The Lord Is My Shepherd: Testimonies of Women Delivered from Human Trafficking in India

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“He restores my soul.”  These familiar words from Psalm 23 beautifully describe the hope awaiting a group of girls I met on my recent trip to Mumbai, India.  I traveled with a small team to India for two weeks in January.  We visited Free Methodist sponsored day care centers in various slums, dedicated a FM Church in a tribal village, and participated in a pastor’s conference in Hyderabad, India.  We also had the privilege of visiting a group home for rescued human trafficking victims.  During this visit, my team and I shared devotions with about 18 girls presently receiving training for job readiness at Crossover Foundation’s social enterprise cum training center called VIDA.  They work on sewing projects, learn English, and prepare vocationally for life in the business world.  Prayer and devotions comprise a central part of their day as well.  These girls enjoy cooking, reading, singing, and sports.  All of them are young, all of them are beautiful, and all of them are survivors of human trafficking.

The lives enjoyed by the girls now are far different from years spent in slavery.  Their experiences in the bondage of sex trafficking are deeply disturbing and often incomprehensible.  Some were sold into slavery by their families, others captured and forced into it, and others manipulated by the promise of a “lucrative career.”  Regardless of how they came into the business, each girl deals with a deep reservoir of pain, hurt, shame, and trauma.  In spite of their damaging history, we witnessed a spirit of joy within each girl.  Only the power of the Good Shepherd’s healing hand enables victims of such a slave trade to experience restored souls.

The Crossover Foundation focuses on restoring, renewing, and reinstating survivors of human trafficking as they crossover into a life of freedom and security.  The vision of Crossover is not to overwhelm the girls with scripture or even words of God’s love, but instead to love them through consistent prayer, supportive care, and loving actions.  The girls need healing physically, emotionally, and mentally as well as spiritually.  Once the girls realize that they are loved, they are safe, and they are respected, then the Lord can be seen as the Good Shepherd who leads His sheep in green pastures and beside quiet waters.  The mission of empowerment and restoration for these survivors compels me to advocate on behalf of these girls.  The fruit is the lasting fruit of the Kingdom.

One story simultaneously broke my heart and yet speaks powerfully of God’s intervening hand.

We heard of a girl who had been locked in a dark room for 7 years.  She was visited by customers as many as 20 times a day, suffering profound abuse in constant darkness.  She could not sleep due to nightmares and terror.  When she was rescued she told them it was the first time she had seen the sun for years.  Her excitement was soon overcome by exhaustion and she immediately fell on the ground and slept.  In the early weeks of her recovery, she would awaken screaming.  The constant love and devotion of God’s people brought her comfort and over time she began to truly rest.

My heart stirred with compassion hearing this story of a girl brought through the valley of the shadow of death.  Being in slavery makes it difficult to see God’s goodness and mercy.  It was my experience with those who had been rescued that showed me God’s protection and healing.  This became evident to me as I communed with the girls at VIDA.  Sharing the words of Psalm 23, my team and I asked the girls if they had ever been anointed with oil.  Answering no, we asked them if they would like to be.  We explained the purpose of anointing is to receive the blessing of a loving God.  Each girl was anointed and prayed over, reflecting on the comforting words in Psalm 23 – “He anoints my head with oil, my cup overflows.”  The blessing of prayer and fellowship with the girls filled me with deep joy.  Where there is injustice, the Lord intervenes.  Where there is darkness, He brings His marvelous light.  Fullness of joy replaces trauma and despair. What a privilege to serve the Good Shepherd!

Reaching out to those enslaved offers hope to the lost and provides avenues for God to work as the Good Shepherd of his beloved children.  If justice issues like sex trafficking move you to get involved, the Crossover Foundation provides information about the details of Indian sex trafficking on their website (www.crossoverfoundation.com).

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Audra majored in Latin and philosophy and is on her way to earning a Ph.D in philosophy from Saint Louis University. She has traveled to India and Africa several times.

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