The ugliness of sexual brokenness and exploitation is something we see quite often in this kind of ministry. Our hearts break repeatedly as we build relationship with the people caught in this tormented life.
And even though we do not see the rawness of exploitation every day, we see its effects. We see the vulnerability that preys on it. The
brokenness that it leaves in its wake.
But there have been only two situations which have moved the core of my being and served as a call to action: a young girl being carried off by her trafficker and six 9-year-old boys living on the streets, sniffing paint thinner.
Then Friday night happened.
While our small group was busy praying and visiting with people during our prayer vigil, two young girls passed by me. Such under age girls typically catch my attention because they are so young. While prostitution is legal in Costa Rica for adults, underage prostitution is not.
But these girls caught my attention for another reason. It was not the fish net tights, stiletto heels or the tiny black dress falling off one of them. Or even their age. It was the fact they could not walk in a straight line down the sidewalk.
Dolled up for a night on the street and high on drugs to cope, these girls were not able to navigate themselves through the mass of people in front of the brothel without falling over each other in their attempts to help each other.
I knew I needed to get to them. After one failed attempt to get their attention, I pulled back to my group, hoping I would get another chance to talk to them.
About 20 minutes later, these two beautiful young girls walked passed me a second time. This time I gently caught one of their arms and said, "Hola chicas! Venga. Como le va?"
As these girls turned around, they looked at me and said the one thing that could move me the most, "Oh, momma! Muy linda. Una mamma!" I hugged them and, in my broken spanish, I worked to keep their attention while I called my friend and co-worker Einas to help me.
Meanwhile, their hungry eyes kept drinking in every smile we gave, their ears listening to every word we said. We asked them about where they live and what they are doing on the streets. They told us they are from CR, their families are no where to be found, they are prostituting themselves. One told us she has a husband (which is what they call their pimps).
One was much higher on drugs than the other. Her random, loud talk was evident of that, but she was so excited to be there with us. The other one was quiet and withdrawn but eyes that told us something was not right in her world.
After a while, we prayed with them. As the four of us huddled together, they could not get enough of the hugs we were giving them. Tears rolled down their cheeks as Einas prayed over them.
Once they finally released their hold on us, I asked them if they had a safe place to stay tonight. Both of them shook their heads, saying no. As I hugged the quieter one again, her body shook with sobs. She held on so tight.
After a little while, I pulled her back. I asked her if is there is someone that she is afraid of. She looked at me with those hurting, dark eyes and nodded her head saying yes. I took her in my arms again hugging her as, once again, her body shook with sobs.
She did not want to leave this place of safety. I did not want to let her go.
How could I? How could I let them walk away from me only to be raped for the rest of the night?
As the quieter one held to my arm, the other one became aware of their situation and began saying they needed to go.
It was the moment of decision. Was I going to let these girls leave? Was I going to listen to silent longings in their eyes to keep them in my arms? What was I to do?
Where could I take them? Who would come after me I if do?
My heart was screaming "don't let them go." My mind was saying "you have to trust the process."
I had two underage victims of exploitation in my arms. No place to take them. No means to rescue them from the hell they are living. Vulnerable. Afraid.
As they finally pulled themselves away from our arms, they turned and walked down the sidewalk. They kept turning back, looking at the hope they were leaving behind. My heart was ripped from my chest as I watched them walk away.
My days have been tortured since. Questions eat at my reason, my training, my heart of compassion.
Why would God bring them to my arms only to make me let them walk away?
I cannot do it. It is humanly impossible to keep letting them walk away.
These girls need rescued. They need a safe place to be teenagers, not meeting the insatiable needs of lustful men and their traffickers greed.
God responded graciously to my cries. "I knew about them before you met them. I knew them before the foundations of the earth. That is why I asked you to be on that corner. They need my love and you were there to show it to them.
"I know their pain. I showed you their pain to spur you to action. Find a place for them. Help me help them. I have a plan for all these girls. I am choosing to work through you. This is your calling.
"Create or find a place to take them. There will be a day you do not have to let them walk away. You can take them to that place."
That God loves these girls and knows them greater than I, is the only hope that I can hold on to for them. He is the one who has to cover them, protect them and rescue them. I will do whatever He tells me to do to help make this happen.
Please pray for Melissa and Mariana. When you tuck your daughters in bed at night, pray for them. When you hug your children in the morning, pray for them. It can be your way of passing that love and care on to those who do not have it.