It was January of 2016 when my heart was first captured to work with those whose lives had been wrecked by sex trafficking. Up until that point, I had heard very little about this atrocity. I absolutely had no idea it was going on in the United States let alone in my city. I had attended a Beauty for Ashes retreat in Gainesville, Georgia and met a young lady who had been trafficked since she was a child. She spoke so matter-of-factly about things that to me were horrifying.
Fast forward two and half years, and I am leading trips for Beauty for Ashes. For this trip, we were working with Wipe Every Tear (WET) in Manila, Philippines. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but whatever it was my expectations were blown away. The Wipe Every Tear staff met me at the airport and from that point on, I could tell each of them were definitely “called” to this work.
The first day of picking up the women who came for the retreat, one of the ladies had her purse stolen as we were praying over our food in a local restaurant. It had her passport, ID, credit cards, and phone. We prayed for the Lord to dispatch the angels to bring it back. She filed a report with the restaurant who had it on video and we headed home which in Manila traffic was at a snail’s pace. As we were closer to home, the driver received a call that someone had returned the purse. We had to travel to a couple of different restaurants before we finally found it, but it had her passport, ID’s , credit cards, everything except for her phone. We praised God as it was truly a miracle in a city of millions of people, they could’ve easily thrown it in the trash or whatever, but I believe God sent an angel to have it returned.
We were able to go to two of the homes and meet many of the girls. Each introduced themselves and told us how long they had been with WET, and what they are studying. We found out that 11 will be graduating high school and college in April ’19, which is why WET calls the girls “scholars” and that they are. Some of the girls took us on a “tour” and was so proud to show off their home. WET was opening a new home the next day in close proximity and we were able to pray over this home as a team.
As with many Beauty for Ashes trips, we spent the first several days building the Beauty for Ashes team and doing a retreat with the women who came from the States. We spent several hours on “Walking Street” observing where many of these women are rescued and praying for those still there. It was such a bonding time for the team and most all of them walked away feeling such compassion for not only the women there, but also the men who are purchasing them.
Later in the week, we spent three days doing individual retreats for about 20 scholars each day. They were so appreciative and most all of them joined in whole-heartedly. Many of the women (and a few ladyboys) listened to hear the voice of God and then was able to draw or write about it. In small groups they were able to share their stories, sometimes with tears, other times with joy at how God rescued them.
At the end of each day, we talked about forgiveness and spent some time outside, letting large bubbles fly into the air reminding us to “let go” of unforgiveness. It was like watching little children play, as they continued releasing bubbles. Several neighbors stood outside and watched in amazement.
These young scholars were so kind, and pleasant to be around. Each person on our team, wants to come back again. (Due to privacy and for their protection, we were not able to take pictures of any of the WET scholars).