The Day Human Trafficking Became Real

I still remember the first time that I came face to face with the issue of human trafficking.  I was on a mission trip to India with the intention of ministering to young women from various churches.  We had wrapped up a dynamic conference with some of the most precious young women I had ever met, when our contact said there was one more place she wanted us to visit - the red light district in Mumbai.  

“Red Light District” immediately conjured up a few thoughts, but mostly it was just a vague concept,  when I was still focused on the beautiful faces and the heartbreaking stories that I had heard from the Indian women we had just left.  It felt like a jarring change in agenda, but I got in the car expecting to have an educational/cultural moment that often happens in other lands.

We didn't actually go into the heart of the Red Light District because it wasn't safe for us as foreigners or instead we climbed to the rooftop of a shelter where children of prostitutes could sleep throughout the night while their mothers worked.  I heard the laughter of little ones as we climbed the stairs, and then I’ll never forget the scene below as I looked out from that rooftop into the square mile that I would learn housed approximately 40,000 prostitutes.

The lanes were narrow and seemed a little quiet, but of course I would soon learn that the quiet was due to sunlight, and as darkness covered the area, the streets would transform into a chaotic behemoth teeming with leering men who were there for a good time.

I heard a lot of stories that day.  I listened to statistics and my ears were assaulted with a reality that I had always kept at a comfortable distance.  My mind was swirling and my heart was racing.  I was having a hard time computing it all, and then we were invited to a church service that night in the middle of the Red Light District.

I’ll never forget that night.  I was invited to share a brief encouraging word and then listened as the pastor from this area spoke the gospel with such grace and authority that every heart in the room was at attention.  And then as the service closed, the pastor invited the people to the Lord’s Table, to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  He handed me a cup and instructed me to walk down the line people were forming in the aisle.

That may be one of the holiest moments of my life.  As I carried the cup of our Lord down an aisle in the middle of the Red Light District in Mumbai, I felt the presence and delight of God.  And with each step that I took, I heard Him whisper, “Look in her eyes.”  One after another, I heard Him say, “Look at their eyes.”  And so I looked.  I slowed my step and I really looked deep into the eyes of former prostitutes, pimps, addicts, and stolen lives.  What I found were women and men with bright eyes and big smiles who one after another took the cup as if it were their very life.  And I realized it was in fact THE Life - it was His life, HIs blood shed for them, it was the force that had set them free.  I remembered the words of Jesus, “the one who is forgiven much loves much.”  I was undone.

I came home with a simple thought: “I have to do something.”  I think that may be why I’ve always liked Josie Carignan so much.  She understands that once you see something, you can never unsee it, and she like so many other brave men and women have resolved to do something, even if it is just for one.

Over the years I’ve had many people ask me what they can do to help fight this great injustice of our generation.  And there are so many great things we can all do.  I think the key is simply to do something.  Far too often we wait on action feeling like what we have to offer is not near enough, and hoping and scheming that one day we will do something big.  But the big things typically arise when we simply just take a small step today.  

You can give (money is honestly the biggest need for most amazing organizations like Rescue Her).  We can make others aware of human slavery, and we can do practical things in our own backyard like the motel outreach that Josie is involved with, or begin working with young women in at risk situations to speak worth and value into their lives.  The possibilities are many, and each life touched is of value.  

Perhaps greatest of all, we can pray.  We can pray for boys and girls, women and men who are living in slavery.  We can pray for corruption in governments to be exposed, and for righteousness to arise.  And we can pray for ourselves - that our hearts would stay tender to the plight of people and to God’s love for all.  If we simply obey as He leads, we can be confident that although we may not save the world, we will be a part of a life rescued - a life that He sees and is just waiting for us to see.