Note: This commentary was delivered by Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley.
You have heard us talk before about the monstrous problem of human trafficking on “BreakPoint.” The scope of this human tragedy is mind-boggling. Experts estimate that there are 27 million slaves in the world today-the greatest number in history.
A common form of slavery is sex trafficking, a despicable form of bondage that traps millions of young girls and women with the promise of a better life. Across the world, in places like Romania and Thailand, women are tricked into prostitution by brothel owners who promise them jobs as beauticians or waitresses, and then hold them in captivity by false debts or psychological torment.
Well, all of this was driven home to me at one of Prison Fellowship’s weekly staff devotions. We heard from one of our own colleagues, Robi Keyes, on her work combating sexual trafficking. Her talk revealed the horror of human trafficking; but, also, it gave me great hope in the fact that just one person, motivated by the love of Christ, can have an enormous impact.
Several years ago, shortly after Robi had arrived in Thailand during one of her husband’s diplomatic assignments, she stumbled upon a beauty shop for prostitutes. The shop was run by former prostitutes who would tell their customers about Christ, and encourage them to leave the sex trade.
For two years, Robi and another diplomat’s wife volunteered at the beauty shop. During this time, Robi was growing increasingly enraged at the all-too familiar story of sexual exploitation: Most of the women had come from poor families in the countryside. Most were tricked into becoming prostitutes. Some had been beaten and raped. Many suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases. They wanted to leave, but could not, because their captors held them in unending debt, or they felt they had no other way to make a living.
Robi made plans to help the women in one of Bangkok’s red light districts by teaching them how to make jewelry, so they could earn a living apart from prostitution. Within two weeks, five girls came to Robi for help-within a month, 10. And, soon, Robi was able to buy a townhouse and start a full-blown nonprofit organization called NightLight, which now employs 85 women.
Some of the women used the money to set themselves free from their captors. Others were liberated from the emotional and spiritual degradation they had experienced. Today, two girls are in Bible school. One owns her own clothing shop. Three have been to beauty school.
What a marvelous witness to the world about the power of the Gospel! Instead of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the darkness and the problem, Robi set to work to do something about it. As we at Prison Fellowship know, proclaiming liberty to the captives is a part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. After all, Isaiah 58 says, “Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice, and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free?”
Visit our website-www.breakpoint.org-for a list of organizations that combat human trafficking and reach out to these victims of slavery. Find out how you can help free the oppressed.