When I started to visit the women in Soho the majority of them were English, with the exception of some who were French and one who was German. The models who were a bit older and more established often had their own rented flat. They usually worked five days a week, had their own maid and would hire someone to stand in for them at weekends. The rest of the flats were run by madams who gave employment to the younger models. Although the model had to pay a fee for using the premises, they weren’t as exploited then as they are today.
My experience has been that many of the English women I visited began to work in prostitution when they were young. Many of them had an abusive background and were therefore emotionally vulnerable. Often, but not always, they started because they met a man with whom they fell in love. He promised them true love and security, a family and children. He then skilfully manipulated them to earn money for him by working as a prostitute. To be wanted and loved is a natural desire, but unfortunately this desire is easily exploited.
Some women I knew worked for the same man for ten years or even longer. A break-up would usually happen either when he left for a younger model, or the woman herself decided that enough was enough. I have met a few women who worked for their partners or husbands for more than twenty years, to then be left not only with a broken heart and a destroyed life, but also financially broken, penniless!
The women I visited earned a good living and, on the surface, they appeared to be all right. They had no obvious physical need like someone who is homeless, a drug user or an alcoholic.
Trying to befriend the women sometimes proved to be a challenge. Many of them thought (as I used to) that working as a prostitute was just another job. Once when I knocked on a door the model, slightly irritated, asked me if I thought that she was more in need of saving than someone who worked in an office. Good question! My opinion is that the person in the office of course needs as much saving as she does; however, Jesus didn’t tell me to knock on office doors, but on hers!
From time to time I have asked Jesus if there is a better or a different way I could reach out to and befriend the women He has called me to visit. Every time I have asked He has shown me the same picture of a pair of hands holding a heart, and He simply says, ‘Go and show them My love!’
The French models I visited at that time had already been in Soho for many years and therefore were probably in their mid-thirties and forties. They usually worked in their own rented flats and employed their own maids who took care of the cleaning, cooking and opening the door to the clients. Some had settled in England whereas others had their permanent home in France. It took me many years to get to know them better, and still today (they are working now mainly as maids) there is only one who invites me into the flat for a cup of tea and a chat. The others are friendly and talk but our conversations always happen on their doorsteps. But who knows, maybe one day I’ll get past their threshold!
The woman from Germany, I learned, came to England when she was in her early twenties. By the time I met her she was already around seventy and still working as a model. She worked in a small flat on the first floor of a three-storey building. One of her friends told me later that she owned the property.
I met her on one of my door-to-door visits and she immediately opened the door and invited me in. The small flat was crammed with stuff and not very clean. She asked me to sit down and made me a cup of tea. Instead of a maid she had an older man sitting with her to keep her company. The woman herself looked like my grandmother used to. Her grey hair was tied up in a bun and she wore a long, old-fashioned skirt. I couldn’t believe that she still worked, and I doubted that anyone would stay after seeing how old she was.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. After I had been talking to her for a while the doorbell rang and she went to answer it. When she came back into the room she asked me to leave, and on my way out she said I was welcome to visit her any time.
I visited her for several years, though not very often. It was the most difficult flat for me to visit and I found the whole situation repulsive. I asked her once why she was still working. She had enough money to stop. The house alone was worth a couple of million pounds at the time. She said she wasn’t able to stop, and that she had to keep on working. She once said she would work till the day she dropped dead.
Her life was heavily influenced, or even controlled, by unclean spirits. On a couple of occasions while I sat with her, talking, her voice suddenly changed and it was like someone else took over and spoke through her. Not only did her voice change, but also the topic of the conversation. Once, the voice started to proposition me, and that freaked me out a bit. Then the voice changed again and the old woman was back and talking again.
So I found it very difficult to visit and spend time with her. I didn’t believe that she was too far gone to be helped, as Jesus has helped many people in her condition. Unfortunately, she wasn’t seeking any help, and after a while I decided not to visit her any more. She knew where the church centre was and could see me any time she wanted.
