As Human Trafficking Awareness month comes to an end, I wanted to share a few of my thoughts.
It was 14 years ago that we started City of Refuge Ministries. I had no idea when we said "Yes" to God's call that we would be doing what we do today. Fourteen years ago, I had never heard of Human Trafficking or Modern-Day Slavery. I had learned that slavery ended long ago; that's what our textbooks taught us. Then God introduced us to two brothers on Lake Volta, living slaves, in 2007! Our lives were forever changed.
SLAVES!! Even now, as I write this word, I am humbled. Talk about poor in spirit! How was I ever considered for such a ministry, a girl from small-town South Dakota who had no degree or social justice background? I had no qualifications to help kids who had gone through this unfathomable trauma? Maybe this is just what qualifies us. The only one we knew who could help the kids and us was Jesus, and we keep going back to Him every day for His help.
Today as we sat in our office with nicely painted walls and a lit scented candle, we talked to the team of social workers from International Justice Mission (IJM) who are working on the rescued kid's cases. They spoke about reintegrating 10 of our kids soon. These ten kids have been with us for 2-3 years. They are a part of our family, and now we are faced with the reality that this isn't theirs forever home. That's where things get hard.
Each child who comes to CORM has already lived a lifetime before arriving here. Most have lost parents or grandparents, and it is because of death, a tragedy, that they become voiceless and vulnerable. Their family elders sent them to live with their aunt, uncle, or distant relatives. They were once the joy of their parents, but now they have become the burden of others. A commodity, something to be sold or "rented out" for their services. Their childhood stolen from them. Their identity buried with their loved ones. Fear and abandonment, their closest friends.
When these children are rescued and brought to join our CORM family, they fear that they have been sold again to another slave master. Many fear that this time is going to be worse than the last.
My favorite moment to catch - much like capturing fireflies on a dark summer's night and then releasing them back into the night's sky- is that moment when they get it! They are safe here. They will laugh. They are free to play, to learn, to be a child.
The CORM Children's Village is a waiting place for so many of the rescued kids. An in-between place, between the tragedy and the unknown. This place may be the only time they will hear the gospels, feel loved and known, sleep on a bed, or go to school. When I counted the number of children who will be leaving us soon to be reintegrated, an urgency rises inside me. Do they know Jesus, really KNOW Jesus, and can they read?
I covet your prayers over the next weeks and months as we prepare our kids to go back to their families and villages. Some will go back to their parents, but most will join aunts, uncles, grandparents, and family friends. Please pray for the families preparing for the kids and for the family here to say good-bye. Reintegration is such a bittersweet moment. Please pray that the kids will have a good church family and community to rally around them as they move to their forever homes.