Working Against the Tide in India’s Red-Light District

( [email protected] ) Jan 21, 2004 01:47 PM EST

In Uttar Pradesh, the red-light district of India, the birth of a girl is a “curse” if not a “burden.” Every year, thousand of children and young women are sold and “mortgaged” to this big bowl by their own parents because of poverty and tradition. Many times, pastors ignore the area and congregations prevent them from coming. That’s why missionaries Joy and Grace Zaidi are opening doors and opportunities for the children and victims through the love of Christ.

Food. Shelter. Acceptance. Freedom from violence, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Literacy. Job skills. Basic civil rights. That's what these women need to have any hope of breaking the bonds of sexual slavery, according to Joy. Most of all, they need the saving love of Christ.

When scandalized church folks question Joy about his ministry, he answers with a question: "Didn't Jesus do this?" When prostitutes ask, "Why do you help us?" he tells them what God has done for him.

Needy people of all kinds -- especially women and children -- find shelter and solace in their home and through several social organizations they lead. Their telephone often rings late at night about another female victim of a beating, burning or rape. Grace has helped hundreds of Indian women form economic cooperatives to escape destitution.

Together, they form a Christian "power couple" in Uttar Pradesh -- and a significant force for positive change. But they're grandparents now. "I'm getting old," Joy protests with a trademark wry grin. They could use some help. They're starting to get it from some evangelical friends, who want to see the Gospel spread among both Hindu and Muslim families in Uttar Pradesh, home to 166 million people.