We see and hear heartbreaking things all the time. But every once in awhile we meet someone who takes that pain to an even deeper level.A couple of weeks ago Diane and I knocked on a motel door. It was answered by a middle-aged woman, Miriam.* She was often in the room when we knocked, but she had never opened it until that night when she felt like she was supposed to open it. Her story came out: The only way she could see to pay for a motel room that would keep her off the street was to sell her body for sex.  She was a prostitute. She hated it and knew it was wrong, but felt like she had no choice. She had a rule, she never turned tricks in her room. That was her sanctuary, dirty and decrepit as it was. Every night she asked God to forgive her for what she had done.We talked with her, encouraged her, prayed for her and hugged her, promising to return. There was no need to convict her of her sin. She was already convicted. Our hope was to show her the grace of Jesus in the moment and find a way to build a relationship that would allow us to help her.

Late the next afternoon Diane went back her motel, hoping to walk her across the street to a small church pastored by our friends. On Tuesday nights they have a meal followed by a Bible Study. Miriam had sounded interested and open, so Diane went to follow up. Miriam was not in her room but Diane saw her sitting on a bus bench on the other side of the street, all dressed up. Diane went and sat by her, thinking that she was waiting for a bus. She wasn’t. She was waiting for someone who would pay her for sex. Diane is remarkable in her ability to kindly listen to people and Miriam began to share details.She was paying for her room on a night-by-night basis. The way it works was that if you did not have the $75 by late afternoon, you turned in your key and didn’t get it back until you brought the money. Back in the room she had started a crock-pot meal and was hoping to have friends over later for dinner. But she was $35 short for that night so she was on the bench looking for a client who would pay her for sex, likely in his car, that would allow her to get her key back and have dinner with her friends. Diane asked her this question: “So if I gave you $35, you could just go back to your room and have dinner with your friends?” Her answer was a simple “yes.”

We never hand out money directly, but this was a time to make an exception. Diane got some money from an ATM, walked back to her room with her and left her a Bible and reading glasses with an encouragement to read it and a promise to stay in touch. This is not our first encounter like this. I am not sure why, but these conversations have just killed me. We found out Miriam is 52, with grown children. What does it feel like to be a middle-aged woman reduced to this? What does it do to your body? What does it do to your soul? Somehow her age, the reading glasses, the crock pot meal and being a prostitute all collided in a way that just shattered my heart.As I have begun talking with prostitutes, I have a new appreciation for the fact that Jesus was a friend of prostitutes. He showed them love first, not judgement.

Our job is to do the same. The two women I am thinking of were both very clear on their sin. They didn’t need our help on that front.Jesus showed grace, called for repentance and brought help on a journey of radical transformation for women whose only value is the sex they sell. We are simply trying to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. We are not sure what it looks like, but if Miriam and others want a way out of that life, as followers of Jesus, our job is to help. Finding Jesus as Savior is only part of their journey to a better life. Pray for Miriam and others like her that they will know the love of Jesus and experience the change only He brings. Pray for us too, that we will find others like Miriam and that we will know how to best love them and help them.

*Name has been changed to protect identity