A few years after I stopped visiting, a maid asked me if I knew that the old woman was losing her eyesight. I still passed her on the street from time to time, and she would be holding on to the arm of an older man whom I didn’t know. I hadn’t known she was going blind and she had never mentioned it. I went to visit her and asked her about it, but she said she was all right. The old man who was sitting with her said she wasn’t, and told me she could no longer see. He said that during the last few years her eyesight had deteriorated and she was now blind. She was able to move around in the flat but the old man had to accompany her to go out. He stayed with her most days and looked after her, and yes, she still worked and had men seeing her for business.
I started to visit her again, but more for the sake of the older man as he started to ask me many questions about the Bible and Jesus. But a few months later he became very ill and died unexpectedly in hospital.
The old woman was now alone. Some of the older maids had tried to help her out, but despite her disability she was very strong-willed, difficult and ungrateful, and so they’d given up helping her. She had a sister who lived in England but she too had given up on her, and only visited her once or twice a year.
After the old man died I went to see her and asked how she was going to cope. She said she would manage and that she had found a woman who for an hourly wage would take her out four or five times a week.
I made some enquiries about the provision of some private help from an organisation for blind people. Every enquiry had to go through the NHS, but the old woman didn’t want them to be involved. She was afraid they would rule that she wasn’t able to live by herself and would put her in a care home. She didn’t want to move and lose her home, and she still wanted to work. By then she was more than eighty years old and men were still seeing her for sexual services.
She asked if I would help her and take her to a restaurant for lunch and shopping a couple of times a week. I felt that Jesus wanted me to, at least for a while, and so I agreed to help her. She didn’t know why she had become blind because she’d always refused to see an eye specialist. I asked her why and her answer was that she had been afraid to be told she was going to lose her sight! Now she was blind and had nothing to lose, so we went to see a specialist in Harley Street.
After the doctor examined her he asked why she hadn’t come before. She had glaucoma and it could have been treated if she had come for help sooner. She wasn’t someone who showed her emotions and she never talked about it, but I wondered how she felt after she found out that she could have been helped had she not listened to her fears. Satan is a hard taskmaster!
I took her shopping and to the restaurant a couple of times a week for more than two years. She allowed me to pray for her a couple of times, but that was all. The last time I visited her was before one of my summer holidays to Switzerland. Before I left I told her that Jesus still loved her and was able and willing to help her. The only thing she had to do was ask Him. She listened but didn’t say anything, and I left.
When I came back from my holiday I called her but she said she didn’t want to see me any more. Someone told me she had a new man who was taking her out. Two years later she died of pneumonia in hospital.
That woman’s life was the saddest I’ve ever seen, but I know that even she could have called out to Jesus and He would have saved her. And, of course, only Jesus knows if she recalled my words and reached out to Him in her last hour of need.
During all the years in Soho the above incidents were the only ones where I encountered such demonic activity while visiting someone. I would have liked to help this woman because I know that Jesus had the power to set her free. But I believe that someone can only be helped if they want to be, and unfortunately she never responded to my invitation.
My experience of praying for deliverance from unclean spirits has been mainly through the prayers and ministry I’ve received for my personal freedom. I have had a couple of opportunities to pray for people, but my knowledge of the subject is limited. The Gospels recount many incidents in which Jesus casts out evil spirits. I believe that even today many Christians could benefit from such prayers, as unhealthy or ungodly behaviour patterns could be the direct result of an unclean spirit. In my personal life and ministry, two books on the subject, which I have found helpful and enlightening, are They Shall Expel Demons and Blessing or Curse: You Can Choose, both by Derek Prince.
It all happened very gradually, but after I had been working in Soho for about ten years, young women began to come to work here from Russia and nearly every country in Eastern Europe. Today, at the time of writing, I can only think of two or three English models still working in Soho.
