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How do we care for the trafficked survivor?

How do we care for the trafficked survivor?

(Today’s post is from Mark Kirchgestner, lead pastor at Dolores Park Covenant Church in San Francisco)

It was rather strange and unexpected. I had traveled to India to visit my International Justice Mission colleagues and on this particular day we were visiting four families who just 24 hours earlier had been suffering as slaves, forced to work 16 hours a day under the constant threat of violence. But what was I doing? Along with a couple of the younger boys, who so recently had been enslaved, we were sticking our tongues out to take a bunch of goofy-faced selfies.

I never would have guessed when I started out that morning to assist in the documentation of these newly emancipated families that the meaning and practice of “care” would involve a lot of laughter and selfies, but that is exactly what God had in store. In the same way I discovered that even more significant than the hand-tools we presented to the families, in order to find daily labor, was the generosity we would receive from them as they sat us under the shade in their only two folding chairs, in order to enjoy the coconuts they had just cut for us.

As we explore ways to raise awareness and resources for the FIGHT to eradicate human trafficking from our world we often come up short in our imagination of what it means to actually care for the survivor. Granted many of us don’t have much opportunity to directly serve the survivor, but what if we did?

What if we found ourselves face to face with that person who had suffered greatly? Are we prepared for what may be required?  Do we know how our assumptions of God, the world, and our ideas of “care,” are motivating us? Do we have a sense of what the trafficked survivor may need, and how that may be very different than what we may be prepared to offer? Do we know what God is asking of us?

I am always amazed when I think about Jesus’ ability to care for and attend to the needs of the individual. I often think of the man Jesus met in Mark 5. He had suffered greatly, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Did you ever notice that, in addition to his spiritual torment, he had actually been bound “hand and foot” in chains? Jesus knew how to address his many needs and his deep wounds and what he does is quite dramatic, especially in regard to the spiritual deliverance. But the more I have explored that story over the years the more I have come to love what happens next.

After the man is freed and has received loving care and attention from Jesus some locals come to see what happened. These people knew about the man who had suffered so greatly. Maybe some were the very people who had bound him hand and foot. Maybe they had rejected him or turned a blind eye. Or maybe they had simply been afraid of him. But when they came out they were amazed to see the man with Jesus, “sitting there, dressed and in his right mind.” I just love the holistic picture of the way Jesus cares for the suffering, which includes us all. What we see an example of holistic (spiritual, physical, emotional, relational) care. And not only this, but Jesus also knows that what the man needs next, when it comes to his “care,” is not to be made into a personal project. He does not cling to the man and neither does he allow the man to attach himself in some unhealthy way. He releases him and frees him to be restored more fully as he sends him back to his people to tell his story of deliverance.

Although selfies, hand-tools and coconuts don’t really compare to Jesus’ story, I found that it was a small step in my own journey of learning what it looks like to care for trafficking survivors. As we gather at FIGHT I hope we will have the opportunity to explore even further the importance of our motivation, theology, presence and prayer, so that when the time comes we are truly prepared to love and care as the hands and feet of Jesus.

(Mark is on the FIGHT faculty and will be speaking on the topic of training volunteers for aftercare for the survivor. For the complete list of seminars and to register, go here)

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