Set into Life - Bettina Ratering - ebook

Set into Life ebook

Bettina Ratering



This is a very powerful and moving story of a child growing up on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg and of her rescue from that way of life. In my many years of ministry with Teen Challenge I have, without exaggeration, seen thousands of human lives transformed by God's power. At the same time I believe that Bettina's life story is one of the most astonishing ones I have read and have myself witnessed. No one should ever go through such a hell on earth as she did. Yet, the fact that she is a godly woman today and a leader of the Teen Challenge ministry in Germany, is a testimony for the miracle-performing grace of Jesus Christ. No one who reads this book should move on and be able to say that God is dead or that Jesus Christ was merely a historical person. He is alive in Bettina's heart, her mind, her soul and her life, and what Jesus Christ did for her, he can do for everyone. Don Wilkerson Founder of Global Teen Challenge

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A Cold Night

The Offer

Rosi Seals The Deal


My Mothers

Cold And Hot

Inner Strife

Who Are You?

The Friends

Without Sound

The Boy In Our Neighbourhood


Not Too Close



First Contact

Friend Or Foe

I Don´t Care!

Teacher's Conference

Going Home

The Disappointment

I Need You


The Acquaintance

The Salvation Army

Let's Scram


The Conflict

Who Is Jesus?

My Return

The Prodigal Daughter

God Is Calling

Obedience And Combat

A Life Lived According To God's Calling

The Obstacle


An Ambassador Abroad


Finding Our Way As A Couple

Street Kids

The Farm

Teen Challenge - Back To The Roots

A Yes To Life

Hatred And Forgiveness

On The Way

Companions Along The Way

Miracles Happen Again And Again

Purpose Driven Life

Grace Prospect

My Thoughts On Globality Or: The "Wind Of The Lord"


This is a very powerful and moving story of a child growing up on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg and of her rescue from that way of life.

In my many years of ministry with Teen Challenge I have, without exaggeration, seen thousands of human lives transformed by God's power.

At the same time I believe that Bettina's life story is one of the most astonishing ones I have read and have myself witnessed.

No one should ever go through such a hell on earth as she did.

Yet, the fact that she is a godly woman today and a leader of the Teen Challenge ministry in Germany, is a testimony for the miracle-performing grace of Jesus Christ.

No one who reads this book should move on and be able to say that God is dead or that Jesus Christ was merely a historical person.

He is alive in Bettina's heart, her mind, her soul and her life, and what Jesus Christ did for her, he can do for everyone.

Don Wilkerson Founder of Global Teen Challenge

1. Alone

Awarm summer breeze was blowing through the streets.

Occasionally, you could hear the sweeping of shards of glass and beverage vehicles picking up the empties from the pubs.

It was silent – almost too silent!

A few hours earlier all hell had broken loose there.

Lights sparkled everywhere, ladies of the night attracted men into the bars.

The sight of women offering themselves and haggling for customers; it wasn’t unlike a summer rummage sale, except that here it was womens’ bodies for sale!

There were limousines with darkened windows, thugs waiting for their prey, young girls going child-street-walking and being critically observed by their pimps.

And then there were the many people who, out of curiosity just wanted to gape, to have fun.

Mobs of men drawn by the pubs acted out as they never could have done at home.

It was pure unbridled lust for sex and drugs.

The many blinking ads with their oversized nude pictures fired up the emotions and lured customers.

Again and again there was the howling of sirens and police cars flashed past.

Nothing of that sort could be seen now.

What remained was dirt, the stench of alcohol and sweat as well as here and there, a tramp passed out drunk, abandoned, unnoticed.

Such was the daily scene in the David precinct.

Who cared?

Here, everyone was responsible for himself.

This short period of respite in the market of lust and desire was necessary in order to undertake the few personal matters which remained for the people who lived and worked here.

Rosi was sitting at a bar.

The night had left visible traces.

Her face looked like a spilled paint pot.

The applied makeup was heavily smudged and mixed with everything that gave her face colour.

She looked absent, lacking any expression.

She had been here for 2 years.

It felt like an eternity.

And yet, she was only 14 years old, with her life supposedly still ahead of her.

Her parents had chucked her out early from home.

They were both alcoholics and were not able to care for her.

So, she ended up street-walking, to earn some money, although most of her earnings went into the hands of her pimp.

