Elizabeth grew up in a Christian home in southern Asia, graduated from school, and wanted to earn money for her family before continuing her education. Tricked by her aunt, she was sold into a brothel and starved for three months in a cell before she gave into her owner's demands. She began to pray on her knees for God to rescue her, and the other girls laughed. "God can't hear you in a place like this," they said. When International Justice Mission rescued Elizabeth and 21 other girls from the brothel and brought their perpetrators to justice, they found this writing on Elizabeth's cell wall:
"Psalm 27:1-3. The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident."
I've been researching human trafficking for a few months, but each time I hear the facts, I'm surprised. Tonight I heard Jim Martin from IJM speak at Kuyper College's Global Issues Summit.
Here were the facts, again, which surprised me, again:
- Human trafficking is the third most lucrative trafficking industry (following drugs and arms), and the fastest growing criminal industry.
- Human Trafficking is a $32 Billion industry.
- There are 27 million slaves in the world today, which means that slavery is a greater issue today than it ever has been in the past.
Some common misunderstandings:
- "Human trafficking only happens far away." (In fact, it's happening in rural America and in our cities.)
- "The problem is too overwhelming--we can't do anything about it." (In fact, people are rescuing victims and bringing criminals to justice.)
- "As sad as these statistics are, this cause can only distract the church from it's true mission, which is saving souls." (Among many others, Jeremiah 22:16: "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. "Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the Lord.)
Some complicating factors:
- There is a lack of social demand. We take every opportunity to look away and remain ignorant, or we deny what we see.
- This issue is different than poverty, AIDS or natural disaster relief in that there are people committed to fighting back against our advances.
- The church in large branches has abdicated its responsibility.
At the beginning of Jim's lecture he presented a short documentary film, and after it ended, he asked us for one-word responses that described what we were feeling.
Members of the crowd named about 10 more, and then I shared mine:
When confronted with injustice and evil, timidity has always been my response. My tears of compassion have always been mixed with tears of fear; a heartbeat of excitement over serving in missions has always been followed with a beat of anxiety. And I felt fearful again as I watched the film and heard the stories of young girls who were forced to have sex with 30 men a day, or children whose hands were beaten if they didn't meet their quota at the end of a 13 hour work day. But after I listened to Elizabeth's story, after Jim walked us through scripture that covered each of our one-word responses, after I got in my car and asked the Lord to speak to my heart, I realized that my fear was gone.
My fear was gone, and in its place I felt commissioned, empowered, and like nothing will ever satisfy me unless I get to deliver good news to the poor. I felt bravery, compassion and love, and at the same moment that I felt each of those things, I realized that they were indistinguishable from one another, because perfect love casts out all fear. I felt Jesus asking me to stop holding back with my questions, and to stop joining David Bazaon as he "ponders the weight of the apple/compared to the trouble we're in." I've pondered the weight and the trouble and I haven't discovered any satisfactory answers, but God is restoring his creation and Jesus is building his kingdom, and I'd really just rather be doing that stuff.
Psalm 27:1-3 has long been a favorite passage, but I used to read it like this, "The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? (The murderers, the rapists, the persecutors, and the drunk drivers.)" The Lord is my Light has long been a favorite worship song, but I had only heard it sung at youth rallies with a couple thousand American teenagers raising their hands under strobe lights. Seeing a photograph of Psalm 27 written in a foreign language on Elizabeth's cell changed the entire passage for me. The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.