In October of 2012, I received my first invitation to go to Boystown in Reynosa, Mexico, which is a border town across from McAllen, Texas. Boystown is a walled area set aside as a zone of tolerance, or sanctioned red light district, by the Mexican government and run by the cartel. Drugs are legal and a woman can be bought for $7.50 US dollars.
Dear friends of ours love the men, women, and children in Reynosa. They had to leave for a time due to cartel violence, but I was invited on a ‘scouting’ trip to see if the door was opening to re-establish a full-time presence there again. I went and fell in love with the dark, dank, walled city filled with hopeless souls.
On trips, we spend time in rhythms of worship and listening prayer each morning. Then our afternoons are spent loving the women within the walls. We go in small groups into Boystown to meet our friends, who, to many, are nothing more than a number on a door, their bodies purchased and used for fleeting pleasure. These broken women tell us they have no one to laugh or cry with, so we sit in their small rooms and laugh and cry with them as they share their stories.
You would not believe the stories they have to tell, like being transported in a box attached to the bottom of a semi-truck with little or no air, or watching cartel boyfriends being hauled off to be murdered after being beaten in front of her by his cartel brothers.
To meet new girls and begin friendships, we bring “hope bags” filled with beauty products and toiletries. Sometimes they angrily refuse them; sometimes they grab them and flee; sometimes they cry and share their stories with us. I consider it a great honor when a girl shares her real name with us instead of the name she uses for anonymity and safety.
At night, we spend more time in prayer and meet with the women who have come out of Boystown, sometimes after twenty or thirty years of degradation and crack addiction. One family was living and working in Boystown for three generations and is now living outside the walls. The now grandmother, who has one eye because she was beaten by a “boyfriend,” is my favorite. She weeps with joy when she shares her story and wears a smile on her toothless face continually.
My heart burns for restoration. It’s hard to describe how much courage it takes these women to leave and begin afresh. Restoration is the reuniting and healing of all that has been lost, stolen, and given away. It’s not glamorous, but it is worthwhile.
This post was written by Rebecca Dunning, an Area Director with N2 Publishing. Read more about her passion and work for the fight against sexual exploitation.