Most of my life I have yearned to matter, to make a difference – to be a part of something bigger than me! Yesterday I finally was.
It all began as an ordinary meeting but after just a few minutes you began to sense a shift in the room and knew something extraordinary was about to happen. 20 pastors from the Elk Grove, California area left the walls of their respective churches and denominations to come together as one for the purpose of pledging their support to see child sex trafficking eradicated in the Sacramento area and to help build the first Courage House, a home for children rescued from this hideous evil. They were of one heart, one mind and one voice. It was beautiful watch and be apart of. It was amazing – some would even say miraculous.
After I finished updating the pastors of our need to raise $770,000.00 in 70 days, I introduced the pastors to a woman whose daughter had been sex trafficked in our area and told them her story. Two years ago, she gave her then 17 year old daughter, permission to go get a Jamba Juice at their neighborhood shopping center with a family friend. They live in a safe, suburban area outside Sacramento, California. I give the same permission to my teenagers. However, this teenager was different. She never returned home.
A car pulled up at the Jamba Juice and this teenager was manipulated like so many others by a pimp disguising himself as a wanna be boyfriend. He promised her love; they all do. After gaining her trust, he brought her to a hotel in another “safe” area of Sacramento, where he repeatedly raped and threatened her. When he was done, he then trafficked her against her will to the Bay Area and sold her over and over again for 8 days. 8 long days not knowing if your child is dead or alive. I cannot imagine this mother’s pain. But this story had a happy ending or so I thought. The FBI found this teenager. This teenager had a loving home to return to. But it wasn’t enough. The damage and suffering from the trauma was great. There were no resources or services dedicated to the children who have suffered this kind of trauma … the trauma of being held against your will and sold as a commodity. I derived some satisfaction in reporting to the pastors at least the perpetrator was put away in federal prison for 12 years … not long enough in my opinion.
When I finished sharing this woman’s story with the pastors many of them were crying silent tears. I asked my new friend if she had anything to say to these leaders. She did. She challenged the group of pastors to remove the blinders they may have been wearing regarding this evil in our area. She begged them to face it, to see it and not put the blinders back on because it is more comfortable. She challenged them to be courageous and lead an army to rescue these kids from the evil that is attacking them and robbing them of their innocence. What a moment – a precious moment when I realized I was in the midst of something bigger than me. Everyone in the room was crying some of us were sobbing.
I then introduced the pastors to a woman I met only days ago. She said “I am one of your girls – I was abused at home then trafficked in the manner you described.” I looked in her eyes and I couldn’t see any evidence of what she was telling me. I simply said “you are so beautiful”. She said “I know – I am a new creature. God put me back together.” She looked at the pastors and told them it was hard being Rahab (a prostitute in Joshua chapter 2 of the bible) but God had saved her. She too challenged them to build a home for these children, to build Courage House. It was a holy moment.
The pastors then asked for permission to pray for these two women. We all surrounded them with our arms and with our love. I could feel an army rising as bold prayers were being offered on behalf of them and the children still held captive. Again, I felt a part of something so much bigger than me.
After this precious time together, I took the pastors in a dark room to view the music video “Believe in Me”. Many, many people told me these pastors would not be courageous enough to play the video in their churches because of the violence depicted in the scenes. They were wrong. These pastors are very courageous; even bold and more importantly, spirit led! At the end of the video no one moved. We couldn’t. We all just sat in silence, horrified at what we had seen, horrified that any child would have to endure that kind of evil. The darkness of the room enveloped us as we all wrestled with our own emotions. I sensed anger rising from the group and felt it rise in my own spirit. My team and I quietly slipped from the room, allowing the pastors to talk openly among themselves.
As I slipped from that dark room into the warm sunshine outside, my spirit felt bathed in hope and light in spite of the reality I had just seen on the screen! It IS going to happen! These children are going to be rescued and provided a safe home. Good does triumph over evil but only when good men and women chose to DO something instead of turning away. This is what I have been waiting for my entire life … to be apart of something that is bigger than me, to be a part of something God sized! Aren’t you?