It has been said that a million is just a statistic until you meet one.
Statistics like the 2.4 million people who are victims of human trafficking. Or the 1.4 million who are victims of commercial sexual servitude. Or the fact that half of all victims of human trafficking are children.
These numbers seemed unreal to me, too devastating to be true.
Then, I traveled to Managua, Nicaragua, in July. As part of an ongoing partnership with a ministry in Nicaragua, our church sends teams several times a year to support the rescue of children and women from sexual trafficking. Many of these women were either forced into this life or made a difficult choice to provide for their family in a land where about half of the population falls below the poverty line (as defined by Nicaraguan standards).
Our team’s main goal was to give love to the more than 70 women and children who live at the House of Hope and the more than 400 who come each Tuesday for a worship service and then stay to make jewelry, cards and other crafts. The women are paid for their work, which makes a great difference as they try to leave prostitution. At the same time, they are learning skills to help them provide for their families.
Seeing the hundreds of women and children gathered that Tuesday was a beautiful picture of restoration and hope. I loved seeing how they care for each other, as much as how they cared for our team, with what little they had.
Yet, it was their stories that broke me.
During our orientation at the House of Hope, its team organizer explained how some of the children and women come to them. As a little girl in a hand-me-down velvet top, played with other children nearby, we heard her story. From the time she was a toddler, the little girl would go to work with her mother, who was a prostitute. She would play in the corner of the room while her mother was with clients. As the child grew older, some clients became interested in her.
Thankfully, whenever the House of Hope’s site director learns of a child being abused, he tries to bring them to the mission to live. Sometimes, this entails dramatic rescues.
Looking at the smiling girl with big brown eyes, it was wrenching to think of what she’s seen in her young life. Yet, it I also saw hope.
Hers was just one story among many. But it only takes one to begin to grasp the meaning of 2.4 million.