Debbie explains that these prostitutes are mostly from mainland China and operate on their own. They are often lonely and ashamed by what they do. Divorced, yet having to make ends meet, pay school fees for their children and support parents at home–who know nothing of their plight–they rent a small room in the city from where they can offer their services. Back in China, their parents happily believe their daughters are still married, rich and well cared for.

Meeting somebody willing to listen with a sympathetic ear is much appreciated. Most of the ladies hide their lifestyle from friends and family, as prostitution and divorce are shameful in their culture. The pain in their hearts must be suppressed, and nobody must know.

Debbie knows of their secret; there is nothing more to hide. It is safe to share with her. Debbie also tries to help in practical ways, like filling in forms to apply for government housing or other benefits, finding cheaper tuition for their children or helping to find more respectable work. Most important of all, she shares the hope she’s found in Christ, and most of the ladies gladly receive prayer. Some have also prayed with her for salvation, and in due time, Debbie hopes their lives will turn around.

"This ministry is very hard emotionally," admits Debbie. "So many real lives are broken. It is not a movie. The world is so evil, driving a woman to choose this solution. Sometimes when I come home, I just break down and cry. But my reward is a smile on their face!"

Sharing how God keeps confirming that she is on the right track, she adds, "It is a calling God has put in my heart. It is painful, not a comfortable work, yet God put it there and He is my light."

This ministry of OM Hong Kong is still in the early stages and Debbie is hoping for more helpers to come alongside her. In addition to the couple of volunteers, she is praying for a stable, mature, Chinese-speaking lady to join her.

For more information, please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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