Their responses to my questions were plainly stated and lacked emotion. I rephrased my questions several times but still received the same emotionless responses. I wanted more. I sought to hear the sadness, the fear, the dread of darkness.
As an organization, we are delighted to be expanding Landmine Design to two new locations this year. The new employees are hired, training has begun, and we are thrilled to see it happen. But as I sat with these new women, I realized my search wasn't about them. It was about me. Just weeks ago, sitting with new Landmine Design employees, I was anxious to hear their backgrounds. As we talked, I asked many questions because I wanted to share the horrible stories about where each woman had come. The world of human trafficking is hideous. Somewhere inside my heart, I wanted to share of that hideous world and also of the redemption taking place among our women.
But, their answers were "flat". Their stories weren't ones that are shocking or new. I wanted more. I wanted different. I wanted stories that had a punch. I wanted these stories to awaken us to the horrors of human trafficking. But their stories were the same stories we've heard countless times before. This time, the tales were told by different women. And I was afraid their stories wouldn't be read. I was afraid their narratives didn't pack enough of a punch to elicit a response from the reader.
As I write this post, I'm deeply disappointed that I was searching for more. I listened as one woman after another shared about leaving her home to travel illegally across one of the most humanly trafficked borders on the globe. Most made the journey every single day. Leaving children to fend for their younger siblings, moms would walk two hours to work in fields for 12 hours before walking another two hours to return home to hungry children. They would fall into bed exhausted for a few short hours of sleep before repeating the day again and again.
And why is that not enough of a pull? I sit here writing this post and wonder if it would help to know that many of the farms where these women work are owned by ruthless people. These farm owners promise full pay at the end of three months of employment. Out of their 'kindness', they give just enough money each day so their workers can purchase food to feed themselves and their families. But nothing more.
At the end of three months, after hard labor each and every day, these women wait patiently to be paid. Their wait is rewarded with a promise to pay next week. But next week never happens. So, these women leave and find another farm owner. With hope for a different ending, they begin the exact same cycle with a new owner. And every single story I heard had the same ending. No pay for months of back-breaking work.
I am ashamed that these stories are now common to me, and perhaps they have become common to you. I'm ashamed that I wanted more. Was their exploitation not enough? Did I think that if they were beaten or sold into prostitution, their stories would have the right punch? It sickens me to even type those words.
The narratives we hear are real. The women who live these stories have endured more than I can imagine. And yet I want more?
I have come to realize we have the privilege of fighting for women BEFORE their stories become even worse. I'm profoundly grateful to be on the preventative side of this war against human trafficking. To be fighting against the exploitation they've already experienced is enough. To offer opportunities and hope for a better world is an honor. That is why we are in this fight!
God forbid that their stories become common and don't drive me and you to want to be part of redeeming their lives for something far more. May their common tales be the fuel for us to continue the fight against human trafficking.
May their repeated narratives never become dull. May our hearts want to keep them from exploitation and from the risk of things even worse. May we continue the fight, with renewed passion, so precious women may move forward with hope and futures.
Written By: Karla Tillapaugh, Landmine Design Director