We can't believe it's been a month since we all packed our bags and began our extraordinary adventure to India. Apart from becoming avid curry eaters, addicted to hand wash and adjusting to life in high humidity where the usual make up regime is really not worth the effort, the experiences we had shaped us and changed us.
It was a privilege to share each other's company and share the stories of those who we met. We are very aware of how much we learned and how my own understanding of trafficking prevention has grown.
These words from Carolyn Kitto from STOP THE TRAFFIK, Australia and my co-leader of Women of Strength trips reflect the sentiment about our recent venture to India. Twenty-six women from six different countries all laser focused on learning about human trafficking in India, serving alongside those that are often at risk daily. These men and women are in the trenches each day, real heroes, working to prevent trafficking and rescuing those that are part of “the profits made from the buying and selling of people making it the second largest global crime.” (Ruth Dearnley, CEO STOP THE TRAFFIK)
Anytime people are exploited I am compelled to do something about it. That is what led me to the Tijuana dump almost 40 years ago. Wow time flies when you are on a mission to confront the injustices of the world!
When I think about the locations in the world where the highest percentage of people are trafficked, not one of those places have I ever been interested in going to. Especially India. (Check out this map to see where people are trafficked from)
But for anyone that has heard me speak or read my book, Disrupted Cultivating a Mission-Focused Life, you know that with much of what I have done in my life God has dragged me kicking and screaming. So when Carolyn presented me with this opportunity to take Women of Strength to India I wasn’t really planning on going. My thinking was that I could send another staff member to represent Amor. Or God was again going to have to drag me kicking and screaming! And he did.
I’m glad he did. From Mumbai to Bangalore to Dhamapuri my heart was broken by the stories of those involved in prevention and rescuing as well as those that have been trafficked. Suzanne Kim, a filmmaker from Australia that went on the pre-trip with Carolyn told me that my experiences would be ones of times with great despair at what was happening and then bursts of hope also because of what was happening.
The message of those we came in contact with was the same everywhere we went. “Please tell our stories. Make people aware of what is happening here.”
The Amor/STOP THE TRAFFIK team served in Mumbai and then split up into three groups. Our partner was Oasis India and we served with their affiliate ministries giving us a wide variety of experiences throughout India. We regrouped as a team in Bangalore debriefing the impact of the trip and remembering Ruth’s impassioned appeal while we were in Mumbai to focus on prevention. As much of a reality that human trafficking is and how crucial it is to have strategies in place to rescue those that are trafficked in India and around the globe, the answer long-term is prevention.
In Mumbai I had the privilege of attending a church that was meeting in a space not much bigger than my bedroom. It was a satellite church of about 30 people that loved the Lord and were committed to making India traffic free. Our host that day was Johan a young man in his twenties that led us as well on the day that we served in the children’s center with the Oasis staff. The center was made up of children whose mothers are sex slaves. The focus is to give the children a safe learning environment where prevention of the next generation can be a reality.
We also visited a brothel and the drop-in center for women that are trying to get out of being trafficked. And we heard stories of women that made it out and were now serving those very women that they had once been exactly like. One of those women has a son that is now a doctor! It was heartbreaking to know that the children that don’t make it to the center are usually drugged by their mother’s trafficker so they will sleep under her bed while she is working on her bed.
Those visits were part of my trip where I experienced despair followed by that burst of hope Suzanne spoke about. But honestly, I couldn’t really see myself returning to India by the end of the trip. Carolyn does not speak for me when she talks about the curry. Only once did I tolerate it and was grateful we had so many other wonderful options. But it wasn’t my dislike for curry that would keep me from returning to India.
It was just overwhelming with the poverty and oppression. And I wanted to solve that for them and couldn’t think of a way to do that. The problems in India in my mind were just too big and seemed like impossible.
Then God spoke to me and said that maybe I needed to reread the first devotion in my book as well as the first three chapters. I was breaking all my own rules and in a very short time I went from learner to problem solver. But I couldn’t see a way to solve India’s problems so the answer was to just not try anything and go home.
And yet it was just like I wrote about David taking on Goliath in the week one devotion titled, “I Can’t Miss.” Goliath was an overwhelming force of nature to a little shepherd boy and India was overwhelming to me. We can convince ourselves its way too big or we can say it’s too big I can’t miss!
My journey will include a return to India and the people I fell in love with. I also want to find out what God has for Amor there. As you read this month’s enews you will hear about ways that might happen as well as how Amor and human trafficking connect.
And to tell you the stories that we have been entrusted to tell.