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By Nancy Flory, an Associate Editor, The Stream, April 17, 2018
“It was just what I’d imagine it’d look like if children were finally free to run in heaven,” said LIFE Today’s Sheila Walsh. Somewhere in the mountains in Southeast Asia is a home for children who were once trafficked as sex slaves. Sheila’s just returned from visiting the home, run by RescueLIFE. “It’s this beautiful place and then at the back there are just fields and fields of green. To watch these children run and laugh and play the way children should was amazing.”
Then there’s the club she entered on her last trip.
The little girls were dressed up like young women. “I’ve never felt such a sense of palpable evil,” she said.
Each year millions of children and women are caught up in the sex industry and trafficked worldwide. RescueLIFE combats “the horrors of the sex industry by reaching, rescuing and restoring.” The ministry goes into villages around the world to teach children about the dangers of human trafficking and what to watch out for. Working with local partners, the ministry also rescues children from the sex industry. They seek to restore the children by placing them in safe, loving homes and by teaching them about the love of Jesus.
Sheila spoke with The Stream’s Nancy Flory about the ministry and its work. Since rescuing those trapped in the industry is a dangerous endeavor for all involved, locations and names have been omitted for protection.
Huge gates like the entrance of a palace stood before Sheila on her latest trip. The first club on the left, just inside the gates, was called Lucifer’s. Young men stood outside with what she assumed were restaurant menus. When she walked inside, she realized they were menus of a different sort. “I’ve never seen images like that in my life. Basically, they were saying, ‘This is what is on offer. This is what’s on the menu for anyone who wants whatever.’”
That’s where she saw the little girls dressed up like young women. They were being rented to whoever wanted to pay for them. Having felt that sense of palpable evil, she thought: “This is what the world would look like if God wasn’t in it.”
Just Little Girls
Some of the rescued girls were able to tell their story. One young lady remembered praying for help after she was kidnapped and trafficked. “I didn’t know if there was a God,” she said. “But I’d lay in bed between clients and just cry out, ‘If there’s anybody out there please send help.’”
Many of the children told stories of how they felt pressured to support their families. One 12-year-old breadwinner has three younger siblings. Their dad’s in jail and their mom abandoned them to go live with another man. The young girl couldn’t read or write, so she couldn’t get a regular job. The only thing she could do was to pick up cans in the street to sell. Eight cans brought a quarter. But the clubs threw out the cans between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. She was kidnapped by traffickers when she went to pick up cans at night. After a year in captivity she was able to get away.
Sheila’s travels took her to another location, one that didn’t have a safe house at the time. She interviewed children there. An 11-year-old girl was halfway through an interview with Sheila when she began to cry.
“She cries like she’s 11, like she’s supposed to,” Sheila recalled. “So, I reach over and I put my arms around her and she crawls up in my lap and holds on tight and sobs. And then she says to me, ‘Could you take me with you?’ If I could, I would have. But it’s not as simple as that. You can’t just take a child out of the country. She was just a little girl. And I don’t think anybody had held her in a way that was comforting in a long time.”
The need for help to combat human trafficking in that part of the country is enormous. Sheila had just interviewed two young girls — perhaps 12 or 13 — when she stopped at a gas station and got them some cookies. “I’m sitting behind them and they’re sitting there just eating their bags of Oreos and laughing and talking like two little girls would. Yet I knew that in two hours they had to be back in what they call their sexy dresses and go back to work. And they’re little girls.”
Those that make it to the safe house have a fighting chance. And their caretaker will make sure that no one will hurt the children again. The house has a secret room for the children in case their abductors return for them. “They wouldn’t show me where it was,” said Sheila. “They won’t show anybody.
She asked the woman who helps run the house, “So, you get the girls in and then you go in with them?” The woman said, “No, we don’t go in. We stay outside. But we will never, ever allow anybody in.” When Sheila pointed out that meant she might be killed by the sex traffickers, She said, “I would be willing to do that. But we will never let anyone touch these children again.”
A Passion for Christ
The young woman who prayed to God for help is now safe at the house. She’s learned to play the guitar and sings worship songs. One Sunday morning during a worship service for the children, Sheila looked for her. “She was with some of her friends, two or three rows back. But to watch her with her eyes closed and her arms raised in worship with tears rolling down her face, it was … the Kingdom of God.”
“I’ve sung the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ since I was a little girl in Scotland,” explained Sheila, “but it’s one thing to sing it in a church filled with people who have an understanding of those words.” Then she stood in front of 60 to 70 boys and girls who had been “rescued from hell” and sang to them, “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”
“What I saw that day,” she says, “was that when these children began to finally understand that there’s a God in heaven who loved them so much he gave his own son for them, they get radically saved. They were standing with their arms raised in worship as I sang and I couldn’t finish the song because I was overwhelmed to be in the presence of these godly young men and women who knew what it was. When you’ve been subject to the worst kind of evil and delivered, [you have] passion for Christ.”
The children sometimes return home, if possible. But Sheila knows the love of God will stay with them. One young girl reported back that her mom beat her if she spoke of Jesus. By the fourth or fifth day of beatings, the girl said to her mother, “Listen, you can beat me to death, I will never renounce the name of Jesus.”
“I felt humbled to be in the presence of these amazing young men and women who are all in in their faith, because they know the difference between life and death, darkness and light, heaven and hell.”
So What Can be Done?
First, please pray. “So often we think of prayer as a last-ditch thing,” Sheila said. “We are surrounded by huge social problems, not just in [Southeast Asia] and everywhere else, but in our own nation. I believe that for some things, prayer is the only thing that’s going to make a difference. I would really encourage readers of The Stream to begin to commit to pray that God would provide answers and show us ways that we can strategically do battle in areas where it’s so clear that the enemy is destroying lives.”
Second, help financially. The RescueLIFE campaign is currently underway at LIFE Today. Thanks to a generous $320,000 matching gift, donations made now will have double the impact. Donations will help “share the light of Jesus with those who are living in the darkest places on earth.”
Nancy is an Associate Editor at The Stream. She is currently working toward her PhD in Strategic Communication and Journalism at Regent University. She’s the mother of four boys.