One of the first of these women I met spoke a little English. She was very upset, and told me that she was from Russia. She said she had known before she came that she would be selling her body, but the organisation she came with had deceived her. They had told her she would be working as an escort having only one or two clients a day, and that she would be free to go out whenever she wanted and enjoy her life.
As it turned out, she found herself in a brothel in Soho, working a fourteen-hour shift, serving thirty or more clients a day. She was told she owed the organisation £30,000 and that she had to pay it off as quickly as possible. She was financially exploited not only by the people who brought her into the country, but also by the madam who ran the brothel. In addition to the debt she had to pay off, she was charged several hundred pounds rent a day for using the premises she worked in. To leave the country wasn’t an option for her as the organisation had her details and wanted their money.
I don’t know if all the women who came through that particular organisation knew they were going to be working as prostitutes. What they experienced was bad enough, but can you imagine if some had thought they were going to be working as waitresses or cleaners?
There wasn’t much we could do to help other than pray. Many of the women could only speak a bit of English and it was difficult to communicate. They also didn’t want to get involved with the police but wanted to pay off their debts as quickly as possible and then work for themselves.
We prayed for several years, then one day we read in the newspaper that the woman who was part of that particular organisation and ‘looked after’ the women in London had been caught and sentenced.
Many women started to come from the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia. However, the majority of the women I met came from Lithuania, then Albania and during the last ten years mainly from Romania. Some came with the help of an agency or organisation. Others came illegally and were often accompanied by a boyfriend.
In order not to be too overwhelmed by the new situation, I had to learn to focus on Jesus rather than the circumstances. It was also difficult to communicate as the majority of the women had to learn English first. We ordered literature in each of their languages so that when we visited we could at least give them something to read.
I don’t know all the details, but it appears that many of the Lithuanian women came via an organisation disguised as a job agency. In their home country they responded to an advert offering employment in England. The people who then interviewed them promised them a job with accommodation. In exchange they had to pay an agency fee, an amount of money which seemed reasonable and which could be paid off gradually over time.
One of the women I talked to was from Lithuania and in her mid-thirties. She said she was a chef and had responded to an advert in her local newspaper. She went for an interview and accepted the job, hoping to gain some new experience while working abroad. She arrived at a London airport where she was picked up by a woman, her new employer. The woman then drove her to her accommodation and asked for her passport. The next day she was brought to Soho where she was told to work as a prostitute to pay off the money she owed the agency. By the time I met her she had already been working for a few months. She told me in broken English that she had met a man, a client, who was going to help her leave. A few days later she was gone.
In fact, several of the Lithuanian women I’ve met left with a client or returned to their country. It seemed that that particular organisation didn’t have the manpower to follow them up.
Many of the maids were kind to these young women. I know of some who helped the models to save money. Many of the models were searched when they got home from work: the person who ‘looked after’ them wanted to make sure they weren’t hiding any money. The maids would keep some of their earnings each day until they had saved up enough money to pay for a flight home. The organisations could no longer keep the women’s passports, as the vice squad started to want to see their documents when they visited the flats, and this made it a little easier for those who wanted to escape.
Many of the young Albanian women were friendly and willing to engage in conversation. Some were open to talking about Jesus and some asked regularly to be prayed for. When their boyfriends first brought them to Soho they were on average eighteen years old and a very few were in their mid-twenties. Only gradually would they start to talk about their families and why they had come to England. Their stories were all similar: they had met a man who had promised them the world, and then found out too late what it was all about. But even now, working in Soho in a brothel, they still believed themselves to be in love. They believed that they would work for only a few years till they had saved up enough money, and would then start a family with the man they loved.
I knew that telling the young women that their boyfriends were just using and exploiting them would be useless and counterproductive. The outcome would be that they would go and tell their boyfriend. He, of course, would deny it and assure them of his undying love and forbid them to talk to me any more. I wanted to be able to continue seeing them and to build up a relationship so that one day, when they were confronted with the truth, they could talk to me if they wanted to.
