Ordinary people respond to God’s extraordinary rescue efforts
By Katie Born
Gabriela, Sumalee and Violet* are three young women living on different continents that share two important things in common: The three are among the one million children annually trafficked and exploited by the global commercial sex trade. But unlike many of their peers, this trio has experienced the transformation of God’s grace and love thanks to Mennonite Brethren mission workers.
Slavery may have been abolished during the 18th century, but today there are more slaves in the world than ever before and the illicit trade of human beings continues to thrive. Half of trafficking victims are children, with the majority being female.
The trafficking of children happens on every continent and in every country around the world. Research child trafficking and it is easy to be overwhelmed by the statistics. The facts become more personal when ordinary people like you and me come to know these children.
That’s what has happened to MBMS International missionaries who, while sharing the gospel and planting churches overseas, encounter girls like Gabriela, Sumalee and Violet. When God fills the hearts of ordinary people with compassion and love for the broken and marginalized, everyday people are moved to action.
Latin America: Gabriela’s Story
When Gabriela was an infant, her mother abandoned her five children because of the abuse that she suffered at the hands of her alcoholic husband. At the age of eight, Gabriela ran away from home after her father tried to stone her.
With nowhere to go, she lived on the streets and was soon caught up in a lifestyle of sniffing glue, doing cocaine, drinking alcohol, and selling drugs. Gabriela’s drug addiction made her an easy target for sexual exploitation, particularly by drug dealers and providers.
Gabriela, like many of those who have been trafficked into the sex trade, became infected with HIV/AIDS. She discovered that she had AIDS after she started to feel sick and visited a doctor. Gabriela felt that her life had no worth.
Then she found out she was pregnant and decided to go to the Home of Life, a home for mothers with HIV and their children. A transformation began in Gabriela’s life when she met Janice, a MBMSI missionary. Janice came regularly to the Home of Life to read, do crafts and pray with the women and children.
Although at first Gabriela didn’t trust anybody, over time she began to let her guard down. Janice had the opportunity to share the love of Christ with Gabriela and to pray for her and her unborn child.
God blessed Gabriela with a healthy baby boy. Her life of pain has been transformed into a life of abundant joy as she has learned about and experienced God’s love. Gabriela no longer feels ashamed or guilty about her past, and she has extended that grace to the people who hurt and exploited her. Even though Gabriela is sick, she has entrusted her son to God and believes that he will take care of him. Gabriela lives a life of continual praise to God for what he has done!
Southeast Asia: Sumalee’s Story
Girls are frequently sold by their families in this Southeast Asian country because of widespread poverty due to government corruption. Families can’t even afford to put rice on their tables. When young girls are 13, they are of age to be sold to a brothel.
Sumalee’s mother sold her to a man in their city when she was a little girl. But when he tried to cross the border with Sumalee, he was caught and sent to prison. Sumalee spent three weeks in prison because they weren’t sure about what to do with this young girl. But through divine connections, someone found out about a safe house that offers hope to girls who have been trafficked or are at risk for sexual exploitation. Leaders from this home rescued Sumalee before she was taken to a brothel.
In the safe house, she learned about Jesus and was captivated by his incredible love. Sumalee was recently baptized along with three other girls who have been rescued from sexual exploitation and trafficking. MBMSI missionaries Bill and Sara are filling in as interim directors of the organization that works with this home.
Bill and Sara continually witness the reality of child trafficking and their hearts break for the girls involved. But they are also in awe as they see the lives of trafficked girls changed for the glory of God. When the girls share their stories of freedom, none of them can do it with a dry eye. These girls are overwhelmed by the love of God and thankful that they have been set free.
Africa: Violet’s Story
Violet was tossed out onto the streets when her father accused her of being a witch. False accusations of witchcraft have become a major problem in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Parents and relatives often blame family crises on children, especially girls, and accuse them of sorcery.
Calling her a witch, Violet’s father beat her until there was a gash on her head and she was bleeding badly. Then he kicked her out of the house and Violet became one of the 20,000 children who live on the streets of Kinshasa. These children have no shelter and are frequently exploited and abused. Many girls are forced into the sex trade in order to survive.
Violet had nowhere to go that first night so she slept alone on the streets. As a young, unaccompanied girl, Violet was in an extremely vulnerable position. She met a prostitute who offered to help her out and Violet was soon lured into the illicit world of child trafficking.
Violet and the other girls were forced to go with older men even though they didn’t want to. And when Violet refused to go, she was abused and burned with hot plastic bags. Violet longed for freedom and prayed to God for help throughout this time.
Violet’s prayers were answered when she met a pastor who is a caregiver at Mercy Home. Mercy Home is funded through MBMSI and provides education, healthcare, clothing and a home for former street children.
At Mercy Home, Violet became part of a family as she lived with other children like herself. She began attending church and decided to follow Jesus and serve him. Now Violet dreams of graduating from high school and attending college. She hopes to get a job and to help other children just as she has been helped.
How do we respond?
Oppression and injustice are rampant in this world, including North America. Each year 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States, and 200,000 American children are at risk for being trafficked into the sex industry. As we learn about and engage in hard issues, we are sometimes overwhelmed and feel paralyzed. Can we really make a difference? Our efforts seem miniscule in comparison to the larger problem.
But change can and is happening. Our Heavenly Father is rescuing children from bondage, addiction and exploitation and is filling them with joy, life and hope. We serve a powerful God who can do the impossible. And as followers of Christ, we are invited to join him in bringing justice to an unjust world.
God calls his people to seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of orphans, bind up the brokenhearted and proclaim freedom for the captives (Isa. 1:17, 63:1). Ask God how he wants to use your gifts, passion, and resources to help those who are suffering in situations of injustice. Educate yourself and others, give generously to organizations that are fighting trafficking and cry out to God on behalf of those who have been enslaved and exploited. God’s gift of freedom and hope are life changing.
* All names have been changed.
Katie Born is the MBMS International mission reporter. She lives in Abbotsford, BC, and is pursuing a degree in social work with the goal of working with victims of human trafficking.
Here are a number of good places to begin learning about child trafficking.
Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade—And How We Can Fight It, by David Batstone, HarperOne, 2007.
Terrify No More: Young Girls Held Captive and the Daring Undercover Operation to Win Their Freedom, by Gary Haugen, Thomas Nelson, 2010.
The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade, by Victor Malarek, Arcade Publishing, 2004.
Escaping the Devil’s Bedroom: Sex Trafficking, Global Prostitution, and the Gospel’s Transforming Power, by Dawn Herzog Jewell, Monarch Books, 2008.
International Justice Mission (www.ijm.org) is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.
Polaris Project (www.polarisproject.org) is one of the largest anti-trafficking organizations in the United States and Japan with comprehensive programs operating at international, national and local levels.
The Not For Sale Campaign (www.notforsalecampaign.org) equips contemporary abolitionists to deploy innovative solutions to stop slavery in their own backyards and across the globe.
This article is part of the CL Archives. Articles published between August 2017 and July 2008 were posted on a previous website and are archived here for your convenience. We have also posted occasional articles published prior to 2008 as part of the archive. To report a problem with the archived article, please contact the CL editor at email@example.com.