Perhaps it was a test, and if that indeed was the case, it was a very dangerous, very frightening test. But it was almost as if she wanted to see if we would pursue her, or if we would just let her go. In the days following her announcement a million thoughts raced through my mind, some as ridiculous as locking her here and refusing to allow her to leave. However, she is nineteen, and that would never really work. I begged God to find a solution and keep her from this evil. We prayed and cried as we tried to find sleep and her impending departure loomed closer and closer.
And one day we woke up, and it was the last day. She would leave us tomorrow, after her passport was returned with her new visa. Her bag was packed, and she had gone out and purchased special, little gifts for each of our children. She got up early, and she made us one last breakfast – my favorite. I could hardly swallow it down past the white hot lump stuck in my throat. We had reached out to other, more experienced people, for help, and learned the ugly truths of trafficking. How this is exactly how it is done. How once these girls reach the country, there is NO Ethiopian embassy present there, and their passport is taken away. This puts the girls in impossible situations, with no way to escape. These young girls are lied to, and promised wealth and happiness and excitement and adventure. Some are even told that the streets are literally lined with money, and because the girls are so young and so sheltered (most having never left their home city) and uneducated, they believe the fantasy. This is horrific, and this was happening to OUR girl.
Our sweet girl wants more from this life. She has no living birth family, and while we have tried to fill in that gap this past year, it will never really be enough. She has next to no education, and although she is attending night school, she has years and years ahead of her before she can even receive a high school diploma. Her days are mundane and monotonous, and in her eyes her future is bland. The traffickers know all of this. They know how to prey on the most vulnerable aspects of these girls (and boys). I started questioning everything we had done, and feeling guilt for all that I could have, should have done. Did I include her enough? Did she know how much we loved and cherished her? Did she work too hard for us? So many questions, so much uncertainty, until God whispered strong and fierce into my heart pursue her.
Jim and I walked hand and hand into the kitchen where she was scrubbing breakfast dishes. Jim turned her from the sink, and the best we knew how we pursued that girl with everything inside of us. We told her how much we loved her, how important she was to our family, how we would help her pursue her dreams and an education, or whatever it is her heart dreams of. Through tears and translation and our feeble attempt to stop this, Jesus breathed truth into our girl. And just hours before she was to board a plane and walk into horror that we could barely imagine, she decided to stay. She sobbed in my arms, like the little girl that she was never able to be, and I held her like the mom she had never known. She was safe, and she was home, and she knew it.
Several weeks have past since that moment in the kitchen, and things have returned to normal. But there is still a fight going on for the heart and soul of our girl. Jesus is still pursuing her, and so are we. We will not stop. She has yet to receive her passport back, and continues to receive calls from the trafficker. Our hands are tied at the moment, but our desire is to stop this atrocity from happening and to shut the agency down. This should not be happening, and this evil was way too close to home.
“According to the U.S. state department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female and half are children.” [www.dosomething.org]