I enjoyed reading Love Beyond by Heidi Baumgartner, of how God has used her to bring His love to the women working in Soho’s red light district for the past thirty-odd years.
Heidi opens the book with her childhood, early adulthood and how she came to know Jesus for herself and His subsequent call for her to minister to sex workers. She tells it as it is, which I like: the difficulties, enjoyment, ups, downs and everything in between. You have to be in this type of work for the long haul as there are no quick fixes. Lots of prayer, commitment to visit the same venues regularly regardless of whether there is a welcome at the door, praising in the darkness, always asking God for His Kingdom to come in this place among these people.
She writes: ‘I think it’s the most amazing thing to be able to worship Jesus in the midst of a dark place, knowing that God inhabits the praises of His people and that praising Him changes the spiritual atmosphere.’
And: ‘One day while I was in Soho, I began my prayer time by singing to the Lord. The moment I started to praise Him, Jesus gave me a brief glimpse into the spiritual realm and I saw strange-looking creatures running away. With their hands they were covering their ears, saying, “Oh no, she is singing again!”‘
In the book are stories to celebrate, of women leaving the sex trade and some committing their lives to following Jesus. Heidi also shows the other side of such work, of faithfully ministering and offering friendship and support over many years without ever seeing any real change.
She is also very real and writes of how God does not hesitate to show up in the most unlikely places:
‘We all felt His wonderful presence and once more I was deeply touched by His amazing grace. Jesus really cares about people and nothing escapes Him. He heard the prayers of four people, praying in a tiny kitchen on the first floor of a brothel in Soho, and decided to visit us by His Holy Spirit.’
Having volunteered in this type of work myself elsewhere in the UK, I know firsthand how discouraging it can be and how oppressive it feels at times. It is also highly rewarding and I loved meeting with women working on the street as well as those working in massage parlours. What astounded me about Heidi was her level of commitment to the women: for years she actually lived in Soho within easy walking distance of the women to whom she ministered. I particularly loved that the women weren’t a ‘project’ to her but she showed them real, authentic friendship. They often had meals together and the women knew how much Heidi loved them. I think the fact she has not burnt out reveals her passionate heart for God because only He could sustain a ministry like this.
It’s a great book and I highly recommend it. I’ll leave you with two more quotes:
‘…after visiting the flats in Soho for thirty years I still don’t believe that a woman wakes up one morning and says to herself that she’s going to earn her living by working as a prostitute.’
‘Jesus responded that I should never stop asking for His Kingdom to come, regardless of the people or the situation.’
Instant Apostle provided me with a free Kindle copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review.