They were the reluctant four. Only 14 and 16 years old, the four — Ruby, Jenny, Angel and Ruth — were rescued from traffickers by the municipal social worker and local police and brought to the Preda Home for Girls for recovery and cure. They were caught in a house of prostitution and exploitation where they were trafficked by a pimp, lured with promises of money, drugs and drinks and boyfriends. They were sexually abused.
Instead of being happy at being “rescued,” the four wanted to return to the trafficker. They were brainwashed into the world of vice; they denied any wrongdoing and wanted to return to that life. They had debts to pay. They were made to believe that was all they were good for in this world and that the trafficker was giving them a happy life.
I like to refer to those who groom, seduce, or lure children into dire situations where they are trapped, exploited, and sexually abused as “millstones.” Two thousand years ago, child abuse was common enough it seems in Palestine and the Gospel of Matthew has a passage in Chapter 18 (Matt. 18:1-8) that has Jesus of Nazareth telling his audience of the learned, lawyers and scholars, to their disappointment, that they were not the most important in society. He stood a child before them and said the child was.
Then a most shocking statement followed. If taken at its face value, it sounds like an endorsement of the death penalty. He said in so many words that anyone who abuses one of these children ought to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the depth of the ocean. It’s hyperbole, an exaggeration not to be taken literally, but nevertheless it is a strict teaching that children are sacred and innocent and to accept a child is to accept Jesus himself.
He said too, unless we become as innocent as children we cannot enter the Kingdom and be a person of the highest integrity. That would be the ideal society where friendship, truth, justice, love, social justice, and equality reigned. In Matthew 25:31 -46) he has us standing before the king of that ideal Kingdom on judgment day. He said unless we have fed the hungry, given water to the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited the people in jails and shared and helped our neighbor, there is no ticket to the kingdom. To have done it to them, the poorest of his brothers and sisters, is to have done it to Jesus himself. That is a real challenge for anyone.
In the modern world of today, those ideals seem irrelevant and ignored by the people in the secular world. Going by the number of child abusers out there in society and online, it is a world dominated by these pedophiles and child rapists and abusers. Here, every week at the Preda children’s home, we see horrific cases of child abuse. The latest arrivals are a five-year-old and a 12-year-old, both victims of rape. They joined the Preda family of 48 girl-victims who are recovering and healing and discovering what it is to be free from the fear and abuse. There are hundreds of thousands more helpless children unable tell anyone of their ordeal and who live in fear of their rapists. The statistics say one in every four children is a victim of sexual abuse, the same in every country in the world.
The pimps and human traffickers, the “millstones” who recruit teenage girls into the sex industry are smart, clever, and like pedophiles, have the power of persuasion to lure and ensnare victims into their web of abuse and exploitation. The teenagers become dependent sex slaves.
So what a challenge it was for the Preda social workers and therapists to persuade the four girls who planned to leave the Preda home for girls. They could have easily escaped since it is not a walled or fenced detention center. It is an open home in a natural location of peace and tranquility. It prides itself on teaching the victims to make a human choice based on reason, knowledge of right and wrong and using their free will to choose a better life for themselves.
It took months of counseling, affirmation, support and emotional expression therapy and the support of their parents for them to gain self-esteem, knowledge of their dignity and human rights and change their perception of themselves and of their future.
They eventually reached that very important turning point. Their change of heart and mind allowed them to see the truth, reject the past, and welcome a life of dignity and self-respect and respect for others. Seeing this transformation makes this work worthwhile. It is challenging the system of abuse and exploitation of minors that is approved by government and it is a voice proclaiming the value and dignity of every child, the most important in society.