I could be her. That wasn’t my first thought, but it’s the conclusion that eventually transformed my perspective on modern-day slavery.
Her face appeared among countless others on the internet. Someone had removed every last one of her teeth. For marketing purposes. Her lifeless eyes haunted me when I lay down to go to sleep at night. Her dignity and worth were stripped down to nothingness.
Though I’d probably never meet this girl, I felt compelled to pray for her. A torrent of tears overwhelmed me every time I tried to discuss the matter with God. I felt helpless, hopeless, and quite certain that my prayers whispered from underneath the comfort of a down blanket could never make the tiniest shred of difference in this war on humanity.
I called her Sarah even though God knew her real name. For the longest time, that’s all I could do. Just pray. Lift my voice on behalf of the girl whose smile was stolen. Mostly they were angry, bitter prayers. A fearful darkness crept over me. Sometimes, in the middle of my prayer, I couldn’t breathe. I saw precious life in those eyes. A girl with big, bold dreams.
Somehow, I never saw myself.
I came to terms with how little I knew about modern-day slavery, particularly sex trafficking. Turning my head the other way no longer worked, so I started asking questions. I quit worrying how the answers would affect me. Most left me altered.
“How could I ever understand her world? Or walk with her?” I asked God. “How could my words ever make a difference?”
My understanding of trafficking was limited to the kidnapped girl chained to a bed in a cellar. I didn’t recognize the prostitute on the street corner who appeared to be in control of her life as a victim, too. Never before had I considered that a girl can become a trafficking victim just because she is hurt and searching. I didn’t yet understand the slow and methodical way that evil uses trust and love as lures.
Preying upon vulnerability, brokenness profits from brokenness over and over again.
I failed to comprehend that many of the women caught up in this industry will eventually come to accept their lifestyle as shame quietly convinces them that this is all there is. I didn’t see, because I wasn’t looking.
Though an entire world spanned the difference between Sarah’s heart and mine, one day all that changed. God began to let me see myself in her defeated eyes. I realized I could be her. Nameless face. Crushed spirit. I could be the girl without a smile.
Modern-day slavery became personal that day.
I know brokenness, searching, deep hurt. Shame has whispered the very same lies, and I’ve listened like I had no other option. I could be her. It was a terrifying yet necessary realization. Though I wanted more than anything to run from the thought, I let myself feel the suffocating weight of it. This possibility changed my perspective entirely.
Eventually, every excuse, every judgment, every misconception, and every lie became exposed by the light of God’s truth. The darkness over me subsided, and God replaced the old picture in my mind with something brand new. When I prayed for Sarah, I no longer saw her in that hopeless state. I began to see her beautiful smile. I heard laughter deep in her soul.
Because of the cross, Sarah and I share the same story of hope. No, I’ve never met her. I don’t know the rest of her story, but I do know this: Jesus has the power and desire to rescue her just as He’s rescued me. The good news isn’t all that good if we don’t believe that.
Modern-day slavery is personal. More than 20 million faces with hopes and dreams and names. Even though we could never conjure up the realities required to truly understand, we can stand with Sarah and all the others who share the exact same horrifying story.
Start somewhere. Learn more, ask the questions you’re afraid to ask, give, volunteer. Ask God to make it personal for you, too.
Any one of us could be her.
I don’t know exactly how God will use either of us in this fight, but He has called us all to battle the darkness from a place of hope and to believe with everything in us that He can and will win this war.
Author: Kelly Sobieski
Kelly is a story-teller and story-listener who believes that our stories ultimately tell God’s story. Kelly is passionate about shedding light on the crisis of human trafficking through the truth of God’s word. She longs to help ordinary women just like her find their place in this fight. You can connect with Kelly at carriedbylove.com.