A human being trapped behind thick steel bars, eyes that at one time were filled with hope and dreams now peering out empty and void. This is the image which enters my mind when I hear of slavery. I think of someone staring past the barred prison into a world of freedom which has been selfishly kept away from them. Human beings, created in the beautiful image of God, completely individual: each having their own thoughts, emotions, hopes and dreams, yet forced to endure unspeakable evil every day. According to the Defender Foundation, there are more slaves in the world today than there has ever been with 27 million men, women and children enslaved worldwide. 80% of these slaves are women and children who have been “bought, sold and imprisoned in the underground sexual service industry.” The Defender Foundation called the sex trade “the newest, most profuse and fast growing form of slavery that the nations of this world have had to combat in nearly a decade.” The average age of these victims is 12 to 17 years old. This is truly heartbreaking. These are children and young women in the peaks of their lives who should be realizing the potential life holds for them, but instead it is being robbed from them. Instead of experiencing happiness, freedom, laughter and love they are being forced to live in hell every second of every day. These victims “shelf life” is only a brief 3 to 7 years. The defender foundation explains,
“By 17 to 21 years of age, these women and youth are either found dead from attack, abuse, HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, malnutrition, overdose, or from taking their own lives. This very brief, 3 to 7 year time span in which to act and rescue, is consistent with all reporting sources worldwide” (http://thedefenderfoundation.org/?page_id=192).
I have been aware for some time that this evil existed in the world, however for some reason I didn’t or couldn’t believe that it had crossed into our country. But I was wrong. Sex traffickers do a good job disguising the industry, but the FBI has estimated the number of those involved to be around 100,000 individuals. The U.S not only faces a flood of international victims, but also faces the trafficking of its own citizens, often children who are runaways or outcasts from society. To quote the Defender Foundation,
“By some estimates, up to 70% of our runaways are from the U.S. Foster care system. There are also girls being shipped into our ports; Miami, San Diego, Seattle, Baltimore, etc. by primarily Organized Crime. This means around 60 girls to a shipping container, drugged for the journey and to be sold primarily into the sex industry…in the Land of the Free.” (http://thedefenderfoundation.org/?page_id=203).
The profits these sex traffickers are making is startling. The revenue coming from this hideous crime is estimated to be 32 billion dollars annually. How can they be making this kind of money? Well, if a sex trafficker had 4 victims who were forced to meet a $500 quota 7 nights a week he would be making $632,000 in one year. If these women and children do not meet their $500-$1,000 (per average) quotas each night they undergo harsh physical abuse (https://www.charitysub.org/sex-trafficking-in-the-us).
But there is hope. There is an increasing awareness, and different foundations have been set up for the purpose of reaching out and pulling women from the dark grasp of sexual servitude. Because sex traffickers are some seriously scary people to mess with, foundations such as the Defender Foundation are working with government agencies and local task forces to send in those who have military or law enforcement training to extract these women and children from this bondage and to offer them counseling, hope and a future. Some of their stories have been told in the book The White Umbrella by Mary Frances Bowley.
As I researched these facts, I couldn’t help but think how there are so many men and women living today who are trapped in prisons of a different nature. Many of us may not be possessed by other human beings, but how many of us are controlled by our own desires, our own addictions? These prisons may not be made of steel bars, but they are just as binding. They are spiritual prisons, keeping us in bondage, hopeless, stuck, unable to gain our own freedom. Often, we are not even aware we are captive, we’ve never known anything different, or we’ve been lulled to sleep. We may not even realize what we are missing, we just know that we are missing something. No one is exempt. The corporate executive, the homeless person, the blue collar worker, the soccer mom, the eastern monk, the tribal person- human beings everywhere. It does not matter if the prison is literal or figurative. Satan does not care if the human race is in bondage to materialism, to the power of the spirit world, or to a ring of sex traffickers. Like desperate travelers in the desert, we are looking for answers in life. Satan points us from one mirage to another, and we always come up thirsty. How many of us have bought into Satan’s lie- You don’t need to come to God His way, Make your own way, Become your own God… This time there will be water… So we continue to live in bondage and fear, many of us remaining either unaware of or unwilling to accept the freedom waiting in Christ Jesus. 2,000 years ago, Jesus lived his life in complete reliance on God his Father. Jesus claimed that He was sent from God, and that He is the only way to God. Jesus offered himself freely to all who would come, and he claimed the water he gives will always satisfy. If the words of Jesus are true, than anything else is just a mirage, a trick of Satan to deceive and imprison. But Jesus made a way out of this prison when He shed his blood on a cross in our place. He took the brunt of God his Father’s anger by taking the sins we have committed on Himself. Though He died on that cross, He did not remain dead, He rose from the grave, putting death to death, victorious over Satan and his spirits! How awesome that 400 years before Jesus was born, God revealed a portion of His plan to the prophet Isaiah, who recorded the promise of a coming Savior who would come to be “a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house.” (Isaiah 42:6.7) Jesus' offer is still available.
"There were many men who tried to be god, but only the one true God was willing to become man" - Ravi Zacharias