A Double Portion
Last month I had the incredible opportunity to travel with a team to Ethiopia and serve at a reintegration center for female victims of human trafficking and abuse. The center is called Agar, meaning “Helper” in the Ethiopian language, and as is stated on their website,
Many Ethiopian women move abroad each year in hopes of finding work that will support their families back home. However, these women often fall victim to human trafficking (specifically sex trafficking) or they find that work conditions in their host countries are far worse than they expected. Agar partners with three other organizations to create a reintegration program for women returning to Ethiopia. Agar’s role in the program is to provide food, shelter, and clothing for the women and to meet their emotional and spiritual needs. The partner organizations focus on the women’s mental and physical health, job skills training and job placement.
Currently there are about 25 women receiving services at Agar. I’d like to introduce you to one, who I’ll refer to as Halim, whose story deeply impacted me.
Halim appeared to be in her early 20’s and had a very sweet demeanor and smile, though she never showed her teeth. We were informed that a few years ago this young lady took a job as a domestic worker in Abu Dhabi in hopes of better supporting her family. Due to her family’s impoverished state, they had to borrow money to fund her travel expenses. Upon arriving in Abu Dhabi she quickly learned that her employer was quite harsh. Additionally, he insisted on keeping her passport and pay until her 2-year contract was up. Feeling powerless and vulnerable, she complied and fulfilled her two year contract. When she requested her payment, it was denied and shortly thereafter the employer pushed her off the 3rd floor balcony. Thankfully Halim survived the experience, but with broken legs and lost teeth. A neighbor who witnessed the crime called the police and eventually the employer faced trial. The employer insisted it was an accident and the judge ruled in the employer’s favor and urged Halim to return to work for them. Halim refused and was then put in jail since she was now considered an illegal immigrant. Eventually she was deported and ended up at the airport in Ethiopia without anything to show for her two years of work and incredible shame for what had occurred. Providentially the Lord led her to Agar, where she is now awaiting teeth implants and receiving counseling and job training that will hopefully empower her and provide healing and confidence to reunite with her family.
Halim’s story is just one of thousands who have endured similar experiences.
As I reflect on each of the faces and stories we saw and heard I am reminded of the following passage, and therefore encouraged:
Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy. For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. ~ Is. 61:7-8
Though these promises are to a specific people group, the heart of the One making them remains the same. The same God of Israel, the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lives today and offers hope, healing, and restoration in Jesus. I ask that you intercede on behalf of these precious women and pray that they may each experience His abundant redemption and be able to testify to how the Lord bound up their broken hearts, set them free, and turned their mourning into praise.
(Some pictures from Liz’s trip are below. Click on the thumbnails for larger versions.)