At the end of the medical clinic, after we walked through the district with Seeta (*name changed for privacy), we gathered together back at the center. It was sweltering and the shade of the center’s roof provided much needed respite from the cloak of heat and scorching sun.
We scraped our metal chairs into a circle and David asked Seeta to share with us some of the things that have been happening in the Red-Light District. She excused herself briefly and returned carrying a leather-bound journal and opened the pages. At the top of one of the pages she had penned five names – written beside them were dates.
In January and February of this year, she helped five women find rescue.
Beside each name was their freedom date and a short sentence about where they had gone.
This process of rescue is layered and complicated; each rescue takes time and considerable wisdom. Getting the ladies out is a major hurdle but it is not the only one. Rescued women often have nowhere to go, and without a plan may end up back in the district they left or on the streets, revictimized. Rahab’s Rope has a network of a few safe houses outside the city to send the women to once they get out safely. These five were scattered to various centers where they could be safe and receive resources to learn vocations or be repatriated home.
Unfortunately, of these five, one woman did not make it. For reason not completely clear, addiction perhaps, she showed back up in the RLD from which she had so recently escaped. When she was interrogated by the madams about her leaving, she told them that Seeta had gotten her out. Not surprising, they came straight to Seeta to interrogate her. This is not the first time they have come looking for her when a woman has disappeared.
Seeta is tiny and may come across as meek at first glance, but this woman spends her days serving the hardest of the hard. She chooses to be there when most everyone else would not. I have personally watched this small statured woman rise and raise her voice to command a crowd of aggressive ladies…with a few loud reprimands she asserts control. Every single time. Seeta is one of God’s mightiest. Of this I am certain.
On the day they came to question her, she tells us that she was not afraid as they approached. As with every rescue, she had the forethought and wisdom to plan ahead and to anticipate potential problems. She vehemently denied to her interrogators that she had anything to do with the rescue, and when they momentarily retreated, she went directly to her accuser. Wise and seasoned in her dealings with these women, Seeta previously audio recorded the woman as she spoke of wanting to leave the brothels. An audio recording like this would be completely devastating and detrimental to the woman if shared with her madam. At mention of the audio recording, the woman retracted her accusations and said no more.
On this day, as we sat knee to knee in the shelter of the center, only a few weeks had passed since Seeta had been accused. As she gave voice to the heaviness of her work and the inherent risks she takes on behalf of these women, I felt like the air itself got heavier.
I asked Seeta if she is fearful, and without the slightest hint of a pause, she said no. “I choose not to be afraid. I want to be used by God to save as many women as possible. This is my wish. To save as many women as possible.” And then she looked down and giggled as if she was embarrassed by the attention she was receiving.
On days like today when the oppression feels tangible; after standing in individual brothels and meeting generations of mothers and daughters living side by side in this place, here is where we close our eyes and breathe in hope. He is here. In this mess. And honestly, it is the most authentically beautiful picture of the Gospel I have ever seen.
One secret, leather-bound journal.
Those handwritten names, with their freedom dates beside them.
And the beautiful, brave, loved by God, hand that penned them.
In the darkest dark, there is holy light.
He is here.
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him. I will protect him because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16