ST. LOUIS – It’s a far cry from the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home (MBCH) original mission as an orphanage, but a new ministry is aimed at helping women – and sometimes girls as young as 11 – walk away from lives of prostitution.
“Until now, there have been no shelters in the Midwest for human trafficking victims (The official legal term for the sex trade is ‘human trafficking’),” said Ron Robinson, an MBCH trustee and pastor of First Baptist, Van Buren. “It’s an exciting ministry, but a vulnerable one.”
The way the program works is this: women that want out of their lifestyle are either picked up by a detective or they turn themselves in with a desire to get help and turn their lives around.
“Up to this point,” Robinson said, “they’d have to get on a plane and fly to Los Angeles because there was nowhere to put them here. Now, we have a place here. The police are thrilled, the state department is thrilled and we’re thrilled that we can take them in.”
There are three phases to the program. The first focuses on life skills and getting the women to see themselves as valuable.
“The average age ranges from 11 to 14,” Robinson said. “So they simply don’t know a lot of things about how to live that you and I take for granted.
The second phase focuses on education – because most have dropped out of school – and job training. Phase three is preparing her to go out on her own to lead a normal life.
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” Robinson said. “They tell us it will probably take a young lady seven times of walking out of our program before they realize they truly need help. They’ll come in for a day or two, then leave. Unfortunately, the known world is more comfortable than the unknown world. That’s where their food, love, friends and money has come from.”
Many will be addicted to drugs, and withdrawal adds to the hardship of sticking with the rehabilitation program.
Robinson said two ladies have done just that during the ministry’s short existence. One stayed a few days, the other only a few hours.
“We just hope she comes in that second, third, fourth, fifth, six, seventh and eighth time,” he said.