She had bruises on her neck that Sunday afternoon. My breath caught hard and I looked down to blink back tears. I wanted to just scoop her up and take her away to some place where this pain could never touch her again. But she was an adult and there are limits to what even law officers can prevent when someone returns to an abusive situation.
I quietly picked up her little boy, the one who she will save and protect with everything she has, even if it means calling me and letting me keep him for hours and days. “You can call the police or just come home with me,” I remind her, “you don’t have to stay here.”
She looks away and I know there is more holding her here than just the man who abuses her.
I know she truly does love her son.
I don’t know much else.
“I’ll keep your son safe,” I tell her.
She nods and rushes back inside.
My husband walks with me to the car. He helps me buckle in the little boy who is clinging to his stuffed animal and a bag of microwave popcorn. I ache. I can’t save anyone. Not really. Not with love, not with time, not with money or energy. I touch the blond curls that fall against the car seat.
All over the world men and women are charging into desperate situations, working for justice and setting the captives free.
When I first learned of the slavery and abuse in our world today, the way that men and women and children were forced to mark their souls with horror, I burned to help them. I burned to do something, anything.
And God spoke so clearly, marking my own soul with truth. It starts right here.
It starts with me being willing to walk up to the neighbor’s house and offer refuge and safety to the broken. It starts with me being willing to stand in a driveway in the middle of my town and have obscenities screamed at me because the father of the child I am helping is dead-drunk and I cannot leave until someone else arrives to help.
It starts with me learning to taste the dirt of the marred and the imprisoned who live right here, to stop protecting my neat-little-life from the messiness of a broken world.
I can’t save anyone. I can’t stop her from walking back into the house where she is being torn apart and misused. But I can open my doors to her and pray God’s grace into her. I can tell her truth and speak the gospel and redemption and hope. And maybe, someday, she’ll walk through them.
Because there is Someone who can save the least of these. There is Someone who can pick us each up from the miry pit and set our feet upon firm ground. There is Someone who can save us from injustice.
His name is Jesus.
And the greatest thing I can do for any person trapped in abuse and pain– is to bend my knees and pray. Not just a paltry prayer of, “God, help them.” but a tear-your-heart-out pray-with-His-love kind of prayer. A bind-on-earth-and-it-will-be-bound-in-heaven type prayer.
And then listen. Because He may just tell you what to do to help those in need. It might include speaking when you don’t want to speak, walking where you don’t want to walk, or sharing when you don’t want to share–
But it’ll be the most powerful work you’ll ever do.
There is a lot of information online about organizations that work to bring freedom to those who are trapped in slavery. I encourage you to read Stone’s Cry, a blog written by a survivor of trafficking.
You also may enjoy reading Slavery. at Kindred Grace.
**a version of this post was originally published at Prodigal Magazine. With the website disbanding and going offline, I chose to publish an edited version of my article here.