What I Learned From My Visit To A Brothel

Sometimes we have to allow our hearts to break over the reality that many children in our world are vulnerable and highly susceptible to abuse, trafficking, and modern-day slavery. May these honest words spur you on and motivate you to love even deeper than you already do…

I saw them. I saw so many girls. Some boys too. I saw them at all ages and stages. I saw the under 21s. I saw the over 60s. I saw the ones who didn’t speak English. I saw the ones who were desirable to groups of people due to their size and even disability.

At one time they were children who didn’t have a family to fight for them and ended up in the sex industry. And dare I say, I saw my children in the future, except for the grace of God. Statistically, this is what the future would hold for children like yours and mine if they had stayed in the system and were only known as blurred out faces.


Most Americans who are victims of sex trafficking come from our foster care system. It’s a system that leaves vulnerable children to be preyed upon by pimps. Internationally it happens too. Orphans are prime targets to be trafficked. They have no one. No skills. No one to fight for them. Children have been known to vanish from orphanages. It’s easy for them to go unnoticed when there are no records. It’s as if they never existed.

This is who I saw at the clubs, porn convention and legalized brothels of Nevada.

I’m not saying all these women were trafficked. But 20% of the clients we served were. And that’s just the ones we knew about. Even if this was a path they chose of their own free will, not one child wakes up one day and says, “I want to become a sex worker when I grow up.” For various reasons, they have all been desensitized to this life.

The first time I visited a brothel, I scratched my head in terrified and horrified disbelief. What is a girl like me doing here? Then, what is a girl like that doing here? But the more I visited, the more I looked forward to it. What I found is that they really were very much like me. They were women. Moms. Some had custody. Some didn’t. Some of them were wives. We shared stories about our kids. There’s always a story to share there. And I felt like I was getting a break from my daily trauma momma life, yet still engaged with the population my heart ached for.

This organization I volunteered with exists solely to give value to these women. That’s it. We didn’t preach to them. We didn’t encourage them to get out. But we did let them know if they needed a dentist, a doctor, counseling or anything else, we could help get them those services. Regardless of what the world tells them, these women have value. We took our usual cupcakes, makeup and hair supplies and helped them get ready for their day.

One day, there was a lot of whispering and gathering of the girls as they anxiously talked with the social worker. Another worker’s boyfriend beat her up badly. And since she was beat up, she couldn’t work. Since she couldn’t work, she couldn’t stay there. She had no where to go. So she went back to stay at her boyfriend’s place. They knew she was in danger. They asked us to help. Several attempts were made to reach her, but she never returned the calls.

A couple months passed and I received a text. She died and it was being investigated as a homicide. I was shocked. I knew of many families with tragic circumstances surrounding the loss of their loved ones. But none because of murder.

So we made another trip, but this time, it was to give honor and value in a different way. We took pink balloons and our usual cupcakes and attended the memorial service for a precious life cut short. They shared stories, displayed pictures of her and planted a tree on the brothel property in her memory. There were 12 people who attended the funeral. The smallest funeral I’ve ever been to. The saddest funeral I’ve ever been to. No family. Only workers and other associates of the brothel.

At the end, one of the girls walked up to sing a song. I remember thinking, “I wonder what song she will sing?” I was thinking something secular or even unusual. And then these words rolled out of her mouth:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me. 

I once was lost but now I’m found,

Was blind, but now, I see.

And then the tears came. To me. It was the most beautiful version of that song I have ever heard. And not because she had a professionally trained musician’s voice. It was the song.

We’ve all heard the song. But you’ve never heard that song until you’ve heard a sex worker sing it at a sex worker’s funeral.

In that moment, under the big Nevada sky with the snowcapped mountains in the background, I was standing in an unlikely match, and yet here we were, all the same. We weren’t there to provide makeup or hair services or resources. We were just a group of people, all in need of grace. What started as the saddest funeral I have ever been to, ended up being the most beautiful funeral I have ever been to and one of the most memorable moments in my life.

We are ALL in need of grace. We are all considered wretched at one time or another in our lives. We have all been lost at some point in our journey. We all have been blind and can’t see through our circumstances. We all want this grace that is sweet, this grace that saves, this grace that finds us, this grace that makes us see. We All need that kind of grace.

So let’s continue to fight this fight and love big. Not as saviors. But as those who have received grace and now want to give grace.

Question: What are your thoughts or feelings after reading this story? Share with us in the comment section below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why You Shouldn’t Be Ashamed Of Your Wounds!

We desire to hide our deepest wounds. And rightfully so. We’ve been taught that wounds equal failure. As parents we fear the words “I told you so,” if we revealed our struggles on this journey. But what if our wounds didn’t equal failure? What if they did something bigger than we could imagine?