The little that remained for her, was spent on coffee, cigarettes and drugs.

She did not have any fixed abode, and so she slept here or there at a whoremonger’s.

Sometimes her pimp, with whom a kind of love-hate relationship had developed over time, took her for himself.

It was a dependency for survival.

He was her protector, dealer, boss and provider.

Apart from her, he had many other girls who had to go hooking for him.

Now, she was alone.

Steam rose from a coffee in front of her and someone behind the counter cleaned up.

In the background you could hear quiet muffled sounds from the radio.

Hastily she poured down the hot contents of the cup.

Rosi stood up and left.

She headed for the port.

She often went there when she was all alone.

Soon, the first tourists, potential customers, would reemerge, and by then she had to be fit again.

On her way there she made a short detour via a toilet, where she wiped the remaining colour off her face, washed and applied new makeup, styled her long hair and finally set out.

A new day had begun.

2. A Cold Night

Little by little it became more uncomfortable outside.

The warm breeze was replaced by a foggy haze.

That was typical Hamburg weather.

The drizzle permeated the girls’ thin clothing as they met in front of the nightclub.

It was 5 pm and not yet the peak period.

Nevertheless, it seemed as if the mile was beginning to bustle.

Rosi was standing surrounded by a crowd of girls all offering their bodies.

She was wearing high-heels, and her mini skirt only just hid the bare essentials.

She rummaged around agitatedly in her purse, once again quickly injecting herself, applying a double layer of lipstick, and now she was ready for the first customer.

It was a battle game between customers, custodians of the law and the girls.

Not one was registered, let alone of legal age – but all were highly sought after.

It was the task of the pimps to protect their goods well, and so they regularly cruised around checking up on their merchandise!

They were to be seen everywhere and yet nowhere.

Rosi froze, trying hard to convince the men passing by with her artificial plastic smile.

Today, she didn’t appear to be so convincing.

She couldn’t manage to utter any chat-up line.

All she felt, night after night, was an enormous pressure to make money, to supply her need for alcohol and drugs.

Then they came: a group of sex tourists, driven in from somewhere.

With their sharp eyes they were seeking a match for themselves.

And so it happened that even Rosi got her whore-monger, and quickly disappeared with him inside a brothel.

After the obligatory bottle of sparkling wine, she applied the grooming skills in which she had been trained, and then disappeared with him.

Here, it was no problem to rent a room at an hourly rate.

Many even had something resembling a contract with the housekeepers.

Most of them tried to serve as many clients per day as possible, and it also happened that pimps brutally restricted the hours or showed up very quickly with a new potential client.

This happened to Rosi that night.

It was 3am when she, completely run down, resurfaced at the entrance of the nightclub.

Her whole appearance looked much the worse for wear.

A doorman approached her, forcing a kiss on her lips: a sign of power, for otherwise such a kiss was taboo.

Then they settled up.

It was hard business.

In the end, too little remained for her.

Now, she was freezing again.

This time it had not worked out with a warm shelter for the rest of the night.

She got up and trudged along close to the shops and bars, always on the scout.

3. The Offer

Something was wrong.

Rosi felt totally miserable.

"Crap drugs" she thought, as she experienced one emotional outburst after another.

Today she did not even want to see anyone.

The cigarette had no taste.

She had never been seriously ill, and in this industry you simply could not afford to be.

Once she witnessed a girl being brutally beaten up because she had refused to give her services to the pimp.

After a while she stood up again, disappeared into the next toilet, then tripped and staggered towards the night bar.

A man approached her directly, which was very unusual in the mornings.

He looked her up and down, undressing her with his eyes.

He took her wrist and dragged her into a pub.

It was a gambling den.

In the background you could hear men gambling, the shuffling of cards and the smack of billiard shots.

He sat her on a stool, place a glass of beer in front of her and coaxed her to drink.

Then he offered her a joint.

He continued to look at her with his piercing gaze.

A short time passed by and the silence felt like an eternity to Rosi.

What did he want from her?

And what was going on with her boss?

It didn’t take long to hear his agenda.

With a haunting gaze and a hoarse voice he started to explain:

"Jan, they got'im! Now you belong to me!" Then he set out the new working conditions.

Rosi was only half-listening.

What had happened to Jan?

Where was the money he still owed her?

