'I want to be free!'
Irena was 18 when she immigrated into Israel with a student program and started living in a kibbutz. The kibbutz life, however, wasn't for her, so she decided to move to a big city – Tel Aviv – to work as a waitress. One day she served dinner in a restaurant to a couple of guys who made her an attractive offer: to earn 2000 shekels (half of her monthly salary) per day from prostitution. Irena agreed and thus determined the course of her life for the next 24 years. First she worked in exclusive brothels, than in less and less prestigious ones, and finally – on the streets.

During this period she met a nice man and lived with him for a couple of years. They even had a child together. This man, however, was working in Israel illegally and could not stay in the country much longer. Irena did not want to leave Israel with him. She stayed and soon returned to prostitution. Her little girl was adopted by Irena's parents who by then had already made their aliya. Today Irena's daughter is 14 and is hardly in touch with her mother.

Gradually Irena's life conditions got worse and worse. Even though most of the time she managed to stay away from drugs or any addictive substance, in the last half a year of her "career" as a prostitute she started using cocaine in large doses (that cost her 500 dollars every day) and living on the streets.

We met Irena one year ago for the first time on Tel Aviv streets. We tried to make contact and share the Gospel with her, but she would not listen. When she became heavily addicted, however, she did start visiting our outreach center in Tel Aviv, where she could get some food and rest.

Finally one day three months ago a volunteer from Aviv Center called and asked us if we could take Irena to some rehab or shelter. We did not have a women's rehab then, but could offer Irena a place in the women's shelter of Holy Land Ministries we had been partnering with for some time already. The shelter's living conditions did not really suit a drug addict (there is no round the clock supervision, the tenants can leave the shelter whenever they want and return at any time during the day, etc.), but we decided to take the risk. I have to admit that my hope for success was quite weak...

It's been three months already since Irena moved to live in the women's shelter. In the beginning it was difficult for her. One day she decided to leave and even packed her stuff. The next morning, however, she could not open her eyes and slept through the whole day! The Lord held her in the shelter that day and also helped her change her mind. By His grace she managed to leave the drugs and stay away from them. She insisted on keeping smoking, however, and after much hesitation we finally decided to let her do that (after all, she was staying away from cocaine and prostitution, which was much more important at that stage). Interestingly, Irena has approached us recently and said she had decided to quite smoking! "I want to be free," – she said.

And this is just one of the changes we see in her life. Step by step Irena becomes stronger physically, mentally and emotionally. She asks serious questions about faith, has begun reading the Bible, prays and attends our Shabbat congregation services. She especially likes the worship part. She is open and honest, not cunning and is true to her word. Irena started going to a social worker. (When the social services heard that after so many years Irena left prostitution and drugs without any special medication, they were amazed!) She wants to get her documents and debts in order so that she may start working and getting on her feet financially.

We are very grateful to God for Irena and the changes she is going through. Only with Him all that could be possible! Please pray for Irena's complete recovery and for her to become a strong and mature believer.

Sadly, after some time Irena returned to the streets… Please pray for her salvation - that the seeds the Lord had planted in her heart would sprout up and bring fruit one day.

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