Marcel**, a worker in western France, has walked alongside victims of human trafficking for five years, during which time he has witnessed many disheartening situations: girls who have papers but can’t find work; others who want to leave prostitution but don’t have legal papers; and others who are bound by fear and refuse to file a complaint against those who hold them hostage.
However, here he shares the story of one girl who recently took the courageous step to leave her life of prostitution for the freedom Christ offers.
It all started with a telephone call from a worker with the international humanitarian organisation Doctors of the World, who asked if I would meet a girl in great spiritual and emotional distress. I met Clara* near a tramway in our city and was surprised by the fear visible on her face.
She asked me to go to a more private place, and I could see she was distressed. She told me that the heavy makeup she wore was just a mask, but that she wanted to get rid of the mask permanently.
Her determination was real – she had been to the police a few days earlier to file an official complaint. She admitted to being at the end of her tether after nine years on the streets but was afraid, thinking she had to carry on because she had no one to help her make the change.
I felt then that it was time to mobilise God’s people, like we had done before to help another girl out of prostitution, who is now doing well in her life and faith.
A partnering church welcomed Clara that same evening to stay in one of their rooms. I will never forget the heavenly moment when we left her at the front door of the church. There was a moment’s silence in which we felt God’s tangible presence. She told us that only three days earlier she had thought God had abandoned her, and now she was sure that He hadn’t.
The following Sunday, Clara gave a spontaneous testimony during the church service. A church member told me that, for her, it counted amongst the church highlights of the year.
Emotional, psychological and social restoration
When we talk about restoration, there is always the legal side of things. Thankfully, France has many institutions and charities that are very competent. Clara had effectively no identity because her passport had been taken away. But since being at the church, she has obtained her official papers, which allow her to work and get a resident’s permit. She is also now in a home.
However, the emotional and psychological price to pay is expensive. She has frequently said that her childhood was stolen. Her views of love and men have been affected and the simple act of changing her routine from night to day takes time.
The spiritual side is also important. There are sins to confess, things to renounce, chains to break, thoughts to reconstruct and wounds to heal. She feels guilty and afraid for her family. The people who exploited her are part of a renowned gang in her home country, and she often has nightmares. It’s a long path that can only be walked with the help of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God and prayer.
“A chapter of my life is over. I am now a new creature in Christ,” she had said, as we unloaded her belongings from my car to go into the church that first night. We are so grateful to God for all He has done for her.
Am I a living testimony?
The answer to Clara’s feelings of abandonment was meeting Christians who enabled her to find a relationship with our God, who says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5; NIV). Helping a girl who is a victim of human trafficking implies love that is not limited by words alone, but by words and truth.
As believers, although we are not of this world, we are in it. Whether we are a missions worker, a student, a stay-at-home mother, or we have a job, we need to ask the same question of ourselves: Am I a living testimony of Christ’s love and freedom?
We are aware that Clara is only at the beginning of the restoration process, but for each one of us who have been seized by God, we are not alone on our walk towards our heavenly home. Jesus is the way and is also the Shepherd who leads us on the way.
**Full name not included for security reasons