Quickly she realized that her new boss wasn’t really interested in how she was doing.

He took her into his private area, which was different from what she had previously known..

He paid close attention to ensure that his girls looked good, but when it came to brutality and meanness, he was almost without equal.

He set the prices, had a few rooms upstairs and in part even provided the clientele.

For Rosi this was still no great improvement.

She had to beg him for every drug, and he took full pleasure in hearing her pleas.

She even had almost forgotten her 15th birthday.

However, she started to have an inkling about something appalling ...

After a couple of weeks, she was certain: she was pregnant!

She knew of many who were sent to Holland for an abortion.

She also knew stories where pimps simply had kicked women until they lost their unborn child.

What should she do?

What would happen if she came out?

What would her boss do?

Yes, she was also to blame.

She had been impregnated by some customer.

It was an accident: this was her excuse.

But when and how?

Unfortunately, in this business, pregnancies can’t be kept secret for long.

She knew she had to tell him before he found out another way.

She was not even clear about what she wanted or what would happen, and so she was very scared.

Early in the fifth month she seized the right moment for a conversation with her boss.

Drugged to the eyeballs with everything she could get, she went to him and revealed all.

She chose a favourable moment.

Over the last days he had made good money and he was sitting down with her for a glass of beer.

She tried to begin to launch into her explanation again and again,, then all the misery broke loose out of her.

Moments of silence and anxiety ensued.

You could nearly see how he was processing the revelation.

Then came the first reaction: he slapped her across the face.

She began to tremble.

What now?

What would he do to her?

Astonishingly quickly he calmed down and studied her.

Then he began to grin.

"It’s a different kind of fun with a pregnant woman. I will get you the right ones." Having said this, he loosed her into the unknown.

It was brutal and degrading.

In spite of her condition, he demanded more and more of her.

Shortly before the delivery she felt so bad, she could hardly breathe.

He allowed her belly to show and she realized that it would not be long until the baby would come.

4. Rosi Seals The Deal

He also seemed to realize, that the pregnancy was almost over.

As if completely changed, he embraced and caressed her, before offering her a room for her private use.

Rosi was allowed to stay there, and only he visited her regularly.

Now, his ambition was clear to her.

He wanted both of them for himself: herself and the baby, and she agreed to it, not that she had much choice!

It was a type of modern slavery, in which she belonged to him, and had no rights.

She was neither registered, nor known to the authorities!

She was only 15 years old!

Her life had, in any case, not belonged to her for a long time.

She had no sense of personal value, nothing, where she could find herself.

She was being determined by the current market value.

For a long time she had realised that even drugs added nothing to improve her life.

She was in fetters, and the ropes were being pulled tighter and tighter.

Without them, she would not be able to hold herself together.

She was imprisoned and without prospects!

Sex, violence and drugs determined the day.

Through the drugs she knew herself to be temporarily in another world, and that made everything else somehow bearable.

The child, that was coming, was annoying just by its existence!

What should she do with it?

She had not even wanted it and she could not make any use of it in her situation.

It would cost time and money.

She was sure that the demands made on her would not be reduced.

It was nothing more than a stupid operational accident.

Almost gratefully she accepted her boss’ proposal.

He wanted the child, and he was welcome to it!

She could not and would not assume any responsibility for it.

She herself had not experienced a normal childhood and was hard and without feelings despite being pregnant.

Not even thoughts of murdering the child seemed strange to her.

Only the fear of her boss protected her from doing such a thing.

He visited her very often and his latest trick was to make her dance in front of him until she ran out of breath.

But she simply did not care, because she knew that her situation was a problem of her own doing.

She also knew that this time would come to an end, even if the last few weeks had seemed to be the worst ones.

She almost looked forward excitedly to the day when she would be relieved of this burden.

She wanted to finish the topic "pregnancy and baby" forever.

The baby had to go.

Her boss could do with it what he wanted to.

It never occurred to her that she might want to have something more to do with this child.

5. Pink

Then it was time.

Labour began.

Rosi was trying to let herself be distracted at the bar, but even this no longer helped.

Escape was impossible.

A colleague sat down beside her.

That was good.

She owed it to her that the rear portion of the restaurant was closed, and they retreated there.

In the dark, smoke-filled room was a large pool table.

