Part One: Embracing Shadows, A Tale of Triumph and Redemption
In a realm where stories of resilience and redemption unfold, let me take you back to a time when shadows lingered at the edges of my life. Imagine this – a woman who had emerged victorious after surviving the harrowing depths of 14 years of brutal sexual exploitation. Can you see her turn her eyes away to obscure lingering scars in the shape of shame? Does your body tighten with hers when a strange man comes too near? Do you hear the cries of her nightmares in the wee dark hours? The year was 2011, and that woman was me as I found myself at the obscure fringes of a red-light district, grappling with the pull of carrying light back into the darkness from which I had escaped. This is the story of how my journey intertwined trafficking, trauma, faith, and purpose into a love story. This is a narrative I am honored to share in this four-part series titled “Journey of Courage: Navigating the Path of Triumph and Redemption.”
A Harrowing Encounter with Shadows
In the unfolding chapters of my life, the year 2011 was significant in many ways – a chapter that brought me to Southeast Asia alongside my husband and two kids. Our relocation was an adventure, a new beginning, but what lay in store for us was beyond anything we would have ever dared to imagine.
In SE Asia, the temperature soared, and my whole body responded to the intensity of the sun. Raining, pouring a baptism of sweat daily cleansed me of all pretenses. I lived in a place with roadside signs warning of elephant crossings, where mischievous monkeys play boisterous rounds of tag in the treetops. The jungle was full of noise and color. Wild parrots call out to one another, a cacophony of praise. Sometimes, in the darkness, the roar of a jaguar would echo hauntingly through the valleys. But jaguars were not the predators most feared. Thailand is a place of wildness, danger, and wonder. The safe little world in which I had insulated myself shifted abruptly when we landed, and within days I knew that I would never be the same again.
We tried to maintain some sense of “normalcy” as we acclimated to a new culture on the far side of the globe, but everything was devastatingly different. Instead of embracing romantic Friday date nights, my husband and I were met with a stark reality that gripped our hearts – the reality of young children being mercilessly exploited and trafficked before our very eyes.
As the weekend sun began to set on Friday evenings, casting long shadows upon the streets, we found ourselves confronted by the harsh truths hidden within those shadows. Our evening getaways became a disheartening reminder that change was imperative. The call to action began to echo loudly, resonating within my soul. A seed of belief started to take root, a belief that God, in his grace, might use my own journey – one etched with exploitation and eventual freedom –to illuminate a path for others. A path that could empower them to rise from the depths of darkness and find restoration and redemption.
Seeking Purpose Amidst the Shadows
Determined to answer this calling, I embarked on a journey of research, delving into the world of organizations dedicated to combating human trafficking in Southeast Asia. The journey of volunteering beckoned, starting with the task of teaching English to young women who bore the scars of exploitation and the weight of motherhood conceived in violence. While these moments held significance and joy, a yearning lingered deep within – a yearning for a higher purpose, a deeper resonance that had yet to unveil itself.
Then, the Good Shepherd stepped in and redirected my path. The program I had been dedicating myself to was on the verge of closure, setting in motion a pivotal decision. It was a decision that required grappling with the darkness once more, returning to the very corridors where human trafficking ensnared its victims. Conversations with my husband and children, interwoven with fervent prayers, led us to a resolution. We opened our hearts and home, embracing three teenage girls and their babies, offering them sanctuary for 4-6 weeks while I sought placement for them.
A miracle, squawking and vulnerable, landed in my lap in the wake of this decision. Compass 31 was “born breech,” even though we lacked a formal mission statement, long-term plans, funding, or a dedicated facility. With God’s divine sense of humor, this endeavor was entrusted to us, guiding us to become beacons of courage, redemption, and empowerment.
Stay with me as I peel back the layers of this story in Part 2 of “Journey of Courage: Navigating the Path of Triumph and Redemption.” Through trials and triumphs, darkness and light, this tale will unravel, revealing the transformative power of conviction, compassion, and faith.