Do you remember these girls? This past September, I shared with you the story of this day; the day I met Poverty. It was this same day that I came face to face with Slavery. This picture was taken in 2009 but the memories are so fresh, I can see, feel, and hear it all, like I’m still sitting there across from them, my heart wrung out and broken. I want you to take a moment and join me, sitting in this small Peruvian village tucked away in the great Andes Mountains.
I turned to see a small girl toddling towards me and my friend who was busy chatting with the two older girls. The little one, finally reaching me, placed her hand on my leg to steady herself. She couldn’t have been older than 2. I gave her a little grin and her big brown eyes brightened as she offered back her sweet smile and reached up her arms for me to hold her. Just like that.
I looked around for a parent, an older sibling. But no one had accompanied her. So there we all sat, giggling and chatting away. I continued to glance up the road where this young one had come from, wondering where her parents were. A few minutes passed, a few more, then a figure turning the corner caught my eye. An elderly woman began making her way down the rough dirt road towards us. She was wrapped in a colorful wool shawl. Her wrinkles framed her face and the gray highlighted her long dark hair. She sat next to my friend and leaned forward to shoot a quick smile towards me and the little one, telling us she was the grandmother. The parents were gone so it was up to her to take care of the girl now though she had very little money and no other family to help. I listened with one ear, making out what I could in my rusty Spanish. But mostly, I was paying attention to the girls, and letting my friend (who was fluent in Spanish) handle the more advanced-level conversation.
I cradled the little one tighter and made a funny face to get her laughing, while the other two giggled along. Then I felt my friend nudge my arm. The woman was speaking directly to me now. I turned all my attention onto her words, concentrating hard to interpret what she was so eager to tell me.
Do you want her? You should. She’s a good girl.
Do I want her? What do you mean?
[I glanced at my friend who was looking as confused as I was. I knew what she was saying. I just couldn’t believe it.]
The girl. Do you want her. I will sell her to you.
You can have her.
un niño…no tiene un…precio
[a child…does not have a…price]
In Lima, they do.
Till the day I die, I will hear myself fumbling over my Spanish to put that one tiny sentence of defense together. And I will hear her response, and remember how it made my whole body clench up, nauseated by the excruciating reality revealed.
We hear the horrible statistics, cringe and shake our heads. People are being sold and traded. Sex trafficking, labor slaves, all of it, a booming business. But I want you to sit there with the 19-year-old me from Lancaster, PA, completely unaware of the realities thousands upon thousands face every day. I want you to feel the weight of that little girl on your lap holding onto your hand while you hear her desperate grandmother ask you to name your price, hear her tell you that many children are sold in Lima, all over the world, really…
Many days I have wondered where she is now. I have dreamt of that day, of holding her, looking into the eyes of her grandmother, fumbling for words, and then being called away to our van that couldn’t wait another minute before leaving the village, having to lift her off my lap, set her down, and then walk away. And all of us weeping in light of what we had learned, of how far the depths and the reaches of evil had travelled.
It demands awareness. It demands action. It demands an end. Today is “Shine a Light on Slavery Day.” Many mornings following my dreams of that awful day, I’ve cried out to God with burning questions for the sake of all those affected, the injustice. But I’ve also allowed it to become personal. God, why would you take me through such a horrible, raw experience? What am I supposed to do now? You can understand why the Brooke Fraser song I mentioned in the blog on Haiti brings me to tears: “Now that I have seen, I am responsible. Now that I have held you in my own arms…” Well, I can begin, here, by telling you the story of the day I came face to face with the reality of slavery. But there is so much more that I can do; that we can do. Visit the EndItMovement Website to learn more about the problem of slavery right here in our country and all over the world and how you can be a part of the solution.
Remember that this year, slavery will be one of the topics that David Platt will be discussing at Secret Church along with a number of other pressing issues and hard questions in our culture. How do we live in the midst of it all as a light to the world. How do we respond. What is our calling and how do we engage others in purposeful conversations that reflect not just our personal convictions but, more importantly, the love of Jesus Christ. Secret Church is April 24th and we are joining our brothers and sisters in Christ at LEFC for an evening of intense Bible study, worship, and prayer. You do not want to miss it. Visit HERE to sign up or contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions.