July 13, 2016
The tiara on her head sparkled as she turned to me and said, with the excitement of a little girl at Disneyland, “Is it true? Will they take a professional photo of us and give it to us?” *Jenny asked me this as she chowed down on two full plates of mashed potatoes, veggies, and gravy smothered chicken… after having ate a plate of chips with soda for appetizers and right before dessert was served- cupcakes, cookies and chocolate cake. She and her friend *Sandra had not eaten since a day and a half earlier. They are so desperate to earn money (so they can send enough back to help their small children who are thousands of miles away in another part of Mexico) and get out of the sex trafficking industry as soon as possible, that they do not stop working even to eat!
About a year ago I had a dream in which I was seeing things through the eyes of a teenage girl. I could see and feel what she saw and felt. I/she walked with this guy that apparently was her/my boyfriend and he was so nice. I was super excited about him, felt safe with him and everything seemed lovely until without warning he took me into an elevator… and the elevator started going down… and further down. And it kept descending rapidly until the guy I was with suddenly became so incredibly evil and all at once I knew the elevator was descending into hell!
It took us several hours to drive to the House of Prayer. We drove past the beautiful California Pacific Coast Highway and marveled at the glistening sunshine on the surface of the deep blue California ocean. Ofelia had been fasting and praying for many days before this event, in hopes that she could help reach even one of these women for Jesus. I also had been part of that 40 day prayer chain that was started at the House of Prayer that is part of the church Mas Vida in Morelia (capital of the state of Michoacán , Mexico). This prayer chain was started to bring revival to Mexico.
As we turned into the very narrow alleyway, I carefully parked my car into the tiny left over space by the curb, which was not technically a parking spot. Much to my relief there was a security guard at the parking lot. There, on the corner, was the little building with the House of Prayer sign on it and Psalm 2:8 written on the window, “Ask of Me and I will make the nations your inheritance…” Inside, *Tina and the team were making the last minute preparations for the event; cooking food, setting tables, laying out decorations, etc.
I quickly changed into my dress for the event and starting taking photos for the article I’d be writing as they played Bethel worship in the background. More of the team arrived. Tina called for a prayer huddle and began to fervently intercede for the women coming at six to this dinner event.
Six o’clock arrived and not one had come. Then Tina realized that all the girls she and her team had spent time getting to know, developing relationships with and had handed out invitations to, had been picked up and moved to a different city. The traffickers don’t like to keep the girls in the same place too long and so they had brought a whole new set of girls. We all then decided to go out to the streets where they were, literally around the corner, and reach out to the ladies. I put on some leggings under my turtleneck dress so as to not draw unwanted attention and walked out with them. What I saw was beyond my imagination.
Suddenly I was locked in a dark room in what seemed to be her/my house- the dream continued with ever-increasing fear and dread mounting. Terror washed over me as I saw a guy there that I had known who used to be my friend and was now my captor. I knew that I knew he was going to rape me! I screamed from the depths of my soul and I felt the horror and desperation as I cried out for someone, anyone to come save me but the despair only grew as I realized no one was listening or even cared. Then, I woke up and was so incredibly relieved and grateful to the Lord that it was not actually happening to me.
As we marched out to the street, with one man from the team behind us ladies and one man in the front at all times, we turned the corner and I immediately saw in the not too far distance, a tall, very handsome guy around my age standing there and for a moment I forgot where I was. I thought to myself, “He’s quite attractive.” Not even five seconds later, Ofelia turned to me and said, “See that guy in the white shirt? He’s a trafficker.” My heart sank and I felt sick to my stomach as it hit me- this is how the girls fall into this nightmare. Satan does not come as the boogey man. He comes as an angel of light seducing naive girls, like the ones I saw there as young as 15, into believing his promise of being their romantic prince charming who would whisk them away to the United States for a chance at the American dream.
“A kiss, a hug, it’s not worth the money. You feel so dirty after; so incredibly dirty. I cry myself to sleep every night.” *Debby confessed this to Ofelia and I as we sat at the table and talked with her. Her eyes quickly turned into waterfalls. “I don’t want to talk about that anymore,” she said. *Debby had been standing along the wall just like all the other girls who were systematically spread along the street about 15-20ft apart. They all wore next to nothing and all stood in their six-inch stripper heels exactly the same way- right leg crossed over left leg. They all had their left arms reaching out and touching the wall and they all looked straight ahead into what seemed to be a dark abyss.
As we walked and tried talking to them it became obvious they were afraid to talk to us. The traffickers watched us like hawks. *Molly, a brave four year old little angel whose parents are on the team, had come with us. Wearing her pink ball gown and tiara, she so innocently but fearlessly and full of joy invited the girls to the event. She kept beckoning them to, “Come dance like a princess at the party!” She was the one breaking the ice and allowing us more credibility and innocence in their eyes. I wanted to be as excited as Molly because after all, we were inviting them to a party, but my heart was broken and it took everything in me to not let the tears gush out even though I’m sure the anguish showed on my face. How I wanted to tell them God loves them so much. I wanted to hug them and take them out of there! How I wanted to hit those men (most of whom were much older than them) coming up to them to solicit them, with a baseball bat! But the only thing, the one thing, the most important thing I could do was pray. As I prayed, I felt a bit of compassion for the men and the traffickers because they are so incredibly far gone in darkness they do not even realize what they are doing. One girl talked with Tina and Ofelia and she actually refused a client that had walked up to her in that moment. We were so happy she said she would come to the party in a little while! Further down, Tina turned to us and said, “Ok, when we go down this street, we have to be praying! This one is hardcore.”
