Originally set up by All Souls Church, Langham Place in 2013 and supported by Christ Church Mayfair since 2016, Tamar is a charity which supports women and men, who work in the sex industry across London.
A small volunteer team assembled that had a heart for this work, in particular reaching those who had been sex-trafficked, and the Tamar team was born.
The stats vary, but it is widely acknowledged that a high proportion of women working in London’s sex industry have been trafficked into the work. Tamar exists to help fight against the problem of human trafficking, which is often referred to as Modern day slavery.
Tamar has, by God’s grace, just celebrated its 5th birthday and now partners with a number of churches across London. Christ Church Mayfair has supplied Tamar with volunteers and financial support, and a number of other Co-Mission churches are also involved. Tamar primarily operates in Westminster but also supports women in the City and hope to launch a team in Kingston soon.
Tamar’s first goal is to befriend these women and build trusting relationships. Many of the women come from countries where they do not trust the authorities and so may not reach out to the police for help if they have been trafficked. Because we are a charity and from the church, the women are often much more open to our visits.
Over time, we aim to build the friendships that are a foundation for us to start providing practical, emotional and spiritual help. Many of our volunteers are outreach volunteers - making fortnightly visits to flats, massage parlours and areas where women are working on the street, with the aim of deepening relationships.
The vast majority of London’s sex workers are not British, and therefore one of the key ways we can help these women is to provide them with one-to-one English lessons for free. A number of volunteers on the team provide these lessons, as well as accompany the women to doctors appointments to provide support and translation.
Many of these women we encounter do not have any hope. Even if they have not been trafficked, many have come from backgrounds of severe poverty and do not see any other way to live. We are able to share with them the hope that comes from knowing Jesus Christ. We can confidently tell them that despite this world being messed up and injustice is a reality, we know that there is a future where there is perfect justice and no sin. We can offer them the hope of a perfect, eternal life in relationship with a God who loves them dearly.
Over the past five years, we have had the joy not only of seeing women leave the industry and seek justice against their oppressors, but we have also seen women come from spiritual death to spiritual life. What a privilege!
It won’t surprise you to read that women working in London’s sex industry do not meet many Christians and are highly unlikely to walk into one of our churches on a Sunday. We have often heard them say that they are “not good enough” to come to church because of their work.
In Matthew 4:18 Jesus tells us that He will make His disciples fishers of men. In Matthew 9:38 Jesus tells us to pray for workers to go out into the harvest field.
Therefore, we believe that we cannot sit and wait for these women to turn up at our churches, but we must instead go and find them, and bring them in.
Cristyn Wakefield has been a member of the Christ Church Mayfair family for 10 years, and has been an outreach volunteer with Tamar for over 3 years.