January has been designated Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Although Dare for More is not an organization that is dedicated to human trafficking as our main mission, we have found that if you are ministering to women on a global scale, you are dealing with human trafficking. In fact, God used the women and children in the Dominican Republic who were struggling with the effects of trafficking to fan the flame of our vision. He used the missionaries and the safe house leaders who were fighting the battle every day to help us realize that women were in crisis and in dire need of the help and hope that comes from Jesus Christ.
Following His leading, we began to come alongside those who were in need. Reba raised awareness among the church in the USA. We began to lead women on mission trips to help other women who were in need of encouragement, prayer, and basic physical needs such as clean water, food, medical help, and more. Hearts & Hope Global Solutions was formed as the umbrella under which all the global endeavors of Dare for More would fall. But this was just the logistics. At the core of every crisis is a woman or a child that cannot survive without immediate attention. It was their lives that told the true story.
The statistics are mind-boggling.
But for DFM this is more than shaking our head at statistics or being sad about the horror stories around the world. Every number is a face, a life, a story. These numbers represent women and little girls by more than 80%. So how can we claim to have a burden for women and yet totally ignore the millions of women and girls who will never hear the gospel without someone to go and find them and tell them? How can we accept the easy tasks of ministering to women in the US and not be willing to accept the hard tasks of working with the least of these?
Over the past few years, we have met many of these precious women and girls and we have the privilege to know their stories and share in their fight for freedom. For purposes of safety and dignity, we cannot always share their stories but today I want to leave you with one. So you can put a life to a number. So you can remember that awareness is just knowledge. The goal is mobilization. I hope this life story mobilizes you to pray, to give, to go. Who knows where one step will take you.
The Sisters and the Main Street Girls
The streets have a distinct odor. Bakery doors flung open with the delicious smell of fresh bread. Flower shops with their sidewalk displays filling the air with lavender and roses. Coffee shops with the aroma of nut, creme, and chocolate. But diverge off the main streets and you find that the streets off the beaten path have their own aroma as well.
It was on one of these streets that Milly* and Sarah*could be found almost every night. A street vendor covers the corner cooking something unrecognizable by smell or sight. He sells strong bitter coffee, take it black or don’t take it. Trash and dirt seem to pour from every possible crevice. Men sit along the walls and stand in groups around the corners. Women walk the streets from the corner vendor to the brothel doors. There is a darkness here that is heavier than just the night skies.
Milly and Sarah have worked these streets for years now. It was not where they thought they would end up but life was complicated. They had visions of love, marriage, and family. But their boyfriends didn’t pan out. They both got pregnant and then deserted. For months they had tried to make it work. Odd jobs here and there, just enough to put rice and beans on the table. But it didn’t take long for those babies to become toddlers who needed more to eat than milk and that’s when life got really hard.
No woman wants to sell her body for sex. No woman wants to be abused and treated as an object to be used and tossed away. Sarah and Milly were no different but their lives had never been pure or protected. Their earliest memories involve their Dad coming in their bedroom at night. Sometimes they would be sent to visit the man across the street or down the road. All these visits were nightmares.
By the time they hit their teenage years, their mom hated them and was jealous because of their Dad’s nightly visits. They were both kicked out to the streets to find their own way. For a few years, they lived with family or friends, sleeping on couches and in most cases finding men who expected the same as their father. They had hoped they would find a good man but life had taught them good men didn’t exist.
At least they got paid a little on these dirty, smelly streets. At least their kids were eating now. But what they wouldn’t give to trade this life in for another. The abuse messes with your mind as it attacks your senses. The filthy men who reek of alcohol, cigarettes and body odor. These are the smells that you can’t seem to get out of your nose. The words of degradation that you can’t keep from playing over and over in your mind. The physical pain of abuse and cruelty that you carry day in and day out. The senses record every painful moment and replay them to a point of insanity if you don’t find a way to turn it off. That’s where the drugs come in.