As she sat at the table waiting for the meal, we had a chance to talk with *Brenda and her friend. I asked her what brought her to this city. She explained how she had been dating a guy and he promised her a better, more prosperous life in the U.S., a better job than her current low paying cleaning job. As she talked about her “dreams of going to ‘the other side’,” she fought to hold the tears in and I could see the hurt in her as she contemplated the utter nightmare her life had become. There I was, an American, so close yet so far away and a representation of what she gave up everything in hopes of having. I realized in that moment, here she is: the girl in whose shoes I had stepped into, in that nightmare I had not too long ago. She’s real. They are real. And 99% of them have stories along those lines.
Turning onto the “hardcore” street (as if the other ones were not), more girls were lined up. We stopped to try to talk to a couple of them. I glanced around my surroundings to make sure no men would come up out of nowhere and try to grab me inappropriately, as I had been told this happens often. Fortunately, that did not happen. Unfortunately, instead, a guy in his 30s or 40s (I later found out he is a well known drug dealer there) walked up to me and busted out a wad of cash the size of a softball and started flipping out bills. In that moment I was a deer caught in headlights. I am absolutely positive he saw the horror and shock on my face, but he had no compassion. Ofelia grabbed my arm and said, “Let’s go! Let’s go NOW!” As we hurried away, the guy yelled out in increasing fury and volume, “Why do you show her to me if you’re not going to let me have her!” That moment is something I will never forget for the rest of my life- to be in the shoes of a sex trafficking victim. I cannot imagine a deal like that actually going through and being obligated to do whatever he wanted, much less being fifteen years old and having that happen to me. My mind cannot grasp it and my heart cannot take it.
Turning another corner, we came across a girl who instead of holding onto the wall, was apparently assigned to hold onto a tree branch. There she was about five months pregnant and on public display like a piece meat for the taking. The fear was all over her face. She wanted to come to the event but was afraid of what her trafficker would do. I thought to myself, how strange, she is holding onto a tree branch and it became apparent to me that she dared not let go of that branch because her life most likely probably depended on it.
It’s one thing to hear about it or watch a movie, it’s another thing to get involved and do a freedom walk for an organization like A21 or volunteer like I do at Saving Innocence an anti-child trafficking organization in Los Angeles) and it’s yet a whole other thing to actually be there in the places and on the streets where it’s happening. To actually sit down with these women and share a meal with them and to look them in the eyes while listening to their horror stories as they cry and be able to encourage them, hug them and tell them how much God loves them is something I cannot describe.
These are real girls with real stories, real pain and real tears. In the cold they stand there along the walls. In the rain they stand there. In the summer heat and while hungry they stand there, barely clothed, day in and day out. Anyone from anywhere in the world with any history and any disease can buy them for a small price. How is this ok? The police drove by, in their military fashion, and they kept on driving as if everything was right in the world, on those streets… and as the day turned to night, the streets were lit with stringed lights like some sick twisted version of Christmas.
It angers me that this happens and especially that Americans cross the border on weekends and on holidays in droves, to go take advantage of these girls. It angers me even further that what financially backs this industry is pornography; something that is permeating not only adults but also the youth of America and has such a horrid root and destination. You and I are not that different from these girls. They are just that- girls like you and I, some as young as fifteen. They want to wear makeup and dress up for the sake of dressing cute and feeling pretty, not so they can be bought, used, stepped on like a pair of shoes. They want to hang out with their friends. They want to giggle and laugh. They had dreams. They wanted a chance at those dreams. They wanted to feel loved and special. They wanted prince charming to come for them and live happily ever after. None of them wanted this nightmare.
Molly’s infectious joy, infused by the love of Christ, convinced many of the girls to go to the party. One by one they went. But first, they changed their clothes, which I believe was out of respect. Some of the girls could not go because their traffickers said, “There will be men there.” For the ones that went, they got to hear Ofelia give her very powerful testimony of how God took her out of a very dark place and into His joy and plan for her life. There was not a dry eye in the room. They so desperately wanted this Jesus who took the girl that was believed to be dead, but was just sleeping, by the hand and she arose (See Mark 5:41). Their eyes lit up. When the invitation was given, every single girl that was there got saved. We had somehow managed to create trust with them and they let us hug them; in fact, some reached out and hugged us! I could see hope rising in their eyes. As the night came to a conclusion the girls said goodbye. *Debby gave me a kiss on the cheek and went on her way, a new girl, with a man named Jesus in her heart and the awareness that He is standing up for her.
Luke 14:13 Jesus tells us that when we throw a dinner we should invite those who cannot pay us back. This is what this team at the House of Prayer did and would like to keep doing. They want to be able to keep reaching these girls with practical needs but also more importantly, spiritual needs. In order to do this they need funds. Not everyone can actually go to Mexico and help out but everyone can do something; whether that be donating to organizations that fight human trafficking or creating awareness by telling others and sharing this article, and/or praying. As of now, this particular House of Prayer is not currently able to maintain 24/7 worship and prayer but that is the vision- to continually be lifting up the name of Jesus and letting hope rise in the darkest of places.
This House of Prayer was founded by a brave young woman who graduated from a School of Supernatural Ministry and obeyed the call of God on her life to start a 24/7 house of worship and prayer. For the first month, she worshipped and prayed alone. Then the Lord sent her people and today she has a team. They also partner with a non profit organization in the U.S.
*Names of people have been changed to protect their identities as well as the name of the specific house of prayer for the same reason.