Set Apart

Adjo is 11 years old and tries hard to look sexy in her black mini-skirt and skin-tight blue swimsuit top. She said over a drink in a bar filled with cigarette smoke and drug dealers lurking in the background that she likes foreign customers best. They pay better and treat her better than Togolese men.

"The Ghanaians, the Ibos from Nigeria, the Senegalese and the other foreigners pay 5,000 CFA (US$10) and sometimes with a bit of luck they'll pay 10,000 CFA (US$20) - and despite that they treat us well," Adjo said. "The Togolese maybe give us 1000 or 1500 CFA (US$2 or $3) and then want to rape us violently. They often hurt and insult us," the small girl said, visibly upset as she recalled such unpleasant memories. (from

Good statistics on kids forced into prostitution are difficult to come by. Conservative estimates say that there are a million children in prostitution in Asia alone. And the biggest source of fuel keeping the sex industry humming along is the same kind of fuel that keeps things like terrorism, child labor, gangs and a hundred other social tragedies running: Poverty. If you are a child and living on the streets, there is an unbelievable gravitational pull into the sex industry. It is so, so easy to get drawn into prostitution as a poor child and so, so difficult to get out.

I try to imagine my eleven year old daughter stuck in the place in which Adjo is trapped. Adjo was abandoned. She does not have a Dad who will become outraged for her plight and fight for her. She doesn't have a big brother or sister to advocate for her. She does have a woman she calls "mama," but she's the person bringing Adjo customers (beating her if she doesn't bring in enough money). This life is normal for Adjo, and to rescue her into some other kind of existence will take fighting off her customers, fighting off her "mama," fighting off the desperate poverty she lives in, probably engaging in intense spiritual warfare, and even fighting with Adjo herself who has learned not to trust adults. In a way you could say that Adjo is set apart - insulated from any real help. She is mired in circumstances that will rob her of childhood, enslave her to the passions of those more powerful than her, and destroy any healthy sense of God, self, or community.

What does it take reach into Adjo's set-apart nightmarish existence and bring her into a place of health and hope? It will take someone willing to be set apart themselves. Someone like Jesus willing to leave what is comfortable and become immersed in life with those who live in brothels. Imagine the cost for those of us who live in cocoons of comfort to relocate so that we might have day to day interaction with those trapped in the poverty of prostitution. It would take something like a vow. Such a person would have to endure a certain amount of poverty themselves just to be in that place with Adjo and others day in and day out. It might require an ability to learn languages, discern and engage the spiritual realities surrounding the industry, and build relationships of trust with those who have lost the ability to trust.

Where have we provided the structure and challenge for people to make the kind of vows necessary to enter such desperate realities? We need those who will live a set apart life. We are able to mobilize and train untold numbers of dedicated young people to set themselves apart and risk their lives for war. Can we not call and equip a few who would be willing to set themselves apart to fight for Adjo?

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