Reaching sex workers in Portland

By Chris Thurston,
Oregon Episcopal Church News

Rahab’s Sisters volunteer coordinator “Our mission is to respond to our sisters in a servant spirit, and to welcome them without judgment, just as they are, no strings attached, no questions, no requirements.” Every Friday night for nearly six years, Rahab’s Sisters, a ministry of hospitality and supportive presence, has provided a safe place for women who are marginalized (many of them sex workers) in Portland. The ministry is offered at Ss Peter and Paul, SE 82nd St.

It is fitting in this season of Advent — the season of waiting — that we pray in expectation of Christ’s blessings on our street sisters and their families. Every Friday our street sisters are fed, both physically and spiritually, as we provide an atmosphere of safety and freedom for them to know that they are loved children of God.

We distribute many personal items and supplies needed for living on the margins. Our volunteers come from Episcopal churches in the Metro-East Convocation, laity and clergy, Imago Dei, an evangelistic missional community, and women from other faith traditions or no faith traditions. We are very grateful for the volunteers who prepare nutritious meals each Friday. This service allows other volunteers to set the tables and get the room ready to receive our guests.

Another ministry with a similar calling is Scarlet Cord, serving women sex workers in outer SE Portland. The mission of Scarlet Cord is “to come alongside our sisters, mothers, daughters, and friends in vulnerable places and show them love and grace; particularly those who are sexually exploited.”

Scarlet Cord has given Rahab’s Sisters a beautiful original painting in gratitude for mentoring their ministry. The ministry takes its name from the biblical story of Rahab, the prostitute who hung her scarlet sash from her balcony to alert the Hebrew army of her family’s whereabouts so they could rescue her during the invasion of Jericho.

The painting is a lovely representation of the ministry and will travel with our volunteers for presentations and celebrations. Its “sister painting” is with the Scarlet Cord ministry. We hope to have future collaborations and celebrations as “sisters in street ministry.” The co-directors of the Scarlet Cord are Carrie Hathaway, Tiffany George, and Amanda Gerke.

The following web sites provide information on volunteering with Scarlet Cord and Rahab’s Sisters, and how to support the ministries.

Scarlet Cord:

Rahab’s Sisters: www. Address for donations: Rahab’s Sisters, PO Box 22443, Milwaukie, OR 97269.

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