By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
ANNAPOLIS, Md.–Centerpoint Church member and Love Gives Mission director Erika Clark hung out with two young girls, ages 15 and 13, playing games, laughing and chatting and sharing about Jesus. It could have been a youth ministry outreach, but it wasn’t really. This was in a red-light district in Thailand and the two girls are prostitutes. Clark was on a mission trip targeting sex traffic victims.
This is where God has called the 28-year-old Annapolis resident. Clark was in the Navy training to be an intelligence officer. She speaks Farsi and specialized in dealing with suicide bombers. As she was awaiting her assignment, she seriously injured her knee.
“I was in limbo,” Clark said. “Since my knee was messed up I couldn’t go to work. I was on active duty, but not commissioned. I laid on the couch and cried. I was depressed.”
Clark’s husband, Jamie, encouraged Erica to use the opportunity to explore other options.
While watching a television special about sex trafficking, Erika found the right option.
Shortly afterwards, she met the founder of Courtney’s House, an organization in Washington D.C. that provides a safe haven for sex trafficking victims.
Clark became the personal assistant to founder and executive director, Tina Frundt, then later worked in a team of three women that took direct services to clients.
Though thrilled to be helping, Erica felt dissatisfied. The organization, though doing a wonderful work, wasn’t faith-based and did not allow sharing the Gospel.
“I knew they would not be ‘cured’ without Christ,” Erica said. The stories and situations broke Erica’s heart. She cried and hurt for the women.
“Jamie said, ‘Erica, that’s your heart. That is why I married you. These women need someone to storm the gates, take them by the hand and lead them out.’”
God was using Erica’s work at Courtney’s House to train her for the next step. She went on an a four-month missionary trip that included ministering to victims of sex trafficking in a variety of overseas locations including Thailand and India.
“It was intense,” Clark said. In Thailand, the team worked in bars where prostitutes worked six nights a week.
“We hung out with the girls, made friends then took them to a kiosk nearby for food and loved them,” Clark said.
Clark even had one prostitute feed her a cricket. When asked if it was chocolate covered Clark laughed and said, “No, it wasn’t and the antennas got stuck in my teeth.”
The team shared as the Holy Spirit opened opportunities.
Clark struggled with the pimps and johns. “I hated them,” she admitted. Others in her team told her she needed to pray for God to change her heart so she would see them as broken people who need Christ. She said she didn’t want to pray for that because she didn’t want to feel that compassion.
She met one “john” from Estonia. He was a young software engineer who moved to Pattaya. Clark and this man talked every evening and enjoyed debating theology. One night, when Clark was very sick from dengue fever, the young man came into the bar and wanted to hear more about Jesus. Clark cried because this was what she had been praying for and she was unable to talk to him. Another member of the team sat down and shared the Gospel with the young man. Clark said her friends pointed out that God had indeed changed her heart and given her compassion.
In Calcutta, Clark and her team ministered at Sonagachi, the “red light district.” Clark said that in America a euphemism for prostitution is “walking the streets.” In Sonagachi it’s “standing in line.” Clark said each night 10,000 prostitutes stand in a line, shoulder to shoulder, three deep as 20,000 men arrive to buy sex. The average age for a girl entering prostitution in India is ten years old, Clark said.
Returning from her trip, Clark was overwhelmed with a need to continue ministering to those caught in this lifestyle. And, she found that her life was changed.
“I used to say ‘okay, I read my Bible, check. I prayed, check. I’m such a good Christian.’ Everything is different. I can’t go back,” Clark said.
Now, Clark is planning a new strip club ministry, taking women from Centerpoint twice a month to take meals to women working in the clubs to build relationships with them and share Christ.
She is also available to speak at churches about her experiences and to teach how to identify signs of human trafficking, how to prevent children from being trafficked and ways to get involved. Contact Erika Clark at [email protected].