“It’s like my home.” The blond Uzbek woman had tears in her eyes as she thanked us. NightLight’s outreach team and visitors from Iris had just sung Christmas carols inside the brothel where these women from Uzbekistan, Russia, and one from Columbia are working. 21 of us gathered in the lobby and, accompanied by guitar and violin, we sang for the women. The women gathered around us to watch and listen. Several of them used their phones to record us singing. Others put their arms around each other and swayed to the music. The women had tears in their eyes. Many of us did, as well.
The Columbian woman is new to the brothel. Spanish is the only language she speaks and our Spanish is too basic to carry on much of a conversation. We had prepared the song “Feliz Navidad” for her and when we sang, I saw that she was singing along. The familiar music no doubt took her thoughts to her three children at home and the Christmas celebrations there. In the brothel, she is surrounded by several other languages and cultures, but none are familiar to her. Every night she and the other women try to forget who they really are so they can act the part for the customers. They encounter darkness every night. It is the memory of home that keeps them going. For many, Christmas is one of these memories.
Even the Thai men who manage and pimp the women gathered around to listen. Christmas is not so familiar to them, but the music is beautiful and our faces reflected the love we felt for all of them. We sang “Silent Night, Holy Night” in a place that is not known for holiness. After singing, a few of us stayed back to give gift bags to the women. It was then, the Uzbek woman tearfully told me, “Thank you. It’s like my home.” After a little more conversation, we hugged the women goodbye and left the brothel. For a few minutes that night the brothel activities had stopped for Christmas.
Outside, the red light area vibrated with the loud sounds of bar music and men were actively buying women for their sex. Although there are Christmas decorations in the bars, they fail to carry the true Christmas spirit. Darkness is all around and the red light is not the light that people seek within. We moved on to take the light of the Christmas message throughout the red light area. 725 gifts were given out that night. We gave them to women dancing on stage, to women sitting with men, to streetwalkers, and to the trafficked women we met on the street. Joy filled women’s faces as they received these unexpected gifts.
“The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light. On those who lived under the shadow of death, a light has come.” The prophet Isaiah wrote these words thousands of years ago prophesying the coming of Jesus. This is the Christmas message – Jesus born on earth to bring light and hope to a dark and dying world. On one dark night, NightLight’s team sang and gave gifts inside a brothel and throughout the red light area. On that night the Light shone and scattered the darkness with hope of true freedom.