Updated: Jul 26, 2019
Being surrounded by the issue of human trafficking every day can leave a person feeling somewhat hopeless. I have been involved in the fight against modern-day slavery for nearly seven years and I sometimes wonder “Are we even making a difference at all?” The brokenness of this world continually feeds the injustice that is happening to men, women, boys, and girls worldwide. It perpetuates the problem that is so vast and despicable and horrendous and ongoing. This spring especially, my heart was heavy and my hope meter was low.
And then I was gifted with a moment that may have been miraculous.
(The definition of miraculous that I’m using here is “occurring through divine intervention; highly improbable and extraordinary”.)
Let me set the scene: It was a warm, spring evening in May - one of those rare times in Iowa when the air is still and comfortable and you almost forget that you’re outside. The sun is just starting to set over the neighborhood, so the usual brightness is softened. You hear a burst of laughter coming from down the street and you look to see three women barreling towards you - one on a bike and two on rollerblades, with one being pulled by a small puppy. They make their way to a parking lot and ride around and around and around, seemingly without a care in the world. To an outsider, it probably just looks like three friends out for a ride. But let me tell you, there is more, so much more, to this scene.
I came to a stop on my rollerblades and paused to reflect on the miracle of that evening. Here were two women who had survived the unspeakable. They had been manipulated, deceived, and used. Their experiences had taught them not to trust, not to hope, and not to let their guard down if they wanted to survive. And here they were, letting out healing belly laughs and breathing in hope and belonging. They weren’t looking behind them, afraid of who might lurk in the shadows. They weren’t holding back for fear of what would come after this moment of happiness. They just delighted in the puppy and the wheels that gave them movement. They were free of cares and of the burdens that once restrained them.
I sensed peace, joy, and goodness settle over that parking lot. I literally had to stop in order to take it all in. Peace. Joy. Goodness. The fruits of the Spirit. Peace, joy, and goodness were not words that would have described these women’s lives during their exploitation or even their lives before the exploitation. In all likelihood, these words probably never described their lives at all. Not until they found belonging, community, and a safe space to just be. Not until they did the hard work of healing, letting go of the lies, and forgiving themselves and others. Wings of Refuge isn’t the only place that this is possible, but it’s the only place that I have seen peace take the place of chaos in a hurting heart, joy take the place of despair, and genuine goodness take the place of an all too real alternative.
Are we even making a difference at all? I can’t say for sure, but I can say that restoration happens one moment at a time. One woman at a time. One house at a time. And I thank the Holy Spirit for the space He creates at Wings of Refuge to grow His fruits in all of us.
by Kelly Butcher
Development Assistant & Direct Care Coach