by Margaret Fox
When I applied for the pureJUSTICE internship, my exposure to the issue of sex trafficking had occurred only in an academic setting. I believed my work here would be a small effort on behalf of a great but distant cause, with few implications for my day-to-day.
How wrong I was.
During our orientation, interns watched a documentary about the evils of the global sex trafficking industry. A prominent part of the film involved interviews with several women who escaped sexual exploitation and found salvation in Christ. They expressed how their time as sex workers had left them emotionally shattered, shamed, and full of self-hatred. As I listened to the interviews, I was shocked at how closely I identified with these women. The emotions they expressed—feelings of worthlessness and despair—these were things I had been writing about myself in my journal for years. These women were me.
But how could that be? I have never been subjected to the traumatic experiences they endured. I come from a comfortable home, have the blessings of family, security, and a good education. Not to mention involvement in a vibrant faith community and the comfort of an ever-deepening relationship with the Lord. How could I suffer from the same crippling despair?
It turns out Satan is not limited to exceptional circumstances. In the past two years, my own struggles with sexual sin, as well as two painful breakups, had left me on my knees trying to gather up pieces of my integrity and self-confidence. I arrived at pureHOPE already scraped up by the effort. By the end of the first week, however, I had discovered that the organization is true to its name: by being part of a caring staff who pray for one another and study God’s word together, I was encouraged. Every day spent working and laughing with the interns, others my age who love the Lord, the sun shined a bit brighter.
pureHOPE’s mission, too, cut straight to my heart, for it’s all about renewal. Purity is not the absence of something bad but the presence of something good—a joyful, wholehearted journey toward God. After working here only a few weeks, I feel confirmed in a valuable lesson: I am not alone in sin, and healing is possible. Moreover, not only is healing possible, healing is inevitable with Jesus. For, in Christ, the truth becomes obvious where it was once discerned only with difficulty, if at all.
Let me explain. In the past I have often tried to argue myself into right thinking. When I felt worthless, when I felt the world would be better off without me, I told myself that God had created and treasured me, and I worked to make myself believe that. Yet, it felt like I was trying to convince myself that the grass is blue and the sky is green—all perceivable evidence shouted the opposite.
But as I watched those brave women on the documentary confessing the same brokenness, the lie became so apparent. Contrary to what they had believed, I knew they were daughters of God, beautiful creations, infinitely worthwhile. It was just so blatantly obvious; and I could see how their encounters with the Living God lifted their gaze away from their hurt and toward Himself, so He could make that truth obvious to them as well.
Those women freed me as Christ freed them, to see the blaring obviousness of the truth that is in the living Christ. He lifts us out of ourselves. For so long I have tried to fill myself up, but God says to give instead. I think the road to healing is difficult, because it is about forgetting ourselves, and when we hurt we don’t want to forget. We want to brood over it, to lick our wounds. But I don’t think it’s any accident that the closest I’ve felt to being whole was when I was caught up in compassion for those girls on the documentary. God says give up and you’ll win. The victory is entirely His.
I think that my experience is hard evidence of pureHOPE’s message: that justice is not just something out there, a cause to support or a newsletter to read; it is intensely personal. It is a fight against the evil and pain that are as present in our own hearts as they are in the brothels of Thailand. It is the conviction that hope and healing are right here on our doorstep, like packages left unexpectedly, and meant to receive and then pass along.
So pick up your gift and say a prayer of thanks; we have a lot of deliveries to make.
Margaret Fox is a senior at Princeton University and is currently serving as a 2012 pureJUSTICE intern.