I walked down a busy street in Myungdong, South Korea with my cousin and her boyfriend at the time, J, a few years ago on a humid summer’s day. We passed by Christians handing out pamphlets from their church, and I’m not sure if we took one from them or not. As we walked on J said he thought people who went to church were crazy because they raise up their arms when songs are being sung, “as if there’s electricity coming from the sky!”
I went to a friend’s church service a few years before and I genuinely didn’t want to be there. It was an evening service, and the lights were dimmed down. The pastor asked everyone to kneel down and “confess your sins’ - and I was the only one with my eyes opened, still standing. I still recall him looking right at me, repeatedly saying out loud that we should all kneel and pray at that moment. I didn’t want to kneel down or confess my sins. I just ended up sitting back down, watching everyone.
I sat down in the Avon lecture room on campus this morning and I heard that Jesus came to give life, life to the full. And I agreed.
“The irreligious person loses sight of the law and holiness of God and the religious person loses sight of the love and grace of God, in the end they both lose the gospel entirely. For the gospel is that on the cross Jesus fulfilled the law of God out of love for us.” - Tim Keller
I haven’t really been able to meet up with many people because of this thesis, but if there was one person I hadn’t seen for a long time here, it was her: M from Taiwan.
Yesterday in the music building, groggy yet unwilling to just deflate, I guess I kept pounding my fingers on the keyboard to avoid that burnt-out feeling that sometimes leads to bawling when I read things like this:
“As Nigerian prostitutes work off their debts, the madams subject them to harsh living conditions, starvation, and other forms of abuse. If a woman becomes pregnant, the madam administers a back-alley abortion without anesthetic. Pregnancy is common, as Nigerian madams insist that their prostitutes perform sex without condoms in order to raise the prices of sex acts. Eventually, if a Nigerian sex slave is freed from her debt, she might continue working to save enough money to buy her own slaves” (Kara, 2009).
“Because any woman’s body can be commodified and sold as sex in the marketplace, all women can be reduced to sexual objects and instruments. The degraded role into which prostituted women are cast sanctions the sexual exploitation of all women, eroticizes women’s inequality, and thus bolsters women’s personal and social subordination” (Raymond, 1998).
I think I lifted my hands away from my laptop and held up my face, elbows to the table. People can be monsters and this seems impossible to alleviate. I want to cry and go home. But, really, what good will that do? People will fail, but I have to push through. What the hell is going on?
And that’s when I saw her.
She just popped right in front of me, a completely different person from what I had known her to be—not worse by the slightest, but alive. Yes, alive. Every time I spoke to her last year, she would be so kind yet reserved; loving yet silent. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with her.
But she was an entirely changed person because she shouted my name, squeezed my shoulders, threw her head back in laughter and leaned in to tell me something I needed to hear.
“I had asked God, ‘Why do you love me…so much?” she explained to me in English.
“And He said, ‘Because I am love.’”
She then took my hands from my face, locked her eyes to mine in the sweetest, purest gaze I had ever seen in a human being and said, “Joanna, God is love.”
I think I started to tear up. I’m not sure, but my heart…my God, my heart was exploding and I was at a loss of words. But the children. She is raped hundreds of times a day and her uterus ruptured. Those monsters! They must be set free! They must be set free! She nodded her head, eyes still locked to mine and now even more luminous, saying, “I know…I know. There is life in Him.”
This woman who was so cautious with her every step had become a free dancer who threw off her shoes to dance with Jesus, literally, for the first time, and she spoke louder to me than I ever did to her. She had more confidence in her voice than I did. I began to sit up in my seat.
“I am free,” she said to me. “I am free, Joanna.”
And it hit me.
A few weeks ago, I had asked God if He could show me more of who He was. Does that sound elementary? I don’t care. I did it, and I had completely forgotten that I prayed that prayer.
God is love.
God is love.
Everything good comes from Him.
He is the only one who can truly free us from being slaves in this world, which will then move us to remove the chains of oppression for others.
In the study of human trafficking, there is often ambiguity in countries’ legislations and even in the United Nations regarding the definition of trafficking. People do not fully understand what trafficking is because the definitions are skewed and fluffed. This spreads confusion and hinders efforts to stop the crimes committed.
“When utilized to formulate new abolitionist policies, I believe these definitions will help focus efforts on the discrete components and steps constituent to trafficking crimes—especially slavery and exploitation—yielding enhanced results…” (Kara, 2009).
If the true meaning of something is misinterpreted, anything and everything that generates out of that misinterpretation will never reflect its original meaning, and people will be lead further away from the truth of it unless something changes.
So I am going to say it again to myself while I finish this thesis.
God is love.
God is love.
“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” - Isaiah 58
A) We are all, at some point in our lives, slaves to something. Be it ambition, pride, prostitution, lust, lying, self-righteousness, money, abusive family and friends, poverty, wealth, materialism, mediocrity, indifference, etc. Acknowledged or not, it kills something inside of us. Often, if not always, the victims are faith, hope and love. Life. Sometimes it even kills someone else. Us.
B) There is a chain reaction of evil in this world underlying the chains of slavery. Cause and effect. Cause and effect. Cause and effect.
Fight the good fight.
C) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” - Jesus
and I ran on the unfrozen bits,
my legs yelled Move. and my heart said Nothing. But it wasn’t nothing, so I just went a bit further up the road than before by swerving left over the hill,
where I passed the young mother jogging with her beautiful baby down the path near the goliath chocolate factory. I turned around and wondered about a chain of things, and then it started to wrap itself around me until I saw that there wasn’t really a constricting metal serpent. Instead on my jacket I found the lightest snowflakes that whispered Blessing. It was snowing again.
I thought about them, it and him again too, but I’m still thinking about those first snowflakes even after I climbed inside my house and shut the door. I guess I’m also wondering about how something so gentle could be so powerful to me.
I am Yours and You are mine
I am Yours and You are mine
I am Yours and You are mine
I am Yours, Lord.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” - Galatians 5:1