I never thought I’d see slavery as blatantly as I did this summer.
I’ve held onto this story for a time because it has taken some time to process and has become very dear to my heart. It may be a little hard to hear, but I hope it makes you uncomfortable enough to take action.
In June I went on my second mission trip to Germany with my church to combat human trafficking. Prostitution is legal there, and the culture has no clue that this legislature holds the door wide open for trafficking. On this trip, we hold an awareness event, strategically prayer walk around areas with high trafficking, and go into brothels to bring gifts to the women inside and speak with them. (If you want to learn more about this, click here and send me an email – I’d love to talk with you about what we do).
Due to multiple factors, only a few women from our team were going to go into brothels this year. Since I was a returner, I didn’t expect to go in, and I was okay with that. I was excited to spend time in prayer for those going in, as I hadn’t gotten to do so the previous year. But the organization we partner with there has a great knowledge of the brothels in the area and the cultural climate, so they strategically place certain people on specific teams.
“Abby, I know you’ve had some blood pressure issues over the last few months… how are you feeling?”
“I’ve been feeling fine!”
“Great! How would you feel about going in again this year?”
“I’ll go wherever you need me.”
So, I was placed on a team that was set to go into a brothel and then turn around and immediately go to prayer walk around another as a different team went in there (this ended up being one of the most spiritually challenging things I’ve ever done in my life).
On our drive there, we passed a mega-brothel that another team would be going into. Our driver informed us that the top three floors of this 15+ floor building were closed off with a chain and lock. They believe that those floors were reserved for high-paying men and held young children.
Preparing to go into a brothel is a little intimidating as-is. Hearing this on the way put a knot in my stomach. I know this happens – I’ve done research on it – but it’s entirely different being in the presence of it.
So that I don’t drone on forever, I’m not going to talk about all the conversations we had at this location today. These stories are important, and I’ll likely talk more about them at another time.
Walking through this brothel was like a maze. They had intentionally designed this building for men to wander inside as long as possible and spend as much money as possible.
From recent visits, the team we partnered with had intel that the lowest floor (semi-basement) was where they kept the newest girls to “make sure they stayed in line”. After being inside for almost an hour, that’s where we ended up. We came to a door, the last we would see for the day, to find a young girl sitting in a chair just inside the entrance to her room. The walls were dark and blank, and the only light shone from the shower in the corner. Her eyes looked sunken in and she slumped in her chair. She seemed to only be around 17 years old.
We asked her for her name and she mumbled something unidentifiable. We had to check the door to see what she said, and even that was her stage name. I don’t believe she could have told us her real name if she tried. For the sake of protection and anonymity, we’re going to call her Amber.
Our team leader asked her if she thought the “work” was hard, and while her eyes welled with tears, she refrained from fully crying. Her leg began to bounce nervously as she silently nodded. She told us that she was from Romania, but she couldn’t tell us where she was or how she had gotten there, only that she had been there for two days.
We were being watched. Men were always passing by behind us, but one quite consistently.
Our team leader took a chance and told her how to get in contact with us if she needed help – that we could get her to safety. I don’t know that she understood the entirety of what we were saying to her, or that she could act on it even if she did.
When I get questions of why I do what I do, this is the story I tell in response. The reality Amber faced was one that no one should ever have to. She didn’t know her name, where she was, or how she had gotten there. All she knew was fear. She, and so many other stories like hers, is why I fight. Why we fight. And why you should fight, too.
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