A small group of volunteers gathers two nights a month in south Richmond, Virginia, to walk a mile-long strip of the city and minister to prostitutes and others they cross paths with along the way.
The volunteers meet in the parking lot of a nearby fast-food restaurant about 11 p.m. for a brief time of orientation and prayer before heading out two by two along a street dotted with aging motels, used car lots and the occasional pawnshop or tattoo parlor.
Some might say this isn’t your typical Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) ministry project.
On a recent night, one of the ministry volunteers noted, a shooting had been reported in the area earlier in the evening. A few blocks away group members saw several police cars and an ambulance parked in front of one of the motels.
Rather than deter the team the situation sparked one of them to stop and pray for those involved, including praying for the motel manager by name.
Valerie Carter Smith, executive director of WMU of Virginia, organized the street ministry more than a decade ago while she was serving on staff in a local congregation. Pat Eggleston joined the ministry effort a few years later helping coordinate and lead the volunteer effort.
As the ministry volunteers strike up conversations with young women and young men they pass on the streets, “we just meet them where they are,” Eggleston said. “This is a very unscripted opportunity. Each person injects his or her own personality based on just how the Spirit leads us and the person we encounter,” she said.
While the volunteers watch for signs of individuals being trafficked, “most of the young people we meet here are substance abusers,” Eggleston said. “Most of them are here because of their drug addiction and they are prostituting to make the money.”
While such tangible results as professions of faith, rescuing underage girls from the streets or helping drug addicts get into treatment facilities have been limited over the years, Smith said, “God spoke and said, ‘Your call is to be in the trenches, to be light in darkness, to be obedient to that.’ This is my calling. I’m just here to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
How to pray:
- Pray the young men and women in prostitution across the country will experience the love of Christ and will find freedom.
- Pray for the safety of Valerie Carter Smith and the volunteers with WMU Virginia street ministry.