Evi, as she was called, brought towels from the kitchen and seemed to even know exactly what else would be needed.

Rosi wondered how she knew.

The environment was not a very inviting introduction for a new being.

Rosi neither wanted nor was able to go up to her room.

Her head was spinning.

For the first time, she showed Evi her true emotions.

Tears were in her eyes.

She didn’t quite know what was happening.

She only wished that it would be over quickly.

The dark room, the stuffy air and the voices of the bar caused her to sink into depression.

Evi stayed faithfully at her side.

It was comforting to have her there, and at this time of fears and feelings a kind of friendship developed that would continue for a long time.

These were moments marked by the human need for acceptance and love, understanding and support; moments which were almost unknown in Rosi's life, somehow strange, and yet so much longed for.

Never again were the two so closely connected, even though they would be engaged together in the same business many years later.

The contractions came more and more frequently and Rosi began to battle.

Throughout this whole time, the people in the front didn’t realise anything about this event.

Any sound was swallowed up by the high noise level.

It took a few hours and then it finally: a baby was born!

Without either a doctor or a midwife, except for the few inside the bar, no one had noticed that it was there.

Evi skilfully clipped the umbilical cord and tended Rosi.

Then she laid the child at Rosi's breast to drink.

It was a girl.

How appropriate, thought Rosi.

She had blue eyes and appeared to be quite healthy at first glance. Her initial feeling of release was quickly replaced by worry creeping in.

What should she do now with this new arrival?

She was neither able nor wanted to breastfeed the baby.

She had never given a thought to choosing a name for the child.

She didn’t really belong to her anyway.

Already during the pregnancy she had settled her affairs regarding the child.

Other women who worked there visited her and the girl was named "Heike".

Someone procured everything Rosi needed for baby and helped her with diapering and giving the baby its bottle.

Rosi passed the child across to others more and more.

She did not want it!

Her boss seemed to be thrilled.

He was changed and he treated her with much more consideration.

He made more concessions than before.

Yet, soon he forced her to prostitute again.

The baby had to be sedated.

Rosi started to give sleeping pills to the little one, when she didn’t stay quiet.

The crib was placed in her "office".

6. My Mothers

As Heike was handed around so much, she had many mothers.

There was no one who became her real caregiver.

That's the story as it has been told by my mother.

I also learned many things from Evi, and some things about her.

There I was!

Actually, I would also like to have known the "boss".

When I was 4 years old, he had a deadly confrontation with someone, and I could never thank him for telling my mother to carry me to full term.

I only know from hearsay that he softened and had adopted me, so to speak, at least in his heart, if not on paper.

I had no papers, but there were witnesses of my birth, and the women took care of me.

However, the one thing I couldn’t do was to get out of this house.

I felt the sun and rain only through the open window.

There was even a will - a handwritten note - which appointed my mother as heir of the bar.

In the meantime she was officially registered in business.

Together with her former colleagues she kept things ticking over.

My mother hired a "housekeeper" an indispensable protector in this situation, whose task was equivalent to that of a pimp.

Gambling operations ceased.

The women had to learn tricks, and my mother became a bitter and hateful boss.

She fixed the prices and toughened the working conditions.

At her side she had a man who protected her in this milieu.

It was a reciprocal dependency arrangement.

She appeared self-confident when she was together with him. .

I think she acted out what she herself had been made to suffer and let others feel that brutality and contempt for humanity.

The girls who worked with her mostly came from troubled and dysfunctional family backgrounds.

Many were from abroad and barely able to communicate.

Often they were very simple and naive and allowed themselves to be ingratiated by young pimps before accepting the offer of prostitution.

The lure of making a lot of money and having enough fun lured them into their fate and misery.

Some were deliberately brought to Hamburg though false promises.

Entire trafficking rings were specialized in leading young women into that modern slavery.

Here, each one fought for themselves.

Profit largely went via the pimp to the head-barkeeper.

The papers of the girls were kept in an inaccessible cupboard in the office.

They were held in complete dependence.

Many were addicted to drugs or had been deliberately lured there.

They lived under the constant pressure of needing dope, which ensured that they remained enslaved and forced to work more, rather than being able to run away.

Those who did not submit to this were threatened with beatings and other forms of torture.

Friendships did not exist.

Only sex, drugs and money counted in this world.

as a result of this there was no one to show me the care I needed.

