The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do.” (Psalm 12:5)
Relate: Paul and Theophilus. By dropping those two names right up front, I am guessing most people reading this would be thinking I am about to talk about something from the book of Acts. Theophilus was the man for whom Luke wrote the book and Paul is a primary figure for momore than two thirds of it. But no, I am talking about a different Paul and Theo. The story I have to share is far more tragic than anything we would come across in Acts.
The story I have to share begins with a young woman named Okoangbele Quincy. She was a young woman in Nigeria who worked as a caterer. Through her work, she met a man named Paul at an event in Festec, just outside Lagos, Nigeria. The two seemed to hit it off. They exchanged information and for a couple weeks would call and text back and forth. After a while, Paul introduced her to another friend of his named Theophilus. Theo told her that he knew people in the Middle East and could probably get her a catering job there that would pay far more money. She was interested so Paul and Theo had her, with the help of her family, raise the money for her travel documents, passport, etc. and then she was on a plane to start a new adventure.
At the beginning of June, just over two years ago, her plane touched down and Quincy met her contact, a woman she thought was a travel agent. To her shock and horror, she soon found out that this woman had actually purchased her from Paul and Theo (who split the money) for the equivalent of $6,000 US and Okoangbele Quincy was now a slave. This “travel agent” realized her new purchase might be trouble and quickly sold her to another family. That family issued Quincy her slave clothes. For a month she did everything she could to try and escape her imprisonment but her slave clothes immediately identified her to everyone in Kuwait as a slave. Nobody would help her. Most people would not even talk to her. Finally, Quincy and another Nigerian slave convinced an Indian woman to help them hail a taxi that took them to the Nigerian Embassy. Once there, they were able to explain their situation and were able to regain their freedom.
As sad and as horrifying as this story was for me when I read it, the two words that stuck out to me was “slave uniform”. When I think of modern day slavery, I think of something that happens underground. I think of shady deals, sweat shops, and evil thugs who manipulate and intimidate their victims. This all applies, Quincy spent days recovering in a hospital after her ordeal, but this wasn’t happening underground. She had a slave uniform. Everyone knew what it meant. This isn’t the jungles of Africa that nobody can get to. This wasn’t happening behind locked doors away from everybody’s notice. It wasn’t even in ISIS occupied territory. This was happening in a nation that is supposed to be an American Ally. We fought a war to “liberate” Kuwait. The US still has multiple bases there and in neighboring Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Are we blind, stupid, or heartless?
React: Okoangbele Quincy’s story is one among many. There are about 29 million others who have a story just as tragic, just as real. Sometimes, when we hear numbers like that, it doesn’t truly register what we are hearing. The slave trade is a 32 billion dollar industry. About 7 million of the worlds slaves are exclusively bought and sold as sex slaves. More than nine million, almost a third of all slaves are minors and that percentage is growing as more than half of those trafficked into slavery every year are minors. Two years ago the count was 185 thousand right here in Turkey but that doesn’t count the number from the influx of refugees from Syria over the past couple years who have been exploited and entrapped in their flight. All of these numbers are so large that our minds can’t really get behind them. But there is a very real story behind each and every number making up these statistics. We have a Savior who weeps for each one. Do we? What are we doing to be about His business of rising up to rescue them?
Open my eyes and break my heart. All around me there are those who have found themselves in bondage and are desperate to be free. You hear their cries. You long to rise up to rescue them, but it is primarily through us, Your Church, that You work. Let us be about Your business. With our prayers, our words, our time and our actions, let us, let me be about proclaiming Your freedom.