She And Her Daughter Helped Girls Rescued From Trafficking And Learned From Their Resilience

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

I was living in a fog of grief. My daughters and mother took turns spending the night with me after my husband died in a bicycle accident. My daughters had lost their dad. My mother lost a man she considered her son for more than forty years. They were hurting too, but my pain was so deep I wasn't able to comfort them.

That first month seemed to go on without end, yet I felt as if Tom had just walked out the door moments before. As December drew near, my youngest daughter and her family came by with dinner. I'm not sure I was fully engaged in the conversation. Kendall was talking about a mission trip her church was sponsoring.

"I've always wanted to go, Mom, but it seems every other time they've done this trip, I was pregnant with one of the girls."

I tried to listen. I nodded here and there as if the fog surrounding me had cleared.

"They send a team to work with young women who've been rescued from human trafficking situations," Kendall went on to say. It sounded scary. I hoped she wasn't thinking about joining them this year. She was a wife and mother. Her family needed her. needed her.

"The trip's in April," she said. "I thought you and I could go together."

What? Me? Go on a mission trip? Where did she say this was? I searched my brain for a clue tucked away from her earlier comments. India. That was it. Was she suggesting I travel halfway around the world? I could barely make it out of bed in the morning.

"This will be the last week to apply." Kendall looked at me. Waiting. She had that same expectant look she had as a little girl pleading with me to take her for a milkshake. This was so much more than a trip to McDonald's.

April was five months away. Next year.

Next year sounded distant. What could I say or do to help these girls? I was spent. I had nothing to offer. I studied my daughter's face.

"Okay." My voice was weak and lacked enthusiasm.

Kendall spent the next week getting our application forms ready. I spent the next week wondering why I had agreed to the trip. I hadn't prayed about the experience. I hadn't weighed all the pros and cons. Did my daughter know something I didn't know? Perhaps helping others was good for grieving widows.

Serving others was always a good thing to do, but couldn't I find a community project closer to my home in Ohio? Did I need to travel to a place where I didn't know the language? A place that served foods I couldn't pronounce? What could I possibly do for these young women who had suffered unimaginable and often torturous circumstances?

I decided to attend the first meeting in January with Kendall. It would give me time to pray for a way out.

I looked around the large meeting room. Yes, there were people younger than me, but I wasn't the oldest, either. Several young women and a few young men were anxious to make a difference in the world. An older couple sat at the table next to me. That was hard. Where did I fit? I wasn't young, but I wasn't old. I was no longer part of a couple, but I didn't feel single either. The leader had an activity for us to complete and a video to watch. There was a question-and-answer period and more forms to fill out. No one looked at me and said, "What in the world are you doing here?" I decided to read the booklet they provided.

I studied the booklet. Kendall and I brainstormed ideas to raise funds for the trip. Perhaps I wouldn't be able to raise the needed monies. That would be a sign from God that I should stay home, wouldn't it? Stay home and… stay home and do what? By the third meeting, I knew I was going to India for ten days in April. I was entering a world so far from the life I knew and understood, I could hardly breathe. And to get there I had to fly.

I had always been afraid of flying. Each time my husband and I flew somewhere, I prayed we'd make it home. This time proved different. As the plane took off, I realized I had no fear of flying. When we finally made it to Dubai, I realized I had no fear of the work ahead. Living without fear and serving side by side with my daughter? Breathing came easier.

Here I was in a strange land, eating strange foods, and working with girls once kidnapped or sold into the sex-trafficking business. One girl revealed she had been sold into slavery by her uncle at age nine. She was rescued when she was seventeen. But most of the girls didn't speak of the past. They were looking to the future. They were going to school. They had dreams and plans.

All I could offer was the "mom" in me—the woman who could smile with them, laugh at their jokes, and laugh with them when I mispronounced a word or a name. We sang familiar songs in different languages, did crafts together, and shared meals.

One evening, I sat on the floor working a puzzle with five of the girls. I leaned back on my elbows. A voice seemed to wash over me. You are exactly where you need to be.

I've had to face many situations that challenged me since that trip to India. I learned how to change the filter in my furnace. I learned how to start my lawnmower and take care of the yard. I had to negotiate the purchase of a new car. To most people, those tasks seem small, but to me they were huge. Before India, I would cry when I had to open my late husband's toolbox for a screwdriver.

India stretched me. Through that experience, I found an inner strength. Those brave, resilient girls I was sent to serve taught me a greater lesson than I could ever have imparted to them. After everything they had been through, they showed me how to look to the future.

This story is from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone: 101 Stories about Trying New Things, Overcoming Fears, and Broadening Your World © 2017 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.

Cover image via  structuresxx I Shutterstock

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