It had been another long, grueling day on the mobile clinic team. More than 500 presentations with a range of medical problems: skin disease, lice infestations, poor eyesight, rotten teeth, infections, heart and lung issues, chronic malnourishment. Then along came Som.
It all started out badly one day before when Som’s drunken husband took a long-bladed machete to “purge” the unborn baby from his nine-months pregnant wife. In defense of her unborn, Som had used an arm to ward off what would have been a fatal blow. This had left her with severe injury to her forearm, in need of immediate surgery. Her husband disappeared and left her to fend for herself, without the means needed for such an operation.
A loan of $50 to pay for a medical procedure, with 30 percent interest applied each month, rapidly tipped Som deeper into poverty, rendering her destitute and helpless
For more than 22 years, International Children’s Care Australia (ICC), a recognized supporting ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has been working in Southeast Asia, in places like Cambodia, Som’s homeland, delivering life-saving services to destitute families and children in rural communities and urban slums. Not satisfied to just give handouts, ICC carefully designs projects that also have a gospel component. It’s an interactive development program that sees Adventist field workers bring the love of a redeeming Savior into a practical dimension to some of the poorest people on earth through its Child Protection and Sustainable Livelihoods programs.
Som was not at the ICC clinic for medical help though: her arm had healed more than a year earlier. She came because of the unfolding tragedy of human trafficking. That night she was to be sold to a Malaysian brothel, forced to work as a prostitute, working off the debt attributed to her inability to repay the $50 emergency loan. She had begged for her children not to be prostituted, and that was why she came to see us. “Could ICC look after my children?” she asked, since she was never coming back!
A volunteer from the ICC medical team made a quick decision, one that Som will be grateful for into eternity. He simply did what we expect any Christian to do. He counted out his money on the spot, and in the most gracious way love may humanly ever be shown, he bought Som’s freedom that afternoon.
The central theme of Scripture is about a rescue package, one with awful cost. It cost a life, that of our precious Jesus, our Redeemer, or put more precisely, our Rescuer. Is this what it really means to be a follower of Jesus, to serve just like Him? Perhaps it could include “rescuing the perishing” as that great old hymn correctly clarifies Christian duty.
What about the modern lyrics applied to that timeless song we all know: “Amazing Grace”? “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.” If we’ve known freedom in Christ, can we not sympathize with those who are yet still in chains?
A few weeks later, Som asked the million-dollar question: “What must I do to be saved?” The Christian influence on this once outcast, despised, and destitute woman had liberated her—from Buddhism to Christ. Som’s children are now in good health, cared for by their loving mother who now talks with experience about the “blessed hope.” From slave to salvation, Som has returned a conqueror to the community that first disempowered her.
Millions of others, just like Som, slip by us without notice, or fall unworthy of our care, locked away in another country as a despised racial or ethnic minority, with a different colored skin or religious creed, an invisible non-person. The freedom we enjoy in Christ should challenge us to do more than just hypothesize from our armchairs about the emancipation of these captives that Satan still holds bound, the ones Christ implores us to set free.
Today 30 million people (13 million of whom are children) suffer in silence: trafficked, enslaved, chained, many prostituted, beaten, and exploited. Som is undeniably the liberated face of those millions, evidence that when Christ convicts us to halt an injustice, we simply don’t just carry on eating our dinner and do nothing. It’s time to act. It’s time to be human.
David Caukill is director of marketing and donor relations for International Children's Care Australia.
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