An inner-city, gospel-centred, anti-trafficking initiative
Dai Hankey is a preacher, church-planting pastor, and passionate social reformer. He and his wife, Michelle, have four children, and they live in Cardiff. Dai leads Redeemer Church, a new church plant in the inner city. He also leads Red Community, a gospel-centred anti-trafficking movement and Manumit Coffee Roasters - a business offering dignity and hope to survivors of modern slavery through training & employment.
Recently he was interviewed by Exponential. This is part of his story:
I was pastoring in the valleys in a town called Trevethin and it's where I'm from, it's the town I grew up, and I loved it there. I still am very close to the church there but one day this mad thing happened - I had a vision from God.
I was at a meeting when the Lord gave me a vision of a prostitute walking around the red light district in Cardiff. And I audibly heard the voice of God shouting at me, "Go and rescue her. Go and rescue her. Go and rescue her." That was on the 6th of May, 2012. Apart from my conversion when I actually encountered Jesus for the first time, it was the most profoundly impacting thing that's ever happened to me. I knew I'd heard God's voice. I'd never heard it before or since, nothing like that.
I just burst into tears because I was like, "God's shouting at me." It wasn't an angry shout, but it was an urgent shout. And I was convinced I had to go to that area that night because somebody needed rescuing. So I drove there that night expecting to have to rescue someone, just crawling around this red light district looking for someone to rescue, but there was no one there.
So I got quite confused. I went home and I said to my wife, "God just shouted at me. I don't know what to do about it." And so she said, "Well, maybe God wasn't trying to get your attention about an individual person. Maybe God's trying to get your attention about an issue rather than about a person." I thought that's wise counsel.
She asked, "What is happening for the gospel among the red light district prostitutes, etc., in Cardiff?" I was like, "I don't really know." So I did a bit of research and I touched base with a lady who's now a good friend of mine who works with women who were in sex work, both on the streets and also in brothels. And she seems to reach out to them with the gospel. And so I said to her, "I had this mad thing. God just shouted at me. I don't know what to do about it. Can we have a chat about it?" So she said okay.
As we talked things out, she said, "Look Dai, on the front end, there's not a lot you can do. On the front end, reaching women who are involved in this work. Firstly, you're a bloke. But secondly, there's a lot of us on the team and there's other people doing it as well. The need isn't to reach the women at that point where they're at. There's people that can do that." Then she said, "On the far end, there's also a lot that's happening. There's safe houses, there's refuges. There's addiction centres, rehabs, so that's taken care of as well. If we have women that need to get out of the city or get out of the sex industry, we've got places we can send them. So that's kind of covered as well."
I said, "Well, why is God shouting at me then?" And she said, "Well, the bit which is missing is the bit in the middle. What we need is to know where we can point these women while they are living in the community. So if they needed to go to church or they wanted to connect with a body of believers, we're struggling to know what sort of church we could send them to."
The prostitutes live everywhere but there was a particular concentration of vulnerable and exploited women in the inner city of Cardiff in the area where I'd been given this vision. And so I said, "Well, is there a church in that community right now where you would be comfortable sending your ladies to?" She said, "No." I said, "Well, do you think if I planted a church in that community, that might make sense of what God's shouting at me for?" She said, "Dai, that's exactly what's needed."
It ended up as us agreeing that a church needed to be planted in the red light district area of Cardiff. So I did what was needed. I didn't rush into it. It took 4 years to leave my church. Everything happened which could have happened to try and stop that happening. There was all sorts of problems, all sorts of issues, all sorts of chaos. Over those four years, I spent time researching trafficking, researching prostitution, researching exploitation and slavery. And we started praying, I started a prayer movement in the city. I'm a big believer that the best thing you can do when you don't know what to do is pray. I didn't really know what to do. So I started a monthly prayer meeting which prayed in that community every month, once a month every month.
That prayer movement developed into a charity called Red Community that I run as a charity with a specific focus on a gospel-centred response to human trafficking and modern slavery in Wales. It runs a befriending project where we basically train up local Christians, men and predominantly women to befriend women who've been trafficked and rescued and now were trying to rebuild their lives in community. We started getting feedback from the people that were befriend saying, "Dai, the woman I'm befriending, she really wants to get back into work. She wants to start rebuilding her life, but the thought of a 9:00 to 5:00 five days a week job in the secular workplace is quite daunting. Is there anything that we could do to help to make that step back into full-time employment an easier step?"
The re-trafficking rate is terrifying. Just because somebody has been rescued, if nothing's done about the vulnerability that made them vulnerable and made them exploitable in the first place, they can just get re-trafficked again. The first idea was a coffee shop but one of the trustees very wisely said, "Dai, we don't want to pack a coffee shop full of women who've been trafficked. If our USP is we're offering employment to survivors of modern slavery, everyone who comes in is going to know that that woman was forced into prostitution or forced into servitude that they suffered. Why don't we try something else? Let's try setting up a coffee roastery. You can do it in a anonymous industrial unit. It's quiet. You can safeguard it, nobody even needs to know what's happening in there. But you can just employ a small number of people, put the emphasis on support and just rebuilding lives and regaining trust."
And so we did. We pushed a few doors and long story short, we set up Manumit, a business separate to the charity in 2017 and started to employ survivors of modern slavery to roast coffee.
We didn't set the business up as a sneaky way of doing mission. We felt it was a good way of serving people in the city who've been exploited and trying to help them and love them. That doesn't mean I'm not praying regularly for the people and I don't desire to share the love of Christ. We currently have three ladies who are roasting with us. One of them has come to church a couple of times, the other two never have. We just seek to love them. There's others who have been baptized and have become part of the church family and others who've come and gone and have never darkened the doors.
Watch the full 60 min interview here.
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