While I was preparing to leave for the Philippines, I got this question a few times: what sparked your passion for fighting against sex trafficking? Well to be honest, there are number of reasons, yet when I was amidst my preparations to come to the Philippines to live out that passion, I was reminded of a dream I had a few years ago that I believe foreshadowed this current chapter of my story.
The setting of my dream began at church, where I was attending a women’s conference. I was standing at the entrance of the building, and the guest speaker came out to meet me underneath a big overhang that leads up to the door. Attached to the ceiling of this overhang were half a dozen cages—rusty, black cages so filthy that even the air inside looked dank, polluted, and grim. And inside these cages were young girls, nearly unidentifiable with weathered faces that had seen three or four lifetimes in the span of the years they had walked this earth. Their figures were more shadow and less flesh. Their eyes were sunken and terrified.
The women in these cages were exploited. Their bodies were sold for sex. They had no choice in the matter; they were victims to poverty, poor circumstance, and the ugly things that sin can cause one human to do to another human being.
I felt every muscle in my body tense up at the horror of the sight, and all I wanted to do was unsee. Just then, the guest speaker of the conference approached me. She pointed at the cages and said,
“These girls are trapped. Are you going to help them?”
And then I awoke. I am awake.
Years later I am waking up again. Upon my first visit to the Philippines, I learned that my dream was real, and that the cages are more atrocious than I had expected. During my first experience on Filipino soil, I discovered that these iron capsules are actually entrapping hotel rooms, massage parlors, or run-down bars. Sometimes they are even disguised as shiny night clubs, and those are always the trickiest because everyone seems happy and full of life there. But you can always tell by the air. Something is not right about the atmosphere. The oxygen is undeniably soiled my monstrous cruelty. How can one breathe freely in a place where souls are stolen and bodies, human bodies, are bought and sold with pocket change? With one inhale of that poison, I knew that I had to do something about it.
So here I am in the Philippines, not as a hero or an answer to human trafficking as a whole. To be honest, I am just one ordinary girl from Boise, Idaho with brown hair, green eyes, and freckles on her nose. I’m not especially talented by my own right. I’m sure there are more passionate, gifted, experienced, and knowledgeable people in the world who could do this job a whole lot better than me, but it’s me God chose and sometimes I cannot make sense of it. And I don’t say that as false modesty; I’m not searching for compliments, because whenever someone tells me how brave I am for moving halfway across the world to live in a developing nation and work for an organization that is on the front lines of fighting sex trafficking in the Philippines, well sure I’m flattered, but I don’t necessarily feel brave.
When I think about the word “brave,” I think of the girls in our care who used to once identify with their prisons and are now are identifying with hope! With love! With the relish of materializing dreams! With the trust that Christ knows them and sees them as daughters! They are free now, but they first had to have the courage to leave their cages. Some people will ask why they didn’t just leave in the first place, or choose another profession and avoid the whole tragedy altogether. What is so crucial to remember is that prisons don’t lock from the inside, and once the door is closed, it often takes another person to unlock it. These women have been pushed into their jail cells by poverty and lies. They are all victims in one way or another. These girls were so broken that they believed that captivity was their only purpose. So yes, for leaving and saying “no” to the enemy’s lies, these girls are very, very brave.
These women inspire me. Many of them are so thrilled at the joy of freedom that they come back to the bars with us to tell their old coworkers, their friends, and their sisters that there is more. They choose to spread the joy that they found instead of being continually victimized by their pasts. There is freedom, hope, and a future available in the arms of Jesus.
I love these girls so much. And I am thrilled that God chose me to join them in their fight to find restoration and achieve their dreams. It was not my ability, my charisma, or even my religion that got me here. It was my ‘yes’ to God’s call, and the vision that God gave me that broke my heart and reformed it to look more like the Father’s. My passion for human trafficking was sparked by God’s perspective when I wasn’t even really looking for it and by his effort to pave every single step of the way. However, she is what ultimately ignited the flame. “She” personified is the dozens of women I know personally who have new lives of freedom because of Jesus and his work through Wipe Every Tear. She is worth it. She is the reason we do what we do.
And there’s nothing quite like the moment of walking up to that dirty cage, turning the key inside the wretched lock, and swinging the door wide open. To reach in and sit with her for a while, to remind her of the sunlight, to tell her that her dreams can come true. To take her by the hand and spend time with her in the moment that everything about her life starts to change. To lead her out of the prison with a glorious sunrise on the horizon. To watch the light return to her eyes at the sound of the word…
Learn more about Wipe Every Tear and how you can #refusetodonothing about sex trafficking at wipeeverytear.org.