Nikki's heart for human dignity
Nikki's heart for human dignity
16 June 2017
Nikki capp had a dream or a vision which she considers her personal “heart transplant” moment.
She isn’t sure which one it was. But it was real. It was 20 years ago at a Phillip Island camp run by her Camberwell Corps in Melbourne.
She doesn’t recall whether she was awake or asleep at the time. But she does recall an experience of God “reaching” into her chest, removing her heart and replacing it with a new heart.
God, she says, seemed to be activating within her a deep passion for some of the things that break his heart, especially the injustices faced by women the world over.
She revived the experience early this year when invited to share her life story at Camberwell Corps.
Nikki chose to speak on the fourth tenet of The Salvation Army’s national mission statement: “Working for Justice – tackling the social systems that harm creation and strip away human dignity.”
She spoke about her involvement, from its inception nine years ago, in The Salvation Army’s brothel outreach program. “I can’t tell you how angry it makes me that we live in a society which has legalised the buying and selling of women for sex, as normal and acceptable,” she said. “I have a strong sense that this grieves the heart of God.”
She told of a visit to Mumbai, India, to see, first hand, projects run by The Salvation Army and others to help women in prostitution and their children in slum areas.
“In one of the brothels I was taken to visit, we climbed the first couple of stories of narrow dark stairs, with small dark rooms either side of cramped, filthy corridors.
We climbed up ladders to get to the fourth floor of the brothel. There, an outreach worker and I sat on a bed with a woman in a cubicle not much bigger than a dog kennel. “The woman’s two-year-old daughter crouched outside the curtain door as we talked, just as she did whenever men came to visit her mother in the room.
At the end of our conversation, I asked [the woman] what would be the best thing that could happen in her life right now – for herself and her daughter.
I expected her to say something like being rescued [from the brothel] or for her daughter to be able to go to school. The woman said: ‘If only I could have a room on the ground floor, then the men would not have to climb up so far to see me and I would have more clients’.”
It stirred within Nikki a deep cry to fight against the injustice of a lack of hope, “because hope is what is stripped away from a person through poverty, gender inequality and sexual exploitation”.
The woman, said Nikki, had no concept that she had any value.
Nikki’s Mumbai experience was 10 years ago. On her return to Australia, she involved herself with others in an outreach ministry to women working in brothels in Melbourne. Their work has spread to other parts of the country, including NSW and Queensland.
About 100 legalised brothels are now impacted by the ministry, with more than 8000 contacts made each year.
Teams of Salvation Army volunteers – usually working in pairs – visit brothels every few weeks. They take cupcakes, contact cards, magazines and, sometimes, small gifts.
They sit in brothel lounges with the women, building relationships and offering pathways out of prostitution.
English conversation classes have recently been offered, especially for the many Asian women now in the industry.
There is evidence, says Nikki, of escalating exploitation and human trafficking. “Our teams go out with the intent of sharing hope and life and transformation with those who live and exist on the margins. We are literally going into places of darkness and abuse to reach out to those who predominately have little choice in being there.”
Bill Simpson is a contributing writer for Others magazine.