We’d like to introduce you to Gerlia, a 24-year-old worship leader from rural Mindanao. She became one of thousands of human trafficking victims we’ve met recently who find themselves lost inside the sex trade of Southeast Asia. Here’s a bit of her amazing story.
One day, Gerlia received word from her cousins that there was a good job waiting for her in the big city, so she boarded the first of many boats and buses that would take her to Angeles City and her new place of employment. She was excited to finally fulfill her role in the family. In the Philippines, the eldest daughter is often times a bread winner in the family. Children often find employment far from home then send earnings back to the family. After her long, arduous five-day journey, Gerlia finally arrived at the bar where she would be a waitress. It was a dream come true.
She was given one night to rest before starting work. The next day, she was taken to a clinic to test for STD’s. She asked why, but didn’t get an answer. That night she excitedly arrived to work only to find all of the other girls wearing bikinis. Her dream job quickly turned into a nightmare as she was told to get into her new uniform and parade herself on a raised stage in front of a packed house of foreigners. She was shaking with fear. Gerlia loved God and loved leading worship in her church back home – she never expected anything like this. “I didn’t know what was happening! Then I called out to God to rescue me.”
This is often how it works. Mamasans, the women in charge of the girls in a bar involved in the sex trade, ask their woman if there are others back home that they can contact. Sometimes, a sister, cousin, or aunt will accompany the mamasan to the family home. Gerlia found out later that her cousins were paid a $10 finder’s fee for her. Gerlia had been betrayed by her family! This is not uncommon, but $10 is a lot of money to a poor family. Poverty and lack of university-level education is one of the driving forces behind thousands of women becoming immersed in the sex trade. Once in Angeles City, new home to over 12,000 such young women, Gerlia had no choice but to stay in order to pay back the money lent to her for transportation, clothing, her room and food, and the finder’s fees. Meanwhile, her family was waiting for the first paycheck to arrive home. There was no way out. She’d become a slave of the trade.
Four nights after that terrifying first evening, a combined Wipe Every Tear and World Race/Adventures In Missions (AIM) team showed up in her bar. “When they walked in, I knew they were good people. They called me off the stage to their table and told me about Wipe Every Tear.” One of our formerly trafficked women who lead the team into the bar spoke Gerlia’s language. She told us that, “The Holy Spirit lead me to invite Gerlia to our table.” After their conversation, Gerlia chose to believe her. She moved into our safe house, has since paid her debt to her employers, and continues to send a small amount home from the stipend we provide while she goes to school. In September of 2017, Gerlia took her college mid-term exams! With tears, she remembers, “God heard me, and answered!” She’s since forgiven her cousins for giving her name to the mamasan and she’s hoping they’ll walk into freedom soon too.
This is the deal – we NEED teams of brave people to walk into bars in red-light districts in the Philippines with us because foreigners and their guests (our Wipe Every Tear women) are the only ones able to enter trafficking bars. Our teams become the extended arms of Jesus offering freedom and restoration from the horrors of modern-day slavery.
If you’re around Wipe Every Tear for even a short time you’ll often hear things like, “With Jesus’ Spirit in us, we carry Him into the bars. Then He changes the atmosphere!” or, “We are committed and we will not relent until every woman hears that they do, in fact, have a choice between bondage and freedom,” or, “As our teams enter these bars filled with God’s love and anointing, we fully expect to see Jesus perform more signs and wondrous things from heaven.” To these, we say, “YES, LORD JESUS!”
To date, more than 170 women have walked through the doors of our safe houses into freedom, but there are so many more! We are praying that AT LEAST 50 additional women will come to us in 2018. The cost to restore an additional 50 women over the next 12 months will take about $204,000, but God’s got this. This is His heartbeat and we are His hands and feet. For us, it’s a big dream, but we expect even bigger answers because God is just that good. We’re sure He’ll show us how big He really is in the coming months.
Will you please pray with us? Oh, we need your partnership in this front-line Kingdom work. Please declare with us God’s will on earth, just like it is in heaven, where there is not one lovely girl being exploited in the sex trade. We so long for that here.