Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 5, 2012

The Beautiful Smile

Kolkata, India

According to statistics, 27 million people on the planet today live in some form of slavery or bondage. That’s a disturbing statistic, the kind of information that gives us insight into the magnitude of a global problem. However, it’s important to peel back those numbers to learn the stories of those who live or have lived in some form of slavery. Personal stories are powerful because they can give us insight into how a person becomes a part of disturbing statistics. And, because personal stories tend to touch our hearts they can also compel us to become a part of the solution — to act in a practical and measurable way to make a difference. It’s easy for us to shake our heads and dismiss disturbing statistics and exclaim, “What a shame!” But, it’s harder to dismiss the story of just one person who has experienced the horrors reflected by the statistics.

A little more than two years ago, I led our missions ministry to became engaged in the fight against human trafficking. We now have several justice partners with whom we work both at home and abroad. Among these is an aftercare home for young girls rescued from the forced commercial sex trade in the brothels of South Asia. Every time I visit this home I am reminded of why we must remain engaged in the fight against injustice. And every time I listen to a young girl tell her story, I understand a little better why God is concerned about the welfare of the victims of injustice and all who are destitute, poor, and needy. Those trapped in the world of slavery need for us to hear their cries, to speak and to act on their behalf, and to champion their cause. You cannot unlock the shackles of the enslaved with the dull keys of ignorance, silence, and inactivity. We must become increasingly knowledgeable, intentionally engaged, and strategically active in order to bring about change.

Yesterday, I met a thirteen year-old girl who lives in the aftercare home we support. She is new here since my last visit. She has a beautiful smile but lonely and longing eyes. She approached me and stared at me for a moment and then said, “You remind me of my father.” I asked, “When was the last time you saw your father?” And with that, her story began to unfold. This young lady is from a small village in a neighboring country. Almost a year ago, her family sent her to visit her aunt in a larger city. While there, a neighbor invited her to accompany her into the city to run some errands. That was the last time she saw her aunt. She remembered waking up in a room where her descent into hell began. For four months she was kept in a drug-induced stupor so that men could have their way with her. Then she remembers waking up in a police station where she was told that she had been unconscious for four days. The courts placed her in aftercare where she is recovering from her ordeal.

I asked her how she survived through her unimaginably dark days in captivity where she was forced to service the sexual whims of evil men. “God was with me. That’s why I am saved.” And then she told me how much she misses her parents and wishes that she could contact them and just talk with them. But, she can’t even remember where her village is located. She hopes that one day she can find her way back home to her family. In the meantime, she has a safe place to live and to recover. I encouraged her as much as I could and then, as we finished our conversation, told her that she had a beautiful smile. “If I don’t smile,” she said, “I won’t be able to live.” That is a beautiful testimony to her faith and resilient spirit. This sweet little girl with the beautiful smile has hope and I am confident that one day she will be reunited with her family. I can only imagine that there will be lots of beautiful smiles on that day.


Responses

  1. Thank you so much for following God’s heart and in turn leading our church to serve those in slavery. Pointing them to the One who saves and heals is the greatest job ever! Honored to serve with you and our church. Shiloh

    • Thanks, Shiloh. It’s great to see our church family so engaged in our justice initiatives.

  2. Dear Pastor Omar,

    You and your team are in my fervent prayers. I am overcoming the health obstacles that rose up here at home. I have gotten a good report from my physician and look forward to a good MRI report as well. This story is touching as I know the love with which you walk your life and calling out in. I encourage you as I am sure that your tender heart probably wept internally at this young lady identifying your likeness to her father. I love our friendship and look forward to serving with you again soonest. I completed the Japanese encephalitis vaccine and am good basically for the next 5~10 years for all of my shots. Additionally, as you know my Visa is sound for 10 years. I look forward to being a help in the heart of the hurting. Blessings to you and yours and your team. I look forward to visiting with you and the XO upon your return. All the best my friend and stay grounded in strength. Your light shines brightly!

    Your friend,

    Dacques

    • Thanks for your prayers, Dacques. Glad to know that you are feeling much better. Look forward to the day we can travel together again on mission with God.

  3. Given the history of that part of the world, I cannot help wondering why her parents would have sent her to “visit her aunt” in a region where trafficking is so widespread. I can only imagine that money might have changed hands, at that poor girl’s expense. Therefore, I am left to wonder if reunion with her parents is really possible, or even desirable. If this is so, then may God have mercy upon their souls.

    • What you describe in your comment often happens. So many girls are sold or compromised by family members and thus can never return home again.

  4. Incredibly painful to read…but so critical to hear. Thanks for sharing. This young lady is in my prayers.

    • Thanks for your prayers, Sharon. The young lady with the beautiful smile and the others who live in the aftercare home need our prayerful support.


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