That First Moment

I remember the first time I heard about sex trafficking. I was young, probably around 10 years old. Every year around the holidays, my parents gave my siblings and me some money that we then donated towards a cause that touched our hearts.

One year, I was sitting with my mom, flipping through a magazine from a non-for-profit organization. With each flip of the page, I encountered widows who were being brutally driven from their homes; orphans who desperately needed nets to protect them from the mosquitoes that were infesting them with diseases; men, women, and children who were being cruelly enslaved in brick kilns.

Surely, I felt pain for each one of these individuals—at least as much pain as a 10 year old boy knows how to feel.  But none of these situations reached beyond the level of sympathetic pain to the point where you literally feel the very most sensitive portions of your heart being touched and pulled.

That is, none of these situations did that for me until I saw them: 4 young Asian women, standing alone on the side of a street in a dark city.

I stopped turning the page, and froze. Something about the complex looks on their faces—it immobilized my heart. On the one hand, their demeanor shouted that everything was just splendid and that they were incredibly happy. On the other hand, it was as if their eyes pierced into my soul and cried out that they were in deep pain.

Mommy,” I whispered, hesitant and inquisitive all at the same time, “who are these women?”

She turned to me with a nurturing yet sad look. “These are women,” she said, “whose bodies are sold.”

I sat there for many moments in stunned silence. The emotions whirled through me. How could these women—so beautiful, so innocent—be treated in such a way? How could a person take something so precious, so pure, and mar it so grossly?

11 years later, here I am volunteering for Catalyst, and I still remember the first moment I saw those women. If you’re reading this now, you’ve probably had a similar experience—that moment you first heard about sex trafficking. Maybe you’ve known about it for a long time, or maybe you’re just now hearing about it, but we’ve all had that moment. And most likely, most of us, if not all of us, have had that question: how do I respond?

Well, there are many ways that we can respond. All of us can pray, many of us can donate towards organizations that are fighting sex trafficking, and many of us can become involved through volunteering. These are all amazing responses that are needed to the question, “what can I do?”

But there is another response, one that does not override the above responses, but complements them. Before I tell you that response, though, I need to tell you something else.

There are myriads of reasons for why the tragedy of sex trafficking exists—greed, lust, violence, corruption, emotional wounding—I could go on and on. But there are other reasons for why the tragedy of sex trafficking continues to exist. One of those reasons is lack of awareness.

Ephesians 5 makes it very clear that works of darkness are done in secret. As long as something is hidden, it will continue to thrive; but when gross darkness is exposed to light, it cannot continue to exist.

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open (Luke 8:17).”

So here is my challenge to you: each week, tell one new person about the tragedy of human trafficking. And when you have finished telling them, equip them on how to respond. And when you have done that, challenge them to tell one new person each week about human trafficking.

If each one of us did this one simple thing, can you imagine the amount of darkness that would begin to be exposed to the light?

With each new person that becomes aware of human trafficking, a community begins to develop who is not blind to the darkness of human trafficking but exposes it to the light. Each one of us then becomes like drops of rain. And over time, those drops become a river.