A couple of maids lost their jobs over such conversations with the models, as some of the madams had financial arrangements with the Albanian pimps. They didn’t want to lose a model, as they did very well for themselves. Some of them tried to excuse their corrupt behaviour by saying it was the girls’ fault and that if they weren’t so stupid they wouldn’t work for a man in the first place.
One of the young Albanian models I met was particularly friendly and introduced me to a friend of hers who worked in a flat nearby. Her friend, who wasn’t very well and was scheduled for an operation, asked for prayer.
A few months later the girl’s friend returned to Soho. Her health didn’t allow her to work as a model and she started to fill in as a maid instead. Eventually the two of them were able to work in the same flat, which they were very happy about. I usually visited them once a week. Sometimes they cooked dinner and we ate together, watched their favourite soap, and chatted. They were very open to Jesus and we had many conversations about Him and prayed nearly every time we met.
On occasion, one of the model’s regular customers would join us. He had his own business, was divorced and felt lonely. He said he didn’t want to go out to pick up a woman for sex and that therefore this arrangement suited him. At first he didn’t want to stay while I was there, but the model assured him that I wasn’t going to judge him. Over the course of time I got to know him a bit better. Of course, I didn’t agree with what he was doing, but at the same time he wasn’t going to be able to change without meeting Jesus first. I pray that one day he will have a personal encounter with Jesus and be saved.
One year, before Christmas, I felt very tired and was looking forward to a break and some time off. I often spent Christmas with my family in Switzerland but that year I had decided to spend Christmas by myself in my flat in Camden. I loved living there and if I did get bored I could always visit people from my church who lived in the area.
The two women knew I had nothing planned for Christmas and that I just wanted to stay at home and ‘chill’. But despite this they wouldn’t take no for an answer and tried for weeks to persuade me to spend Christmas Day with them.
The madam decided she wanted rent money for the 25th, and so they had to work! Although I was very fond of them both, the last thing I wanted was to spend Christmas Day in a brothel. But in the end, a few days before Christmas I gave in and promised that I would come.
Before they came to England they had never celebrated Christmas because Albania had been a communist country. One of the women said that her grandmother used to go to church and believed in God, and that she too believed in God and knew that Christmas was about celebrating the birth of Jesus. And so this is what they wanted to do, celebrate the birth of Jesus, and both were looking forward to it like little children.
When I arrived on the 25th there was a lot of activity in the tiny kitchen as both girls were busy preparing traditional Albanian dishes. Work, of course, didn’t stop for Christmas and so when the doorbell rang the model had to leave the kitchen and serve her customer. They had also invited a regular client who was originally from Turkey and from a Muslim background. There wasn’t much room in the kitchen, but we managed to cram in four chairs so that we could all sit down and eat. The food was delicious and we enjoyed eating while listening to carols on the radio or television.
After the meal, one of the women asked if I would pray and if I would also pray for her customer, who had family difficulties. I explained to the man that I would pray to Jesus and in His name. He said this was all right with him and the four of us joined hands and I prayed. As I was praying, the presence of Jesus came very gently into the room and the woman who had asked if we could pray called out, full of excitement, saying, ‘Can you feel the presence of Jesus, can you feel His presence?’
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.
After a couple of years, and another serious life-threatening incident, the maid stopped working. She received Jesus as her Saviour and since then has been faithful in following Him. Another few years later, and after much hardship and a broken heart, the other girl too finally stopped and is now working in a normal job. She had to work very hard to get where she is now and she knows and acknowledges that Jesus helped her. She hasn’t given her life to Jesus yet, but I pray that one day she will. We’re still in touch, and on sunny days and long summer evenings the three of us love going to Regent’s Park for a picnic or just a long stroll.
Hitchin, UK: Derek Prince Ministries, 1998; Ada, MI: Chosen Books, 1998.