Mala was trafficked into one of the most brutal brothels that International Justice Mission [which I, Bethany, help lead] had ever encountered. The lead trafficker was powerful, wealthy, and deeply connected to a wide network of other traffickers in the underground world of rape for profit. He stopped at nothing to keep the girls in his brothel under his power. Some of his victims witnessed him murdering another girl simply to give a warning, lest they resist his will. If ever there was a human being I would be tempted to believe is unreachable by the grace of God, it would be this man.
Like all of the new girls, Mala was raped by the trafficker as her initiation into what she would be required to endure every day. The trafficker made his power clear to each of the girls in his brothel; one of the girls recalled him bragging, “I can even rape a girl and get away with it; that is how much power I have. I will never be put in jail.” Indeed, he believed he was invincible.
Mala and the other girls worked around the clock, raped by 10 to 20 men each day. If they tried to refuse a customer, they were tortured. When Mala attempted (and failed) to run away, she was viciously beaten. After a few months in the brothel, Mala became pregnant, but her trafficker beat her even then, using a metal pipe and kicking her stomach. Mala lost her baby.
What hope could we possibly hold on to for Mala? Where do we even begin to look for hope in the face of what she suffers? In the face of the millions of lives her own suffering mirrors? And what hope could we possibly hold for Mala’s trafficker?
The closer we get to suffering, the more the idea of hope can begin to appear as nothing more than just that—an idea, fleeting and nebulous, like a vapor that appears for a moment and then evaporates. But the author of Hebrews claims that hope is tangible, that hope is an anchor for our souls (Heb. 6:19). Hope is not a fleeting idea; we can “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess” (Heb. 10:23). Paul writes that hope is certain: “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold” (2 Cor. 3:12, emphasis added). Peter proclaims that through Christ we have been birthed into a “living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3). We can hope with certainty and boldness “for he who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23).
Our hope is not based on our own abilities to act or to change the world. Our hope is entirely grounded in the reality that God has always cared about justice, has always called us to join him in seeking justice. God promises that he will fully usher in his kingdom of justice and righteousness. Because of what God has done, is doing, and will do in and through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, we can enter a fallen world of suffering and heartache rooted in a persevering hope.
This is not a cheap hope; our hope is often as broken, bloodstained, and costly as Christ’s body hanging on the tree at Golgotha. This is not a trite hope; in the midst of our hope we still need to acknowledge and lament the places in this world where we fall short of God’s kingdom vision. It is a hope rooted in the power of the light of Jesus Christ to finally and fully overcome all the darkness of the world in his perfect timing.
Bethany Hanke Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson, The Justice Calling, Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2016. Used by permission of the publisher. www.bakerpublishinggroup.com
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