I sing Christmas carols all year long. For real. If you don’t believe me…just ask my husband or ask Everson who has been subjected to Christmas songs since his birth in February (although his limited language skills might make responding difficult). I love December because it’s the time of year everyone is finally singing Christmas songs along with me! You can’t avoid hearing them on the radio and at department stores. One song you are sure to hear throughout this month is the old classic, “Home for the Holidays.” The cheery chorus of this song goes like this:
Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays,
For no matter how far away you roam –
When you long for the sunshine of a friendly gaze,
For the holidays – you can’t beat home, sweet home!
When you hear the word “home” what memories or emotions does the word evoke? For many of us, we think of not only a specific place where we spent our childhood, but we also think of comfort, warmth, and happy memories. Of course, every family has their share of conflict and goes through difficult seasons, but most of us are fortunate enough to carry in our pocket a flood of happy memories. For me, the holidays always remind me of fun family traditions like hanging Christmas tree ornaments, eating homemade caramel corn, and eating my Grandma’s tourtiere before Christmas Eve mass. When I think of “home” I also recall card games, a big sledding hill, Sunday soccer games, and roast turkey feasts. Home has been a constant in my life, a guaranteed place of stability that I have never had to question.
Through my experiences at Street’s Hope, the non-profit where I recently started volunteering, I am learning that I should never take home for granted. For those unfamiliar with Street’s Hope, their mission is to “provide holistic restorative services to women escaping sex trafficking and the commercial sex industry and to nurture the resilience needed to heal, transform and thrive.” Street’s Hope is a faith-based nonprofit, so they also offer spiritual support to the women if they so desire.
I recently had the privilege of attending one of Street’s Hope’s client celebration events. We were able to celebrate the victorious achievement of a woman who has completed the one-year residential program, while also celebrating the other residents’ progress. We honored their efforts to find healthy, safe employment, their hard work in trauma therapy, and their sobriety milestones. We were able to speak affirmation into the lives of each of these women and they were also able to share encouraging words with each other.
One of the residents, a middle-aged woman, was honored for 100 days of sobriety and many shared their admiration for all the hard work she has already undergone on her road to recovery. I do not know the details of this woman’s story, but I know enough to say her life has been a nightmarish existence marked by unconscionable abuse and exploitation. After we celebrated this woman’s achievements, she told us she wanted to share something. She then proceeded to say that the night she first came to Street’s Hope and knocked on the door our overnight staff welcomed her in with a warm smile and she new for the first time that she was home. She said—I’ve never had a home before. Street’s Hope is the first place I’ve ever truly felt at home.
Can you imagine living a life without having a place to call home? Can you imagine not having a place to go to for the holidays or simply to rest and reconnect with those you love? Can you imagine a childhood where you never once had a home where you felt loved and safe? If you are as fortunate as I am, you really can’t fully imagine that and you hardly even want to try. It’s nice living in a bubble of safety, security, predictability and comfort. But working at Street’s Hope has forced me more than ever before to look outside of my privileged bubble to see the darkness and devastation around me.
Before working at Street’s Hope, I was aware of sex trafficking. I heard speakers talk about trafficking in college, I had read articles on the topic, and I had researched and written about sex trafficking for a criminology class. I had heard the (estimated) numbers…
2.5 million people are being trafficked at any time
1.2 million children are trafficked each year
Global trafficking brings in $31.6 billion in profits each year
These statistics are horrifying, yet there is something about actually knowing one of these victims—learning their name, looking into their eyes, hearing their voice—that makes all these numbers penetrate so much deeper. There is also so much beauty in seeing victims who have had so much healing and life transformation. Hearing their stories about coming to Christ and experiencing His love and redemption makes my love and faith in Jesus that much stronger. So yes, there is darkness, but there is also so much hope and healing.
I now know that I not only want to do something to fight trafficking, but I have to do something. I think we all need to be abolitionists whether that means committing to pray for modern slavery to end, volunteering our time at an organization that serves these victims, donating money, or helping raise awareness. My prayer is that we all do something.
“If to be feeling alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.” – William Wilberforce