Here I am, sitting on a plane bound for Chicago. From Chicago, we fly to Istanbul. From Istanbul to Chisenau, Moldova.
We’ll miss the majority of the Olympic Games. Meals promise to be starchy & scant. And we’ll suffer a cold this El Paso desert rat has worked hard to avoid.
“So,” my boss asked me last night before I left the office, “This is some kind of vacation with your friends, right?”
“No,” I said. “Not really.”
“What are you doing?” he asked.
I watched the smile fade from his face as I told him.
We, a small team of nine, are going to Moldova to work with an organization that restores & rehabilitates young women rescued from the sex slave trade. Some of these women aren’t even old enough to have had a bat mitzvah.
Today, an estimated 28 million women & children are enslaved & forced into prostitution. One of Eastern Europe’s largest exporters of sex slaves is Moldova, a tiny country the size of Maryland landlocked between Romania & the Ukraine. For a bit of reference, the population of Texas is roughly 28 million.
“Why would you spend money on a trip like that?” My boss asked.
“Because,” I answered, “This is my heart & soul.”
I am the youngest member of this team. Though, by strange coincidence, I won’t make it home in time for my 29th birthday.
Some of my teammates are martial arts instructors who will be teaching these women self defense. Their import is obvious. But me? I’m a 28-year-old project manager by day, fledgling author by night.
For the last three years, I’ve been writing a novel. The first draft finished just under 800 pages. It focuses on the sex slave trade & follows the stories of six people – two men outside the trade, two women enslaved to it, & two men who perpetuate it. It is no children’s story, but I have not found anything that moved my heart & soul.
While I am painfully close to the characters in my novel, I am flying across the Atlantic tonight to meet women who have lived through the scenes I merely imagined. I will hear their stories. My heart will break a thousand times or more. And, God willing, our little team will bring some hope & love to their broken souls.
No, this is no vacation. But it is something worth doing, something, I dare say, a spot more meaningful than processing the stack of invoices I left on our accountant’s desk last night. [No offense, boss.]
This is about the value of a single life. This is about restoration. This is about rescue.
And if I am able to voice the cry of women who have been silenced & brutalized for far too long, this is worth every penny I could ever spend.