Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by numbers and statistics concerning human trafficking that you wondered how it's even possible to make a difference?
I just finished reading Terrify No More by Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission. This book centres on one of IJM's rescue operations in Cambodia, with other stories dispersed in between. In a village called Svay Pak, a hot spot for Western sex tourists, children as young as five are rented out in brothels to be abused and forced to perform sex acts for strangers I won't detail. IJM's investigators went into Svay Pak on numerous occasions, gathering evidence and video footage, and documented the names, ages, and pictures of children held there, what they were required to do, as well as documented the brothel owners and pimps who ran the industry. From a human standpoints, rescuing these children would impossible, but they put their faith in God and prepared for their mission. In March 2003, IJM put their carefully laid plans into action and rescued 37 victims and saw 13 perpetrators arrested.
I appreciated that Gary put the painful reality of these abused children into perspective. "I could write the stories about girls who have cried to us, 'Where were you three years ago when I was brought to this place? Why didn't you rescue me then when it would have mattered?" We cannot begin to understand the horrible circumstances children and women are forced into when they are sold into brothels. They're not just statistics. They are living, breathing individuals crying out "Where are you?" and each one matters!
I think in our culture, we easily forget the value of one. We can't really grasp problems of such a large nature, and the statistics often don't help, especially with our ideas about what results or success should look like. It might
even get to the point that even when someone does do something about it,
it seems insignificant. We may be tempted to say something like "Sure, some good guys raid a brothel and get a
few girls out, a pimp or two get sent to jail. What's the big deal?
There's still millions more." And we forget or undermine the value of one person, one child who doesn't have to subject her body to such cruel treatment anymore.
In Terrify No More, I was reminded of the importance of one. "Each of these is worthy. Each of these is made in the very image of God and to the extent that we have extended such love to even one of the least of these, we have extended such love to the very Maker of the universe. And we, for a moment, could experience the eternal resonance of why we existed on the earth at all."
This reminded me of the parable of the lost sheep, how the shepherd, who has a hundred sheep and loses one, leaves the ninety-nine on the mountains to find the one that went astray. Also the Bible tells us that the angels in heaven rejoice when one soul comes to repentance. When I look at the life of Christ, I see a man who ministered to crowd of thousands. But I also see a man who took the time for the one. The one woman in the pressing crowd, who having touched his robe, felt His healing power. The one man oppressed by a demon. The one person who was blind. He never overlooked the one in the midst of the crowd.
That's because one matters! It's not about the numbers. The little girl rescued from life in the brothel probably initially doesn't care how many millions of slaves are still in the world! She most likely will later on, but for the moment, she's happy that she's free. She can enjoy being a child and playing with toys. The one woman rescued doesn't have to worry anymore which customer may infect her with HIV. Yes, they have a long healing process ahead of them, but for one, life has changed.
Remember also that when victims are rescued and perpetrators are convicted and sentenced to prison, other traffickers will know that can't keep doing what they're doing and get away with it. The sex tourists realize the party's over. This will have greater impacts and prevent other children from being trafficked. Eventually it will hurt the industry.
Let us not lose heart when we look at the suffering of this world. Don't become paralyzed by statistics, but go into battle and seek out the one. Change the life of one. And I believe that by doing that, God will bless and multiply your efforts to reach out to many more.