The Exodus Road

Dear Anna

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Photo Credit: “Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department” 

a mother in Mumbai, India, who is looking for her lost daughter.

 

My monthly post for Exodus Road from the perspective of a mother.

Read Anna’s Story here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

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Image courtesy of  papaija2008/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dear Anna, 

You have been gone for 365 days. I have watched the seasons pass over the River Neva. The waters are ice-covered again and all around lies in winter drab. This is how my heart feels, dear Anna. We ate a tula gingerbread on your sixteenth birthday. 

I stand on the water’s edge at sunset and sunrise and pray that you might return to us. Pray is not the right word, I plead. 

You left for me, for Pavel, for Pyotr, for Petya to help us have a better life. 

There are whispers on the streets that the people you left with were dishonest. That you may be in great hurt and danger. It’s like the ice cracking across the river through me. You were only trying to bring us hope.

I did not know. I am so sorry I did not know. 

Pavel has began telling the story of the Firebird and the Grey Wolf to his brothers as you used to each night. In the end when Prince Ivan regained all he had lost. This is what I plead, that you might regain all you have lost. 

If you could read my heart, you would know I would come for you if I knew where you were. I would trade spaces the very second I could. I would give everything to go back and not allow you to board that bus. I hope you are not cold.  I hope you are not alone. 

So I will continue to plead as the river changes. I will keep telling mothers, to hold their daughters close. No matter how bad it becomes, we cannot let this happen anymore. 

Love, Your Matushka

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Sometimes a family can lose their daughter to human trafficking under the veil of the promise of work.

Other times family’s find themselves in the position of selling their daughters into slavery. This seems beyond our imaginations.

Read the following story by Laura Parker How Can a Mother Sell Her Child? 

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Understanding that truth places us in the proximity of making difference.

And Action!

This is my monthly update for The Exodus Road.

You Can Make a Difference! 

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Exodus Road staffer, Kelley J. Leigh, wrote an article at Burnside Writers Collective about the gap we can feel between sex trafficking and our safe suburban lives.

She writes:

One turn at a time.  One seed of holy unrest, watered.   One humble step. One choice to say “Yes” to the One true God who has a heart to rescue us all, one soul at a time.

Start small.  Water the seed. Let it grow.

Be a hero in this larger story.

Join the rescue.

Read the rest of her story Entering the Bat Cave here.

Micah

I’m With Lincoln:

Watch the powerful video here.

You can sign a petition here to tell your senator that ending human slavery is important to you.

Following the Made in a Free World blog  and The Exodus Road blog keeps you up-to-date on ways to respond.

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Anna’s Story Part 4

Read Anna’s Story Part 1 

Anna’s Story Part 2

Anna’s Story Part 3

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[Image courtesy of Worakit Sirijinda/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

Anna’s Story Part 4:

The city streets faded behind Anna. Green stood out against the sides of the road and there were buildings with mountains rising behind. When her feet landed on the dusty road, she paused to take a deep breath. She dared to hope this was a breath of freedom. At this place of fragile hope, a woman gently led her to her space in a dormitory-like room, only her bed was not empty. Sitting tall on the side was Valentina. She stretched her hands out to Anna.

“They found you.” Valentina held her tightly and Anna’s tears fell onto her shoulder. “I was sold, they did not even let me say goodbye. The next place was even harsher, but shortly after I arrived there, a raid occurred. After I was rescued, I worked so hard that they might locate you.”

“I owe you everything,” Anna told her, surprised to be loved.

Valentina shook her head, “No, we can be happy together, we are saved.”

 

Anna slept through a dark night into day, no terrors to disturb her sleep. The sun was shining high when she woke and she sat up, again surprised. She touched her fingers together, pressed her palm against where her heart resided under her chest, alive.

Here in this place: she ate, doctor’s visited and she spoke daily with a quiet woman who helped her understand. When she talked to this woman, shards of ice dislodged from her frozen River Neva and began to float away. The best time of the day was the evening, when they sat in the grass and spoke together. Some girls had written poems, some songs and others were quiet. Anna sat still, quiet and listened. She was not alone. They too had endured and emerged in hope.

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[Image courtesy of Hordur Vihjalmsson /FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

News arrived that she had been cleared of the local legal system. There was a room with a telephone. Her hands trembled when she drew it to her ear, her Matuska’s voice and Pytor, Pavel and Petya jabbering in the background. At first there were too many tears to speak. When words broke through the tears she repeated, I’m sorry over and over again. Her Matushka whispered an invitation to come home. They had a surprise for her.

That evening, in the group, she stood up from her quiet. Into the night she recited the story of The Firebird and The Grey Wolf, the story she whispered at bedtime to her brothers in a forever ago time, the story that she whispered into the dark, until hope drained away. Now, when she spoke there were stars above her in an open sky.

