Angelika* is cold. Really cold.
She tries to find a spot on the street near the big vans with curtains on the windows. Those clients are regulars, and with any luck, she’ll be able to warm up a bit in the vans when she does what she has to do with the men inside.
She misses her home. She doesn’t even speak the language here. But her husband was abusive and then abandoned her and her two small children in this place. Now she is a single mother of two in a strange country — doing work she hates.
This particular night, Angelika notices a small group coming toward her. She recognizes one of the women as TEAM missionary Rachel Zuch! Rachel has known Angelika since she first started working on the streets. She is always so kind — last time she came, she’d given Angelika her hat to keep warm.
This time, Rachel and her team are bringing Christmas presents and something warm to sip on. They greet Angelika sweetly.
Rachel introduces Angelika to the social worker she’s brought along. As Angelika shares her story with the social worker, she starts to cry.
The social worker assures her there’s a way out, but Angelika is afraid of losing her children if she stops making money. She was raised in a violent, Eastern European orphanage — and she doesn’t want her children to grow up in that kind of hell.
“Call me,” the social worker says, giving Angelika her card. “We know of places that are different than those you have experienced.”
Angelika takes the card.
But as the team moves on to the next girl, Rachel looks back just in time to see a car pull up and call Angelika over. She gets in.
And the car pulls away in the direction of a secluded parking lot.
From Street Outreaches to an Official Ministry
Rachel is one of its founders.
“It was born out of a prayer meeting almost 12 years ago, in January 2007,” Rachel says. “God had already been at work in my heart for a number of years at that point, and the amazing thing was that the people who came to that prayer meeting almost all had a similar story … of how God had been preparing their hearts.”
Heart Works began as simple street outreaches.
Eleven months later, Rachel and her team were able to make it an official NGO.
And even though she serves as the organization’s chairwoman, it’s important to Rachel that she also remains as involved as ever in the day-to-day ministry outreaches of the effort.
One of those ministry outreaches happens around this time each year.
Christmas Opens Doors at Brothels
Four years into Heart Works’ birth, Rachel and her team began focusing heavily on what they call “indoor outreaches.” During indoor outreaches, they regularly go inside each of the 350 brothels and clubs in Vienna to visit and pray with the people in prostitution there.
“One of the best ways to begin indoor outreaches is at Christmastime,” Rachel says. “It is a lot easier to gain access when you come to the door with lots of presents in your bags for the people who work there, and that is the way we started.”
Now, Heart Works is able to conduct indoor outreaches all year long. But with so many brothels and clubs, it’s almost impossible to regularly visit every person.
“At Christmas and Easter, however, our teams have the goal to make it around to all the clubs and brothels so that each person can receive a gift,” Rachel says.
That’s what makes this Christmas ministry particularly special.
“The people who have been here longer, really anticipate the Christmas visit, and it is a highlight for many,” Rachel says.
During the Christmas outreach, every person in prostitution in Vienna receives a calendar in their own language, a Christmas ornament and a package of Christmas cookies.
This year, the team ordered 1,400 calendars in 19 different languages.
“We are so thankful that we are able to visit the women and men, especially at this time of the year,” Rachel says. “For many, the cookies and calendars they receive from us are the only gifts they will receive.”
Providing Shoulders of Comfort
Fifteen minutes after Rachel saw Angelika crawl into one of her clients’ cars last year, she spotted her walking back through to her claimed area on the street.
Angelika looked up and saw Rachel. She tried to hold back tears by giving a half-hearted smile.
Instantly, Rachel opened her arms and Angelika ran to her. For a few precious moments, Angelika felt like a little girl with her head resting on Rachel’s comforting shoulder.
Then, she gathered her strength and straightened up.
She looked Rachel in the eyes.
“Thank you,” she said.
And she made her way back to her corner through the snow.
You can show Angelika — and women like her — their worth in Christ. Explore social justice missionary roles to see how you can share the Gospel with trafficked women, orphaned children, refugees and more!