I’ve spent 9 weeks trying to decipher how I finish the ending to my tale with my mission trip to the Philippines.
I was utterly humbled by the amount of donations that came in from followers on twitter, friends and family. That money flew us to baron parts of the Philippines. This wasn’t leafy, beachy, pretty, Philippines. This was the side the postcard won’t show you – the poverty, the incipid westerners looking for sexual meat, the washing your babies in gutter water Philippines.
Those donations weren’t for us to have a nice holiday – trust me. This was not your luxury. This was blood (pigs being sacrificed in the distance), sweat (100 degree heat/90% humidity) and tears (traumatic stories aside – you would be crying if you’re trying to squat over a bucket, whilst cockcroaches climb your toilet cubicle. I’d have run – but I’d have fallen on the urine-swimming tiles).
This meant pushing beyond my pathetic comfort zones for us to rescue the souls of girls that deserved a second chance. Because saving them would equal rescuing hundreds, if not thousands more girls.
I only wanted one. I only needed one of them to realize how powerful she could be.
In total we spent 33 solid hours with them. Dramas, therapy in artwork, talking and talking. And a lot of cuddles.
These days were not easy. By 9-10pm in the evening, the team would debrief. Brushing off the stories that on some occasions triggered our own team members. We could have slept for days from the emotional exhaustion, but equally we slept with some kind of ‘we can keep going, this is for the good of humanity’.
I had seen some improvement but it hadn’t made me believe we had conquered this patch. Knowing the return rate of the girls going back into sex trafficking is 60%, I needed some hardcore evidence that they were changing. Really changing.
Then it came to the final hour with the final girl. Let’s call her Clementine.
Adopting the usual posture of head down and play with my finger nails, the interpreter did her usual, now brilliant and fluid method of telling her we’re here to help.
It took some coaxing on the previous 3 sessions, but this one, from outta nowhere, confessed:
‘Alright here it is. I was selling my body until 4 weeks ago’
Well this was a new one for the books. She took some ownership which was different, she wasn’t playing victim, even though from the sexual abuse she suffered from her family and the manipulation she faced in the brothels. She was feisty. And I liked it. As she told us her story – the tears from all of us flowed, I felt connected on a level I hadn’t encountered to this point.
Professionally, you might argue that isn’t wise to get attached or emotionally involved. I had my boundaries and none of them had been broken so far. I can be compassionate and I think she appreciated knowing her tears actually meant something to someone in this world.
As my team-worker spoke I watched Clementine closely. Her tiny body, her long black hair, her mouth covered in what I assumed to be herpes. I saw her cheek. If you read Heroine you’ll know I had a dream months before about a girl with a beauty spot on the right cheek. These past two weeks i handt found the girl i dreamt about and as i saw Clementine’s right cheek – it made sense why my soul felt so warm around her.
I put the pen down.
‘I’ve just learnt something.’ I say to the interpreter….’I’m about the change the scheme of things here’.
‘Tell her I was given a dream about her 2 months ago.’ She begins to interpret my words. I see Clementine’s face begin to change. You mean I was in a plan? Before I even stopped selling my body?
‘That from all things you have endured, all things you faced, you can rescue a hundred times more. You are powerful. You are meant to build bridges for hope and rescue the dying souls of the Philippines. The rebellion you showed in your times against your family – that made you fight for your name – will continue but this time for freedom. You’re a fighter, defiant to the end. You will not give up. You know the darkest sides of man, and you can overcome it by saving a thousand more like you. Do you understand how special you are to have been shown to me? That God has anointed you with an inner will power that will not stumble, that will not be left on the floor.’
‘We believe in you. Actually screw that. He believes in you and your work against the sex slave trade. You can do this. You are not a prostitute anymore. You are a freedom fighter.’
Girls don’t need nice men to help them recover from bad men. They don’t need to be saved by the same gender. They don’t need to be saved by anyone, for they’ve been subjected to attachment issues all their lives.
All these broken hearts need is to be told that they are believed in.
‘I’m not looking at your mess, I’m looking at you and I believe in you.’
On the exit interview, I asked what her dreams now were, how she felt before coming here and now on leaving.
And I’ll finish with this….
‘I want to rescue girls, to tell them there’s a better life and that they have options. I’m going back to school. I’m going to get my life back. I’m am not shameful of where I’ve been, because in all things, God makes it good.’
There it was, a line that made me believe we had not only squeezed through the pain and forgiveness to refresh the face of love and freedom, but we had created a team of girls, that were going to go back one day and find their colleagues, their friends, strangers that would only listen to girls who’ve gone through it themselves.
With your donations, you helped us create Freedom Fighters in 2013.
All it needed was some self-belief, lashings of forgiveness and grace the size of the atlantic.