"No one has ever told me that before."
I remember when I was in 10th grade at Indian Rocks' high school, taking part in an outreach called the "Solid Rock" team. We would go places such as juvenile detention centers and attempt to share the gospel with those in need. I remember my heart being stirred for those in jail even then, wondering what it would look like to talk with girls one-on-one, and I didn't know that would leave a lasting impression on me to this day.
My job has recently expanded and I now go into the jails regularly to reach out to women who might be interested in our program. It is our hope that we can advocate for them in the court system, and if nothing else perhaps simply lend an ear to the hardships that have led them to where they are.
Going to jail always requires a lot of energy, and leaves me feeling drained because of all of the trauma and suffering that the women have encountered. Recently, I was able to meet with a woman who wanted to apply to Created, a 20-year old who had been trafficked at the age of four. She told me that she was the payment for her mother's drugs, and that her first memories are of being raped. It was evident that she was detached and numb from her past, and before she moved further into her story I felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to tell her the obvious: that the abuse she endured as a child was not her fault. As my heart filled with compassion for her, I looked her in the eyes and told her that the abuse she experienced had nothing to do with her, that she didn't deserve it, and that I was sorry. To my surprise she looked down and went silent. When she composed herself, she brought her gaze up to mine and in tears told me "no one has ever told me that before."
I wanted to cry with her in that moment, at the shocking reality that no one had ever told her that what happened to her as a four-year old was forced upon her, and that she was innocent. It's in these moments that the darkness of the sex industry can feel so overwhelming.
What kind of words are appropriate to speak into a life who has endured so much suffering and has no identity outside of it?
What do you tell another woman who lifts up her handcuffed hands and rolls up her sleeve to reveal not-yet-healed bite marks from her pimp?
I believe that Created can enter in to these moments and offer the hope that Jesus is big enough to heal every wound and redeem every past. We have the privilege of sharing the transformative and rescuing love of Christ, and sometimes this means I simply listen to their stories and get to be the first person to offer hope, telling them that Jesus desires to rescue them, encouraged by this passage:
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
I'm thankful for those who partner with us, because loving these women in the prisons is the heart of Jesus. Thank you for allowing me to live out these kingdom dreams.