I know what you want to do, dear parent.

I know because I’ve sustained the same cold blows from this journey.

You want to hide.

How Do You Find Authentic Support On The Adoptive Journey?

Is it possible to find people who get it? How do I go about connecting with people who won’t judge or criticize me if I’m brutally honest? What about people who will love me and my children even when things get really bad? Where do I find people like that? We’ve had these questions, and more, over the years. Here’s where we’ve found answers…

I heard the bus pull up at the end of our driveway and glanced at the wall clock. My kids were home from school and I had completely lost track of time. I jumped up to unlock the door and smiled widely at my three youngest sons. My 8 year old hugged my waist, my 9 year old threw his backpack across the family room, brushed off my hug and stomped to his room, slamming the door behind him. My 10 year old rolled his eyes and I put my hand on his shoulder to stop him, “Ok, spill it.” He sighed, “Noah wouldn’t leave him alone on the bus. He kept asking about his ‘real’ brothers and sisters. We asked him to stop but he wouldn’t. Noah asked why his ‘real’ mom didn’t want him and then it was time to get off the bus so we all just left.” “Thanks for telling me, I’m sorry that happened to you guys,” I squeezed his shoulder. He smiled a half smile as he looked up at me, “It’s ok, mom, some people just don’t get it.” In our family, we have 8 children all of whom were adopted. We don’t look alike. That fact is usually lost on us until someone else points it out.

How This Whole Adoption Journey Began For Us

The Honestly Adoption Podcast - Season 8, Episode 78

It’s our Season 8 finale of The Honestly Adoption Podcast and today we’re talking all things new book, and how the Berrys began this whole adoption process in the first place…

We will be finishing up Season 8 of The Honestly Adoption Podcast by celebrating this week’s book launch for our very own co-founder and host, Mike Berry. Guest hosting on the show today is Matt McCarrick, who interviews Mike and asks all the questions you’ve been dying to know about the book, the launch, and where this all began.

Listen Now:

On The Darkest Days, There Is Hope!

On our adoptive and foster parenting journey, we’ve had lots of dark days. Sometimes many more than days of light. The amount of times we’ve felt like giving up and laying down are simply uncountable. But we’ve found unending hope…

Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com

“Your son has FASD!”


“This hearing is continued. And we’re reinstating visitations.”


“Hi, I’m your son’s principal. Just wanted you to know that he’s in the office again for punching another student and cussing out the teacher.”


“Ma’am, we caught your daughter stealing again. We have no choice but to press charges.”


How To Find Hope On The Foster And Adoptive Journey.

Adoption and foster care can be filled with loneliness, desperation, and defeat. We know you love your kids, but it’s hard when you have to walk through your child’s past trauma with them. Can you really find hope in-spite of this? The answer is, yes. It starts by understanding something powerful and true.


“I don’t think I can take one more day of this,” I said, glaring at the table, with a clinched fist and gritting teeth. My friend agreed. Many colorful words were exchanged between us, that morning, as we sat talking in a restaurant. The steam from our coffee snaked and twisted through the air, disappearing, as if hope was slowly disappearing with it. We shared similar wounds. Both of us had children adopted from foster care and both of us were in very dark and desperate situations. We both loved our kids deeply, but recognized that, out of their trauma, they behaved in certain ways and it caused our exhaustion to abound.

How To Take Better Care Of You In The New Year.

You’ll often hear us say that self-care isn’t selfish, and self-care isn’t hard. In fact, it’s quite simple. Our community manager, Michelle McKinney (who went to college for fitness), and is now on the adoption journey, breaks it down for us…

It’s January. You might be saying, “Ugh.” Or you might be saying, “Praise Jesus!” All depends on what happened the previous year to either give you hope for moving on or angst of the inevitable. For adoptive parents, it’s probably both. We feel hope because our kids are older and maturing. But then there’s the fact that they are older and maturing…bringing bigger, more life-altering consequences. If you’re like me, because of the above struggle, I rarely if ever make the common New Year’s resolutions. Honestly, I don’t have time for that silliness. I only have time to survive is what I usually think.

An Invitation To Look Beyond Your Child’s Trauma.

When you’re in the thick of dealing with tantrums, meltdowns, outbursts, or aggression, it’s hard to see the heart of your child. But look deeper and your perspective, and own heart, may change…

I sit in the bland, cold waiting room of the latest residential treatment facility my child is a resident in. Clutching my legs just above my knees tightly, I listen to other residents and their parents receive instructions on a pending off-campus visit, in the waiting area next to where I sit. “Make sure he doesn’t have access to a cell phone, or social media, or email. You need to be back by 4pm sharp, no exceptions. Please stay within 10 miles of the facility. Absolutely no visits to home. If he tries to run here is the number you call. Have a nice visit!”