Shanti chose for her wedding attire blue silk trimmed with gold. Rich fabrics in brilliant hues are traditional for wedding saris in this South Asian megacity.
The dirty slums of this South Asian megacity sit in dire contrast to more affluent areas and are the ministry focus of International Mission Board representatives Rodney and Helen Cregg.
But the guest list was anything but typical. Among those celebrating this day were 20 prostitutes – women who were like family to Shanti.
She knew them from the years she shared their heartbreaking lifestyle as a prostitute before the ministry of a Christian activity center rescued her from her former life. Shanti is now a believer, has a decent job to support herself and, with her wedding, is the wife of a Christian man.
International Mission Board representatives Rodney and Helen Cregg, with their four children, sow gospel seeds in a South Asian megacity of 22 million. As part of their work, the Creggs partnered to establish in the middle of the red-light district an activity center that offers prostitutes a place to learn basic skills. Raj Joseph, an area pastor, calls the center “a window through which they can see some light and find hope for themselves.”
Rodney Cregg describes the city as home to some of the largest red-light districts on the entire continent of Asia.
“As you walk into these red-light districts, it’s utter poverty. You walk through mud. You walk past piles of trash. As you walk, these alleys are lined with ladies,” Rodney said. “They sell themselves to men for one or two dollars several times a day. Many of them are sold into prostitution and so when they come [here] they are slaves. They have no freedom. They have no choice in what they can do.”
Reaching a megacity
The red-light district is just one area the Creggs focus on. In an effort to reach the entire city, they’ve created a four-prong approach. One segment of that approach focuses on social justice, while other segments cover business and professionals, people groups, and millennials.
International Mission Board representatives Rodney and Helen Cregg spread the gospel in the slums of this South Asian megacity of 22 million, including members of unreached people groups.
“Over 65 percent of [the country] is 35 years or younger,” Rodney said. “This is a very crucial segment for the future of [this country].”
The Creggs have the privilege of influencing people groups who have not previously heard the gospel.
“We know as the gospel begins to move through the city we’re going to have many unreached people groups and unengaged people groups that we can equip as insiders to go back [to their villages and towns] to reach [others],” Rodney said. “Where in the world do [South Asians] not live? We believe that [this country] is crucial to finishing the task [of evangelism].”
And while the hope is that many people in the city accept Jesus as Savior, it is each individual’s journey that matters.
A woman at the red-light district activities center agrees.
“Being involved at the center, I am finding the love I didn’t get from my family, from people who know the Lord,” she said. “Through Jesus I am experiencing love. I am blessed.”
Pray that Christians engaged in business in this South Asian city would actively engage their workplaces with the gospel.
Pray that women trapped in hopeless lifestyles in the red-light districts of the city would be saved by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Writer Elaine Gaston has served overseas with her family in restricted-access countries. She is now based in the U.S. This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 4-11 with the theme of “The Gospel Resounds.” The theme undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at IMB.org, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $155 million.)