It’s 5am on Saturday 4th of July and it’s already getting light outside… as the day dawns it dawns on me that this is a day where the nation of America celebrates freedom and independence. And yet freedom and independence are things that many of the women we meet can only dream about.
free·dom (noun) // The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. // The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.
There’s an irony about approaching a girl who is being sexually exploited and having her wish you a “Happy 4th of July”… and not the beautiful poetic kind of irony, but the frustrating, gut wrenching kind. As I looked her in the eye I couldn’t help but wonder what her 4th of July would look like. Does she have a pimp? Will he “let her” go get her hair or her nails done today under the pretence of freedom? Or will she be beaten for not making enough money last night? This is the painful reality for many of the girls we encounter.
However, as I sit in the comfort of my home typing these words I feel what can only be described as a dreamlike separation from that reality. Upon returning from the streets each Friday night and climbing back into my warm bed, I often wake up feeling somewhat like I’ve woken up from a nightmare. It’s like my brain wants to reject that this is even happening in the world… and not just in the world, but on my doorstep. On your doorstep.
This week, through one of our ministry partners, we heard the true story of a girl who was trafficked at 10 years old. Her pimp was caught and imprisoned. Her response? Writing a book about her experience in order to raise the money to get her pimp out of prison. Unbelievable. Distressing. Heart-breaking. It makes me wonder to what extent this “land of the free” is really free at all?! Because the truth is that for 10-year-old girls like this one, freedom does not exist. But it can exist, and that’s why God calls us to reach out to His precious daughters.
Our response by now should be pretty apparent… we’re here to offer freedom to those who currently do not experience it in their lives: freedom from the bonds of sexual exploitation. But more than that, we hope that they will experience the freedom that is only found in Jesus. Each of us have personally experienced that freedom in a real way in our own lives; most recently last night when one of our team was overcome by fear about going out on the streets. We prayed and it was beautiful to watch as God revealed His presence with us and that fear was gone, replaced with a picture of Jesus kneeling beside us shining in glory. Our hope is that those we encountered on the streets last night will have caught a glimpse of His glory and of the freedom that is available in Him.