“Working with sexually exploited women has increased my faith.”
Azalea was set up in 2007 by several Luton churches seeking to help women in prostitution. After much prayer, a team was trained, a Drop-in opened and street Outreach launched. Azalea has since connected with more than 200 women.
The charity draws many supporters from Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. One of those is Marion Gooding from St Mary’s Church, Luton. She shares:
“For years I’d felt a calling to work with sexually exploited women, and I used to see them at the end of our road. As soon as I gave up paid work, I knew the time had come to do Azalea’s training course.
It taught me a lot about prayer and how central Jesus was to the work. I also learned about the abuse the women had suffered, some lifelong. Prostitution wasn’t something someone decided to do at 18 – it followed years of abuse and control. That really struck home.
What amazes me about Drop-in is that the women are just themselves. They don’t put on airs and graces, and are usually very open. That’s such a privilege. I’m also blown away that so many women want prayer. That has taught me so much. We’ve repeatedly seen God answer prayers for the women – it’s definitely increased my faith.”
Vicki Miller from St Hugh’s Lewsey was 18 when she joined Azalea’s team:
“I had plans to become a holiday rep, and joined Azalea as a volunteer. I loved Outreach and Drop-in, and felt I wanted to do it all the time, not just one evening a week. So in 2015, I became a full-time support worker.
It’s a tough job, dealing with homelessness, domestic violence, and very low self-esteem. One example is a woman whose partner is physically and psychologically abusive. I helped her to press charges and receive justice. I try to get her to grasp her worth and that this abuse isn’t normal, by speaking positive words over her.
Through Azalea, I’ve learned a lot about my identity and who God has created me to be. I’ve learned about the humility of God, and the importance of being the farmer sowing seeds not harvesting the fruit. Azalea isn’t easy, the challenges bring great rewards. God didn’t ask us to take the easy option.”
Azalea is looking for new frontline volunteers. The next 2-day training course takes place on March 3 and April 21. Find out what volunteering and training entails at www.azalea.org.uk/training.