I was 6 years old the day a member of my family began trafficking me for sex. For nearly two decades, terror and trauma plagued my life. The isolation I felt settled in my bones. I was hollow, helpless, and hopeless. On the outside, I was a quiet, polite child, but on the inside, I was crying out for escape, for peace, for love.
Faith like a Child
Throughout my trafficking situation, I found myself in church every Sunday morning. I sang specials with our worship team. I lived for Vacation Bible School every year. I sat wide-eyed and glued to the photos in my Sunday School teacher’s picture Bible. Church was my sanctuary. While I was there, no one would hurt me. While I was there, I finally felt like I could breathe. While I was there, I began to believe that maybe, just maybe, a man named Jesus would love me. I had never felt like anyone could love me before that moment.
I asked Jesus into my heart in hopes eternal salvation would come with physical salvation. I prayed reverently for the bad men to leave me alone, my little hands folded and the carpet leaving indentations on my knees. On more than one occasion I fell asleep on my floor in prayer, an exhausted yet hopeful little girl.
When the bad men continued to come through my 7th birthday, I kept praying. When I saw 8 years old and the men kept coming, I kept praying. Through 9 and 10 and 11, I continued to pray. The bad men kept coming. I kept praying. But my heart was weary. The Enemy’s voice in my ear telling me my Jesus was not listening grew louder and louder. My hope waivered. My faith waivered. I felt like I was fighting all of hell as each new man came to hurt me, and I felt like I was doing it alone.
Faith in the Face of Fear
Amidst my praying, I began telling. I told a family friend, a teacher, and a pastor. No one helped me. My trafficker punished me more and more after each instance of telling. I prayed harder. I prayed longer. I prayed broken, sobbing prayers for any kind of relief this side of heaven. When that relief didn’t come, I began wondering if my Jesus would still welcome me into his kingdom if I killed myself. All the while, I kept praying.
In my teens, as my trafficking continued, I threw myself into my Bible. I read about Job, who kept his faith through trial after trial. I identified with Gomer and felt hope as Hosea came back for her again and again, just as God would always come back for me. And finally, I fell for the book of Esther. Throughout the entire book, God is never mentioned, but he is always there. I could see him working behind the scenes. I began to wonder if God was working behind the scenes in my life. As I looked back over all the atrocities I had been through, I began to see God in places I had been too broken to notice before. Throughout the evil choices made by those around me, God had been offering me rest, healing, and hope. While I was fighting evils too mature for my little girl mind to comprehend, my favorite name for Jesus was Emmanuel, God with us. God was with me, even in those horrible, humiliating moments. He was there to get me through, to remind me that I was not alone, and to help me hold on to the future He had planned for me.
Faith in the Aftermath
Since my escape from my trafficking situation, God has set in my path this incredible cause: the fight to end child sex trafficking in America. The purpose God has set before me is to work to make sure no child has to pray away the bad men, no child has to pray for escape from serial rape and trauma, and no child has to wonder if their Jesus could ever love them.
God has set in my path and allowed me to be a team member for an organization called Safe House Project, which seeks to eradicate child sex trafficking by 2030. Safe House Project does this through both education and accelerating safe house development in the United States. I didn’t know that what was happening to me was sex trafficking, I didn’t know that there were people out there who truly cared about me, and I didn’t have anywhere to go when I needed help. I am honored to work with Safe House Project to be a part of ensuring no other child lacks the knowledge they need to get help and be safe.
I was surrounded by a church community that did not know how to spot the signs of child sex trafficking. Safe House Project works with corporations, communities, and churches alike to teach them how to spot, prevent, and report trafficking. I firmly believe protecting our children is a mission we are all called to and that together, with the help of Safe House Project, we can eradicate this evil.
–Go here to learn more about the work of Safe House Project.