My last day of vacation and Skyler's birthday, I was headed back home after a stop at the Tiger Zoo, when my friend called me with an urgent situation. A young girl from Eastern Europe/Middle East had collapsed on the street outside their home. They had taken her in and learned that she had run away from a prostitution ring. This eighteen-year-old had accepted a job to work in other countries believing that while there would be some prostitution involved, she would mostly serve as a receptionist. She was not prepared for the next 5 months of being forced to prostitute herself nightly while being trafficked around several countries in Asia. She had agreed to a four-month job and when it had gone into five months of horror, she ran away. When she came to me she had no passport, no clothes and no way to get home.
A friend took O. in for me while I still had guests in my home and then she came to stay with me for a few nights. Over the week as she was able to rest she began to hold onto the hope of returning home. I contacted an organization, which works worldwide to help people return to their countries – especially those who are trafficked. This group was willing to help her every step of the way to get her home. We made an appointment with the consulate and waited. O. began to get restless as the consulate kept putting off the appointment. She wanted to try to find her bags which contained her passport. Last Sunday night, she snuck away from the people who were watching her. We didn't hear from her all week long. This past Saturday, I got a call from the police who said that they were holding her at the immigration detention center. O. had written me a letter and they wanted my address to send it to me. She wrote that she had taken off to find her bags but had gotten lost. When she went to the police for help they arrested her for not having a passport and visa.
At this point I don't know what will happen with O. The organization we started with is still committed to getting her home. I don't know if she will have to stay in the prison until then or not. O. has a Bible with her and I know she finds comfort in the words she reads. The past five months were very traumatic and she has repressed most feelings about it. She can no longer cry although she said to me, "I am only 18, but already my heart is very heavy and very sick." When she stayed in my home, O. played the guitar and sang beautiful melancholy Russian songs. It was hard to imagine what she has been through.
The trafficking of women and children is taking place throughout the world at an alarming rate. Women from Asia are trafficked to the US and Europe. Women from Eastern Europe and Africa are being trafficked. The organized crime rings are a highly complex network. Please keep O. in your prayers. Her name needs to be anonymous for her safety. I know God brought her to us and God will help her. Pray for healing of her emotions and her mind. Pray that she will be able to return home safely and that when she does she will be able to make choices for a decent future. Please also pray for the many thousands of women and children who have been trafficked. Pray for us to have wisdom as we begin to meet up with more women from other countries. I will be visiting O. in the immigration detention center next week. It is a difficult and tragic place and I ask you to pray with me for God's blessing on our visit and that O. will be released from all the bondage she faces physically, emotionally and mentally. Pray that somehow, through this tragedy, O. will come to know God personally as the God who reached down and rescued her.