Last week I asked my friend Michele Perez to write a guest blog about her ministry to victims of Human Trafficking here in Costa Rica. Though sex with minors is against the law here, no one has ever been prosecuted for the crime. Costa Rica is famous world wide for sex tourism. It’s the underbelly of society that no one here wants to admit exists. Michele comes from a family caught in gangs, drugs and prostitution, but Jesus saved her family. Jesus turns ashes to beauty. So here is my friend in her own words.
It was a Tuesday morning as I entered the foundation where I volunteer to help victims of human trafficking and women desiring to come out of the commercial sex industry. The ladies were gathered in the hall quietly talking as they waited for our session to begin. I slowly walked over to greet them one by one and invited them to join us because we were ready to begin. The previous week we had been discussing childhood development and today we were going to discuss some of the things in their upbringing that they wish they could have changed.
We gave out a large piece of paper and some markers and had them write out and draw some pictures of those things that had caused them the most pain. We then collected each paper and (with the permission of each lady) had them explain what they had written or drawn. I already knew some of the victims stories but had never really heard there childhood experiences. Maria was the first up and she began to cry almost instantly as she shared how she had experienced so much pain in her own home. She held a lot of anger in her heart and it showed with every word she spoke.
As we handed her some Kleenex she wrapped up her story and then we moved onto Anna. I had known Anna the longest. She always seemed so distant and cold. She immediately began to talk about her dad. She said “My dad is awful! He was and still is a drunk! I remember being 9 and him coming home drunk. He would take all of our money and we would be so hungry. He would come home and make himself something to eat and as we watched he would smash the food in our faces! He would then enter our room and do horrible things to us!”
My heart began to pound as emotions began to rise within me! So many of these stories are so close to home for me. As I went over to comfort Anna I couldn’t say a word, but we just embraced and cried together. I know that even though there were no words spoken that Jesus was present at that moment!
Each lady present that day shared so many deep wounds and with every word spoken my heart was overwhelmed. It was overwhelmed because I now knew how some had ended up in prostitution, and it ached even more for those ladies who after experiencing such horrific childhoods were then forced into a lifestyle where they had to sell their bodies up to 25 times a day!
Some have asked me why I have gotten involved in such a dangerous and almost taboo ministry. I can’t picture myself anywhere else! I often ask God why he has led me down this road and his answer to me is found in Proverbs 31: 8-9:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”
*Names changed to protect victims identity