Something to numb the brain and turn off the senses. Peace for a few moments. A space of time where you can’t feel anything and you can’t remember. The girls knew that drugs were trouble. They had watched it destroy some of their friends but they were going to be careful and not end up like them. They would manage it.
Sarah and Milly were hanging out on their end of the street when they saw them. Three women who clearly didn’t belong on this side of town. One of them stopped for a second at the corner to grab a cup of the strong coffee. Strange. There were rumors of these “visitors” but Sarah and Milly had never been around when they showed up. Every eye was curiously wondering what they were up to and why there were here. Although their approach was casual the sisters knew they were heading straight for them.
She smelled like flowers and cinnamon. Her hair was washed and smelled clean and nice. She was a main street girl, not a back street girl that was easy to tell. So what was she doing here and why was she talking to them? She smiled and her eyes reflected a true happiness. It was awkward but Milly noticed that she never felt belittled or cheap around them. They were kind and seemed genuinely concerned about her welfare. The tall, thin one looked a lot like their cousin. She was honest and direct, but when she talked you knew that she cared.
Suddenly they were gathered in a small circle, arms entwined, and the main street girls were praying. Praying for Sarah and Milly to leave the streets and come to their safe house. Praying for God to free them from this bondage and show them his love. No one had ever prayed for them. They understood that if there was a God he sure wasn’t interested in them. They knew they were past saving and there was no way God was going to clean them and love them. But these main street girls made it almost believable.
Months passed and each week the main street girls would come and visit. Some of the girls on the street had walked away from the brothel and gone with them. They were learning to read and write and they were making jewelry and getting paid. Sarah had seen a necklace that one of the main street girls was wearing and she wished that she could make beautiful things. But it all seemed so hard to believe. So every week Sarah and Milly would promise to leave next week and come and make jewelry but it never happened.
The sisters hated the foreigners who came to visit the streets on their business trips. They were cruel and scary but the pay was better than the local boys so the girls on the street took the risks. Plus some girls got lucky and found them a sugar daddy who visited regularly and paid them extremely well. One night Milly left the street with one of the foreign men. Maybe tonight her luck would change. As Sarah watched her leave she hoped her sister would be okay. She knew the night would be long and hard.
Sarah and Milly had shared a house for many years now. Their kids played together and they looked out for each other. So when Sarah awoke the next morning and Milly was not back she was worried. She checked her phone but she had not missed a call. By that afternoon she was frantic and knew that something horrible had happened to her sister. At best the man had drugged her and she was passed out somewhere. But she could be hurt and unable to get help. Sarah began the search for her sister.
It was days before they found her. Only a few hundred yards from the hotel in a back alley trash heap her body had been cut into pieces and was tossed amongst the rotting food and filth. It appeared the man paid to have her body dumped rather than pay her for her services and let her go free.
Milly’s death was the breaking point for Sarah. She reached out to the main street girls and left the street immediately.
Weeks later Sarah sat at the workshop with a stack of necklaces on her table that she had made. Her mentor, the tall main street girl, had just arrived for their weekly meeting. Sarah was learning that God really did love her and that he died for her. This was almost too much to comprehend. She was safe. Her children were eating and growing healthy and strong. The environment of her home was changing. She was now responsible for Milly’s children too and they were a constant reminder of her reason to press on.
It wasn’t easy. Her body often craved the drugs. She struggled with the shame and guilt of her past life. She lived with the regret of not getting off the streets sooner. The nightmares still haunted her sleep. But there was something happening in her heart. Hope was stirring from somewhere deep within and it was taking root in her life.
Hope has a distinct odor. It smells like flowers and cinnamon.
If you would like to find out more information on how you can mobilize your efforts to help those in need around the world, check out our website at Hearts & Hope.
If you would like to invest in giving women and girls in crisis the hope they so desperately need, click here to become a partner with Dare for More.