Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. In honor of that, here’s something I wrote last summer from Managua, Nicaragua after spending a day at House of Hope, a ministry that rescues women and girls from the horrors of the sex trafficking industry in Nicaragua.
June 14, 2011 – I thought of my daughters alot today at the House of Hope. It’s a place of peace, comfort, rescue, and hope for countless young girls and women who were trapped and are in the midst of being set free from the sex trade.
I met a girl named Vanesa today. She says she is 10. She’s about the size of my 8 year old Karsen, though. With big brown eyes like both my girls and their mom. She was rescued from a children’s brothel 2 nights ago right here in Managua and brought to the House of Hope. She is only 10. She should be innocent. Playing with dolls. Jumping rope. Laughing. Vanesa is a beautiful little girl. Shes likes to smile, shyly. She likes to color. She colored a picture next to me and on it she wrote, “Dios te ama.” God loves you.
It reminded me of something my Karsen would do. My baby girl is home, safe and sound. Monday, she was sick, throwing up so much she had to get an IV. I’m her Daddy and I worried about her. Had trouble sleeping Monday night, praying she would be ok. I’m here in Nicaragua. She’s home in Amarillo. I wonder if Vanesa even knows her dad. I wonder if he worries about her. If he even knows she exists.
I read her words out loud to her. “Dios TE AMA” God LOVES YOU, Vanesa. She laughed at how I couldn’t pronounce her name properly – “BAH-nay-sah.”
I pray that at the House of Hope, her new home, she grows to understand that God does indeed love her. That her heavenly Father has swooped down to rescue her and provide her with a place of hope. That He can and will heal her broken little heart. That He can and will provide her with a future and a hope that nothing else can. That her heavenly Father doesn’t hurt, doesn’t leave, and doesn’t lie.
There is lots of evil in this world. I’ve seen lots of bad stuff in my ministry. But nothing – NOTHING – compares to human trafficing that involves little girls my daughter’s age. It is the worst. 60% of all human trafficing in the western hemisphere originates in Nicaragua. Child brothels are countless. We met a woman today sold by her sister into sex slavery when she was 7. We met a girl kidnapped and forced into the trade at 10 or 11. Others trained in the profession by their mothers and sisters. And all of them now have hope. I’m so thankful for this place. The House of Hope is not just a house – it’s a huge compound. Many women and their children live there. Hundreds attend their weekly bible studies and cell groups, and receive training and grants for starting businesses. Many work at the house, making jewelry and cards and other trinkets to sell.
Hearing these stories, the problem of trafficing seems just so big, too tragic, completely overwhelming. It made me feel helpless, really. We spent most of the morning listening to stories, meeting people, playing with kids (some were the children of prostitutes, others were former prostitutes). We colored. We laughed. I did a magic show, after which one boy yelled, “Gracias, gringo!” If you know what gringo means in Spanish, that is funny, I promise.
This afternoon, we painted the outside concrete walls of a few of the homes where the women live. We painted them blue. Painting concrete is hard work, especially in the heat and when you’re surrounded by kids trying to grab paintbrushes so they can paint you (I am still slightly blue, even after a shower and a dip in the pool). But the thing about painting is – when you paint, you see progress. One minute, the wall is gray; the next, it’s blue. We could see what we had accomplished this afternoon and how much further we had to go.
I don’t know how April, who runs this ministry, does it. To hear so many stories, see so much heartache, so much pain. And to know it’s not ending anytime soon. That little girls will be rescued week to week, brought in for safety and healing. Where does the wall end? When will the painting stop? But I know this – she can turn and look back, and see what I saw. Women like Berta, who is 25, rescued from a lifetime in the sex trade, about to get her high school diploma, with the desire to one day work FOR the House of Hope and help other young girls like herself. That’s a wall completely painted. There’s more like her there, too.
Wall after wall after wall. Some nearing completion. Some just started. But lots of walls, filling up with paint.
Full of Hope.