When death pays a visit, fear is tangible. Tonight I saw photos of the African woman’s body after she was murdered last week. Two women came to meet us for an interview and to ask for assistance. We had scheduled to meet with one but she brought her friend as well. The friend was mostly quiet while we interviewed the first but she was clearly frightened.
“Martha” gave her story, so similar to most of the stories we’ve been hearing. Offered a good job in China with a one way ticket and a large debt. First night on arrival being told that there is no work for Africans in China and taken to the streets to sell their bodies. Passport confiscated, threats made, tears and resistance to no avail. Reluctantly they comply seeing no other way of survival. It’s only when the visa runs out their passports are returned so they can make a trip to Thailand for another visa. Thailand is the get away opportunity…but not for all. Death paid a visit to “Harriet” as she was called on the street. “Martha” was telling us that she has been too afraid to go with the African men because they killed a woman. This triggered the pressure valve of her friend “Mary” and the story burst forth. The way she told it, the murderer used the woman’s phone to call her mother and told her, “I killed your daughter.” The mother contacted someone and a search found the body at a hospital. Mary pulled out her phone, “I show you the photos.” Several images of the corpse were shown us. Horrible images. These are being shared among the women on the street. Tears began to spill over and her voice lowered as she muttered, “I was afraid. That is why we want to go home. We have kids you know.”
Trafficked against their will, deceived, in debt bondage, under threat of witchcraft…these were what brought the women and trapped them in prostitution with no option but to sell their body night after night. But when death pays a visit the fear of never seeing one’s child again is greater than the fear of the trafficker. When given the chance, it’s time to escape and go home. They asked for prayer and as we began to pray for them they got down on their knees in the restaurant. “Mary” couldn’t hold the tears back any longer and she buried her face in her arms. I put my arms around her and I prayed for God’s arms of love to be wrapped around them and hold them close in safety.
The women thanked us. I told them, “it is our privilege to help you. We respect you. You are very brave women.” It’s true. They are beautiful, strong, courageous women who have made great sacrifices for their families. It has taken it’s toll and they will not return the same as when they left. As I watched them walk away my heart was heavy in my chest and I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. I’ve heard so many of these stories and it is sad every time. Tonight though fear was tangible and visible in the eyes of the ones who knew it could have been them. The photo of the woman sacrificed on the altar of lust and greed, will not be forgotten by the women or by me. I write this tonight asking you to remember all the “Harriets” still out there, who given the opportunity, would all too readily choose life.