By: Emily Hays
For the past few years, I’ve been on a journey of curiosity. It began with the statistic that 27 million people were trapped in slavery worldwide. I watched as organizations attempted to counter this problem. I saw them celebrate the rescue of 1 girl out of a brothel or 1 boy out of slave labor. I wondered why they weren’t rescuing more. If 27 million were held in bondage, then why were the numbers of those being rescued so low? This injustice sparked curiosity because it seemed unfathomable that slavery was still a thing in the 21st century, and the idea of exploiting the poor, oppressed and vulnerable absolutely infuriated me.
Understanding eluded me until I began to work with exploited youth in Indianapolis. Rescue? They didn’t need to be rescued. The mere mention of the term sent them into a rage. Initially, they would tell you it was their choice, giving no consideration to the pimp who preyed on their basic needs for food, water, clothes, belonging and love. I witnessed girls receive treatment and even come to realize they had been exploited, only to discharge from the facility and return to their exploiter. Stockholm Syndrome is a very real dynamic and so often hinders real progress. Many days I would leave the facility completely drained, hopeless and wondering if this work was pointless. I like success stories. Selfishly, I long to tangibly measure my work with stories of girls being “rescued” and successfully transitioning into their “happily ever after.” Reality paints a very different picture.
I was reminded of this last week at the Abolition Summit where an army of abolitionists gathered to learn, pray and ultimately figure out ways to end sexual exploitation. Naomi Zacharias, an abolitionist and dynamic speaker, eloquently put words and perspective to this fight we’re in:
“If you’re looking to measure your investment, no one would ever invest in this work with these odds. But, IT MATTERS FOR THE ONE. It is worth it for the one. Victory is not only found in the 100th percentile. It is encountered with every single life spared from ever knowing the horrors of slavery and every life rescued from its tentacles, every single individual that makes up every tenth of a percentage point that proceeds the 100th percentile in this world and in the world to come. That is the win.”
Those words alone made the 9-hour trip to the Abolition Summit worth it. For the woman in Haiti desperate to feed her family…the teenager in Indy looking for someone to love her…the lady in India trapped in a brothel…
Your work. Your donation. Your awareness-raising. It matters for the ONE.
The more I engage in this abolition work, the more I realize I have so much more to learn. It is complex, multi-faceted and often lacks in success stories; regardless, we will keep moving forward amidst the suffering and disappointment because at this very moment there is a woman who is waiting for her HOPE to be restored. She matters to God. She should matter to us.