Laima Rubenis* and her friend were cautious when an unfamiliar man approached them as they walked home from school one afternoon. The seventh-graders knew strangers were not to be trusted, but this man’s friendly charm and exciting offer to earn money conquered their initial apprehension.
Laima had little to lose, or so she thought. She lived in Riga, the capital city of Latvia, in Eastern Europe. Her family struggled financially, as did most in the depressed economy of the former Soviet Bloc nation, and her parents dealt with their poverty by drinking heavily. Home life was horrible.
Laima decided to throw caution to the wind. She didn’t actually know what was expected of her when she said yes to the stranger’s offer, but he soon gave her the shameful education she lacked. Laima, the seventh grader, went to work for her pimp. Before long, she was using the little money he gave her to numb her shame and pain with alcohol, and then drugs.
Months turned into years. Then came a pregnancy and a baby boy. For shelter, mother and son moved between cheap hotels and crack houses. Drug addicts and slum lords can be very intolerant of crying babies.
One day, Laima’s son became very ill, so she took him to a local hospital. When social services discovered that she was homeless, they took custody of him. Not long after, Laima was arrested on a drug charge. Her world had collapsed.
In prison, the conscience that had been speaking to her all her life finally broke through her hardened heart. Laima found Jesus, and she began a new journey.
Upon her release from prison one year later, Laima had no place to go, so she returned to the streets, but prayed that God would send her help. That help soon came through a friend who told her about Freedom 61 Cafe, where she was served free hot soup and coffee, and where everyone loved Jesus. The cafe was opened just for girls like her.
When the Freedom 61 staff learned of Laima’s plight, they enrolled her in a residential drug rehab program where she lived for almost a year, breaking completely free of drugs and growing in her faith. After successfully completing the program, the Freedom 61 staff offered Laima a job making jewelry that the ministry sells to fund its outreach to women. Laima also enrolled in a course to become a manicurist.
Because Laima now has a steady job and a place to live, she regained custody of her son a few months ago. Laima is now no longer a slave of sin, but a child of God. Through our Human Trafficking/Slavery Fund, we’re glad to be partnered with Freedom 61 in Latvia, helping to change lives like Laima’s through your gifts and the power of the gospel. Thanks so much.