…And Prince Ivan lay dead. His brothers took all that he had; the firebird, the horse and Helen. Then the crow brought the water of death and the water of life to the grey wolf. The grey wolf revived Ivan with the water. He regained all he had lost.

“He regained all he had lost. I have regained all I have lost. You have regained all you have lost.” She walked around the circle touching the top of each girl’s head like the child’s game of duck, duck, goose and whispered you have regained all you have lost.

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Now, she and Valentina counted the days passing in happiness. Two months passed, and they were cleared by the government to travel home, home. They whispered the word to one another, unbelieving, surprised.

“I have nowhere to return,” Valentina announced to the NGO volunteer who would accompany them on the flight.

“She does, she is my sister,” answered Anna. “We go together.”

The miles they had traveled were below them, moving away, out of their vision.

 

They were waiting for them, her Matuska, her brothers and Mrs. Belikor. They held hands all the way home. Only home was no longer the little apartment without light, without heat. Their home was now behind the bakery that was once Mr. Belikor’s. He leaned over one morning explained her Matushka and left the world, and with Mrs. Belikor’s help the bakery would become Anna’s. The 1,000 USD stipend she was given, would pay for business school.

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[Image courtesy of tungphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

Four years later:

Anna stood at the edge of the River Neva. Spring had arrived, melting the frozen layers, the water ran clear and forward. She turned and stole a glance at her bakery. Valentina swept the front walk and raised her hand to wave toward Anna. They would employ another girl today to knead bread, another girl that might had followed the sign she had years ago. She would add to their number and draw them up safety, to hope.

Where rescue resides there is hope.

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Anna’s Story has been part of a realistic fiction series for the Exodus Road. Please consider following and supporting their work. Anna’s story has been one of the most meaningful things I’ve written on About Proximity. She touched my heart because I know her story is one that girls all over the world are actually living right now. We can fight for rescue and offer hope. 

Anna’s Story: Part 3

You can read

Anna’s Story, Part 1 here

Anna’s Story, Part 2 here

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Anna’s Story, Part 3

She had passed through all four quarters of a year. Only sleep brought relief. The nights were so long and then the hours of labor to keep up the building.  Meka was unrelenting, if Anna made any error Analu or Ipo would be called and she would feel the strikes of their hands. Six girls slept in one small room. They whispered with one another, but no one else spoke Russian.

On day fifty-eight Valentina never returned when dawn broke. That was the day Anna stopped counting. She searched for her brown eyes and dark hair everyday, but she never came back. She tried asking Meka about her. Meka just twisted her smile and chuckled.

 

When the sun was at its highest she fell onto her pallet. She covered her head with a thin blanket. No matter how hard she worked, how obedient she acted, the debt still stood. Even if she paid off the debt, she still would not have the passport or money to travel home. Bone weary, her Matushka used to feel that way. The weariness was not only exhaustion and the ache of her body, but the way her soul quieted with each passing day. In her mind the River Neva was frozen as solid as a diamond. Mr. Belikor, at the bread shop, had told her that was the hardest element on earth. Sometimes he had let her borrow books.

On her pallet, she wanted to dream of her Matuska and her brother’s faces, their little room. Their images were faded in her mind now and thinking of them scared her, because she could not imagine how they had survived when her checks never came.

One evening she started counting again. That night, in a hallway, a paper square was slipped into her hands. In Russian the script asked her name and her age. She tucked it into her pocket and it weighed heavy. Analu and Ipo would surely beat her if they knew. Under her pallet she kept a strip of charcoal for her eyes. She scratched the answers on the paper square. The next night, the same hand reached out in the hallway, without turning up her eyes she parted with the weight.

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That morning she whispered the story of The Firebird and the Grey Wolf.

And Prince Ivan lay dead. His brothers took all that he had; the firebird, the horse and Helen. Then the crow brought the water of death and the water of life to the grey wolf. The grey wolf revived Ivan with the water. He regained all he had lost.

 

Four days passed, her whispers faded away again, and she dreamed of sinking into the frozen expanse of River Neva with the ice layers covering over her one at a time.

The fifth night, she stood behind the glass window in thigh high boots when everything blurred. The room and the hallway filled with strangers and men in uniform shouting. She shifted to a corner. Analu and Ipo were bound and led out. She could not see Meka. Gathered up with a large group of girls, she was led out of the hallway, then the building into the night. Suddenly under the blur of the neon lights and dirty street, she felt her heart race. What if whatever was happening drew her into a space even worse then what she had known?

Down the street, they walked to a building with more uniformed men. They asked her questions, but she did not understand. A man with broken Russian tried to speak with her. She heard the word rescue in his halting phrases. She did not know if she dared to hope. In another room she was examined by a doctor. The whole group would be transferred, but she did not understand where. She wished for Valentina’s arm to hold her up.

