The other day, someone looked at a group of our girls for the first time and asked “are these all the girls you’ve saved?”
My friend, Ebie, replied sweetly “Oh no. We don’t save anyone, it’s all Jesus.”
It’s true, friends. We don’t save a single soul. Sure, we work for an organization that helps women and ladyboys leave the sex trade through the opportunity to pursue an education. But freedom, rescue, salvation? That’s all a deeper, greater, more miraculous story than any human can manufacture.
Working in this kind of a ministry is honestly pretty stylish right now. We are on the edge of an anti-modern slavery movement that is tackling this dark issue through the lens and strength of the Christian faith. We see regular, tangible results from our efforts to talk to girls about freedom, hope, and a future, and that makes it extremely tempting to jump on the bandwagon.
And I’m not saying that everyone who desires to partner with Wipe Every Tear is here simply because it’s sexy. I’m saying that it’s a short step over the line between passion and pride. I’ve definitely been guilty of confusing the two. But to think that we, the employees and volunteers of Wipe Every Tear, are responsible for any one of these girls’ freedom is well, pretty silly.
Think of the odds a girl faces by leaving the bar. To start, it takes enormous courage to even believe that our programs are true. I mean really, a college education, room and board, and all supplies and personal needs offered for free? Livelihood opportunities to make extra money? Child support for her two kids? Seems way too good to be true. Often, she believes she is going to get trafficked again, because the last offer that seemed like a dream turned into a nightmare.
When she daringly says yes to our programs, she agrees to the long-term commitment of pursuing a college degree. The commitment is even lengthier if the has to finish high school first. She has to go from the ability to live a lifestyle however and whenever she desires, and moves into a home filled with other girls with just as complicated of stories, and has to learn the systems in our houses. She now can’t just coast in her coping mechanisms. Walking in true freedom here means facing the dark memories that haunt her.
These obstacles such as fear of hardship, the lies of potential failure, and the incorrect interpretation of her God-given identity scream into her ears. Silencing those voices is not a task for human ability. We can operate in the power granted by the Holy Spirit inside of us, and that moves us to do astronomical things. Nevertheless, it takes the love of the Father, the pursuit of the Savior, the kindness of the King to calm the storm that rages in her heart for her to first believe that freedom is an option.
So then she leaves the bar. And it’s beautiful. It’s like she jumped into a white abyss, a trifecta of fear, hope, and opportunity, and she’s free-falling with the sweet trust that Jesus will catch her. And even if she doesn’t really know His name yet, it takes enormous faith for her to make that leap. Her boldness inspires me, and she doesn’t even realize how incredibly brave she is.
The freedom that comes from her leaving the bar is a literal liberation. What comes next is something that many don’t often get to witness. It’s the emotional and spiritual jail break that occurs in these girls’ souls as they determine to walk in freedom day by day.
When I see our girls in the houses, they seem like the strangers I pass on the street. They all have intricate, quiet lives. None without hardship, but still, so normal. I’d never guess that they were the ones that once worked in a bar. Our houses are filled with music as their freedom translates into picking up a guitar for the first time. Our walls are covered with their artwork, adorned with flowers and mindful phrases like “just love” and “you are beautiful.” These colorful reminders shower truth on the girls when an argument breaks out in the house. Things are so normal here, and sometimes it takes the intentional remembrance of what the Lord is doing through these simple things to realize how incredible this all is.
Like the other night, we took the girls to see a Bethel worship concert. Fifty of our girls got dressed up, put on their makeup, and pulled out their favorite pairs of shoes. They took scores of selfies and giggled incessantly as they waited in line to enter the concert arena. It was beautiful, the miracle of their freedom disguised as a 20-year-old girl waiting for her favorite band to play.
The phenomenal part wasn’t the donation of the tickets, though it was an enormous blessing. The miracle was that three hours earlier, Ebie drew on one of our girls’ eyebrows in preparation for the concert. It was no big feat (though any woman will concur that the perfect eyebrow creation is a true work of art). Yet in conversation with Ebie and her husband, Zac, later that evening, we talked about the subtle act of drawing on someone’s eyebrows. Before Jesus rescued her, we still might have done her makeup, but perhaps in preparation for her next shift at the bar, not a worship concert. And that’s what gives me chills.
It’s just doing life together. I learn more from them than I feel I could ever teach. Jesus does all the hard work; he speaks to the hearts and heals the minds. Personally, I am blessed by every opportunity that enters my hands to paint a girl’s nails, or go on a walk with her, or see her for the first time in her school uniform.
These 65 incredible lives have unknowingly stolen my heart and I’ll never forget them. They don’t know it, but they change me for the better every time I encounter them. We at Wipe Every Tear are absolutely not saviors. Instead, Jesus uses ordinary humans and regular, every day tasks to do the impossible. It’s simple, sweet freedom.
Here’s the equation: Jesus brings the power, the grace, the freedom.
And we just love.