I received very limited attention because of the pressure forced on to the women.

I was regularly given little treats to keep me quiet.

My mother had the least contact with me, and I soon grew to understand that I was simply an annoyance to her.

From time to time Evi gave me a little time and later she told me that sometimes she had regarded me as her baby.

For a time, it had been her greatest desire to marry and to start a family, but she never came out of that bar.

In 2001 I received the news that, drugged to the eyeballs, she had jumped out of a window.

She died as a result of that fall.

Later, I visited her grave several times while visiting Hamburg.

It has become a memorial for me!

7. Cold And Hot

According to stories I have been told, my real suffering began when I was two years old.

My mother’s whoremongers had fun using me as foreplay for their sexual desires, and I was utterly inhumanely abused.

I don’t want to go further into this topic.

My mother justified all of that (in a conversation years later) by saying that, after all, I also cost money and in return I should play my part.

Despite this traumatic experience I craved for my mother’s care: something I never did receive.

Physical contact was always painful.

So I encapsulated my emotional world in physical numbness for my own self-protection.

Getting older, my movements were still curtailed, and mostly I just hung around with my mother in the room.

I was not allowed to take a look around in the house without express permission.

I was the new (secret) source of income for special customers, and so it had to remain.

They were afraid in case the youth welfare office or any other regulatory agency would become aware of me.

By 4 years of age I was a physical and mental wreck due to the pills I was forced to swallow and the constant abuse I endured, but apparently there was no end in sight.

My mother always emphasized that this was my destiny, and my life would continue in this vein.

Her hatred was boundless, and yet she remained my natural mother, from whom my greatest hope was to receive just one single smile.

For the first time in years, my existence was exposed to the outside world by a drunken patron of the bar.

I owe it to this drunken man, that a Christian organization became aware of me.

With much care and love I was released from my prison.

The attitude and disposition of these people was so different from anything I had experienced before, that I didn’t know how to relate.

They were strangers to me.

I was treated kindly and got as much sleep and food as I wanted.

They gave me toys and tried to establish a natural rapport with me, which I found completely overwhelming.

I stayed in this reception centre for 2 weeks.

Legal proceedings were not started against my mother, due to her personal situation.

Today I find that incomprehensible.

Probably there had been hard blows of fate in her life also, which were taken into account by the judges.

That would be the only permissible reason I could understand

8. Inner Strife

Suddenly my new home was many hundreds of kilometres away.

A childrens’home found a foster family for me: a wealthy childless couple.

When I got there, nothing in my state of mind had changed.

I was still numb, unable to cry or laugh.

I winced at any physical touch.

My foster father took pains to help me build a rapport with him.

I still remember him buying a colourful foam cube.

He romped and tumbled over it with me, and through this, I finally began to smile.

It was the beginning – how much I loved laughing later.

But it was not easy to slip from one world to the other. It was quite a culture shock.

Speaking took even longer. The first words I uttered clearly were "car" and "plane".

“A child of the 20th century”, reasoned my foster mother, who would have preferred me to have said "mom".

But I could not.

The inner longing for my mother remained. Anyway, the relationship with my new parents was rather a mutual arrangement based on using one another and convenience, in particular as far as it concerned my foster mother.

She could not have children but wanted one, although if truth be known, actually she would have preferred a boy.

I needed care and education, which my real home had denied me.

Here, I got everything.

Materially nothing was lacking.

I was nurtured so that I could keep up the standards of a family of academics.

My foster mother was a pharmacist and my father was a mining assessor.

They were at home in the upper crust and their household was structured accordingly.

Cultural and high societal interaction were not lacking.

One used the cutlery from the outside inwards.

One had to follow the etiquette manual, and as a child one remained silent at the table.

One was well and neatly dressed, and had to curtsey when visitors came.

As the daughter of the house I had to meet a certain standard.

Today I am reminded a bit of the story of Moses, who came from a family of slaves into the house of Pharaoh.

I had moved from the swamps of Reeperbahn to a solid, well-educated and wealthy home.

The only thing that really was missing was a love relationship.

I wasn’t able to express love, and my foster family was unable to give it to me.

I loved my mother above everything and no other woman could compensate.

I did not even want to allow anyone to get in between this relationship.

They could try as hard as they wanted.