She thought of the word the man had said, it stood out against her mind like the colors of the firebird in her story, rescue.

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The frozen gave way like a fragile line bending through the uppermost layer of ice.

 

The Exodus Road

“27 million people are trapped in modern-day slavery. 80% of the victims are women and children and are suffering in 161 countries, including the United States. Sexual slavery has become a lucrative global industry, targeting the poor and inflicting abuse, usually in the darkest of places.”

Night Light International

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Night Light International  is a new partner organization of The Exodus Road.

I would love to introduce you to their mission today!

Night Light International addresses the complex issues of commercial sexual exploitation through prevention, intervention, restoration, and education.

 

Visit the Night Light International Store. All the jewelry is made and sold by rescued woman and girls.

 

Night Light International has centers in Los Angeles, Branson MS, Atlanta and Bangkok.

Typically sex trafficking is not associated with the Unites States. Sex trafficking is going on in the United States too.

  • In the tri-lakes area of Branson, Missouri three factors make it an area of high-trafficking: high rates of drug production, two national airports, and a high level of tourism.
  • In Atlanta: sports venues, convention centers, airports, and a booming adult entertainment industry make it a high-trafficking area.
  • Los Angeles, sees trafficking because of emotional, environmental and economic factors.

 

Sex-trafficking is not just a global issue.

Sex-trafficking is an everywhere issue.

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Give Hope: Exodus Road

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All week we have been encouraged with stories of hope.

 

Exodus Road has an opportunity for us to offer hope.

Freeing young girls from sexually slavery takes an immense amount of courage.

Exodus Road investigators work in dark places and seeing such suffering takes an emotional toll on a person. Their work places them in the proximity of renewal, but also danger. They are not able to rescue everyone.

They are making a profound difference. They need our encouragement to keep up the fight.

 

How can you give hope? Write a letter thanking the investigators.

Here is an example by: Laura Parker. 

Each letter will be copied and hand delivered to all the investigators in the field. This is a small gesture that will provide much needed encouragement to these hero’s.  I plan to take time out this holiday season to write a note of encouragement.

 

Send the letter to:

The Exodus Road
PO Box 7591 Woodland Park, Colorado 80863

or submit the letter online.

 

Read the story of Laura and Sophia here. 

Often young girls are lead into a life of prostitution unknowingly, as shown in their story.

Imagine:

You are from a poor family. Someone offers you a job in another country, a good job. This job might be explained as cleaning houses or as a nanny. You are told you will make enough money to send home to provide for your family.

When you arrive to this new country you are met by a sex trafficker, your passport is striped away and you are told you owe a debt to this person for your plane ticket and housing, a debt that must be paid off in prostitution.

You are young. You are in a foreign country and do not know the language. You are far from your family and everything that is familiar.

 

Where does hope reside in that?

It resides in the people willing to fight back against sex trafficking. It resides in the courage of girls that long for rescue.

The Exodus Road

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About Proximity has joined The Exodus Road Blogging Team. I am so excited about this opportunity. Today, I will introduce you to their organization and courageous work.

  • 27 million modern day slaves
  • Every 60 seconds, a child is sold for sex worldwide
  • Human trafficking is the 3rd largest global industry, behind drugs and guns

The Exodus Road seeks to empower the rescue of victims of sexual slavery. They operate primarily out of Southeast Asia and have rescued 600 victims and prosecuted 350 legal cases.

 

Sarah’s Story     By: Laura Parker 

“We met Sarah in a brothel in Cambodia.

There was a line of prostitutes behind a glass wall, a fishbowl they call it. They were sitting on high bar stools, with heavy make-up and short skirts, numbers pinned to their shoulders, displayed for the customers on the other side of the glass.

She was 15 and had been sold by her mother in a neighboring country several days before to work off a debt which her mother owed.

The following day, our investigator returned to visit Sarah in the brothel, just blocks away from a crowded local market. She scribbled a note, “Please Rescue Me,” on a bill and slipped it to him.

After weeks of waiting, Sarah’s door was kicked in. The note she scribbled to the investigator on a piece of currency which said, “Please rescue me,” finally got answered.

And while it did require more time, money, and manpower than first assumed, the team pursued Sarah’s freedom with a tenacity that inspires us every time we read the investigative report. They remind us that there are brave men and women on the front lines who live the belief that child slavery is unacceptable.”  – Laura Parker, The Exodus Road

 

Follow The Exodus Road on facebook and twitter.

We have an awesome opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who are hurting through this new partnership with The Exodus Road. Our voices can combine with others to speak for justice.

 

Activist Somaly Mam’s book is a great testament of the hope that can be provided through rescue.

“I strongly believe that love is the answer and that it can mend even the deepest unseen wounds. Love can heal, love can console, love can strengthen, and yes, love can make change.”
― Somaly MamThe Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine  

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