Here’s I post I read this evening from a blog titled Radical Womanhood. It broke my heart. I’m left thinking what do I do? Can I make a difference? Do I just read this, cry in my heart and forget the next day?
Standing Against Sexual Slavery
In the Boundless article, Sexual Slavery: Shattering the Sacred, Lindy Morgan writes this horrifying account:
I wonder then, what will become of the man who came to that market-side cafe, in the smothering heat of South East Asia and purchased the innocence of a child along with his pancakes. The memory still minces my heart, even though a year’s time now stands between me and that moment. I saw the Cambodian girl tucked against the wall, her shoulders curled over herself, her small frame swallowed in the shadow of the foreigner sitting beside her. I watched while the bearded giant negotiated with a Cambodian man across the table over the terms of her “service.”
As I sat three tables away, an involuntary witness to his crime, questions formed a full-speed collision in my head. How old was she? Could I talk to her? Could I stop this “transaction?” How could this Cambodian man bring her here and betray her into the hands of such a person? I only had time to snap a picture with shaky hands before they were gone, the Cambodian man one way, the American and his new entertainment, clutching only one small bag of possessions, gone the other. “Be careful friend,” I shouted after her, my attempt at Khmer causing her to throw a look my way. A look that said, “I know this is wrong, but I have no choice….”
There would be no breakfast eaten that day. I felt as cold and rubbery as the pile of eggs staring back from my plate. Later I would talk with the cafe’s Cambodian owner and explain who could be contacted in such an event. She told me with lost resignation that this happens all the time.
Lord, have mercy, Lord have mercy. This cry became a daily SOS to heaven during the 12 months my heart was parceled out into the lives of young Cambodian girls. I lived and worked for a year in their country of temples, palm trees and red fluorescent lights that screamed the message each night, “Lives destroyed here.”
Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, is home to over 300 brothels. The girls inside, as young as age 4, are from Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. They have been tricked, purchased, often drugged, transported across national borders and are now held emotionally and physically captive to the demands of those who would profit monetarily from their destruction. People from in town and from every “civilized” country know this forgotten land to be one of cheap and abundant perversion with “no consequences.” Though deepest in Cambodia and the surrounding nations, this disease is worldwide, with over one million children currently in the snare of sex trafficking and exploitation. “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness” (Matt. 6:23).
This past October, a friend of mine went to Phnom Penh to learn what various Christian organizations are doing to combat sex trafficking. Kate McNeill led a group of 10 women from Frontline, the singles ministry of McLean Bible Church in Virginia, to spend a week helping these Cambodian-based ministries in the areas of prevention, intervention and after-care services for rescued sex workers. This is what she wrote after her trip:
Eighty percent of the girls born into these populations are trafficked. They are poor and easily coerced, taken, or sold into slavery. On one of our outreaches, we walked through this slum to gather the children for the afternoon lesson. I had never seen poverty like this. There was trash everywhere and people just sitting with it. I looked in several doorways to see one small room, one bed and at least five people. I was overtaken by the poverty and the dirtiness of the environment. I kept praying, “Lord, please help me to not view this as an experience but to truly understand that this is how people live. People you love dearly and who I am called to love, too.” Shortly after praying this a little girl came running up beside me and grabbed my hand. We held hands the rest of the way through the slum and smiled at one another. One small girl broke that barrier for me to love. To view these people and this environment with the heart and love of God impacted me greatly.
One day we visited a former brothel. It was so horrifying. It looked like a kennel. It was all concrete, the rooms were small, drab, and dark. To me, it wasn’t fit for an animal. We walked through this brothel and prayed for the girls that used to be enslaved there. We also prayed for the building because it is being renovated into a Christian community center. A former U.S. pastor working in Cambodia to restore young girls that have been trafficked has rented this building and is renovating it. He and his wife are turning it into a community center where children in this neighborhood can come to learn English and the Bible. To see the darkness of this former brothel/prison that these young girls were kept in and then to see the light of the aftercare centers where they now reside today is more evidence of God’s faithfulness. What Satan meant for evil, God will use for good! While we were there tons of neighborhood kids came running down to visit with us. They practiced their ABC’s and we sang a song together. It was such a gift to see so much light and life in a formerly dark place.
We also visited two after-care centers where the girls are taken after being rescued from the brothels. We played games, painted pictures, painted nails, and played outside. The thing that struck me the most is that these are just girls. Prior to going to Cambodia, my mind wanted to reason in some way that they would be different than girls here and that somehow that would make it easier to understand their situation. But when given paint and paper, they drew flowers and butterflies; when given a ball, they played soccer and monkey in the middle; when given a swing set, they swung; a seesaw, they seesawed. They laughed and had so much fun! To me, this was evidence that our God is who He says He is–that He is able “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Many have placed their faith in Him since coming to these centers. It was such a gift to spend the day with them.
Please continue to pray for the girls enslaved to the sex trade in Cambodia and worldwide. It is real. And these girls are just that, girls. To see them through the doorways of the brothels, and to interact with them in the aftercare centers, has given me faces and names instead of just numbers and statistics. These girls have been violated in one of the worst ways possible over and over again, and they desperately need our prayers for rescue and restoration.
There are many organizations involved in combating sex trafficking, from the International Justice Mission to YWAM to Shared Hope International, and many more. Personally, I support Shared Hope International, but I encourage you to pray and follow God’s leading as to what you can do. The point is that a problem this large needs both logistical and financial support, as well as the prayers of those who know the real battle is “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12).
(Photos: Kate, in orange, with her team; a brothel.)