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Amber rushed down the hallway to her room and threw herself on the bed, turning to look back at the door to make sure she had closed it tightly behind her. She reached for her cell phone, ending the familiar music that had alerted her of a text, excited to see if her new friend had sent another message. She had met him online recently, and despite warnings from her parents not to have contact with strangers, Amber began a relationship with a 17-year-old man named Caine. She was hesitant at first to communicate with him, wanting to respect her parent’s wishes, but after a while, she got caught up in the thrill of her first romantic relationship at the tender age of 13. No one had ever told her she was beautiful until Caine texted those words to her, and she knew she was in love. When he wrote he wanted to meet her in person, Amber grew anxious and said she would ask her parents, but Caine convinced her they would not understand, so she agreed to meet him at her schoolyard that night.
Amber lied to her parents about visiting her best friend, then ventured out that evening to meet the man of her dreams. Her heart skipped a beat when she recognized Caine’s vehicle from the description he had given her, and she hurried over and slid into the passenger seat of his car. She was shaking as she turned towards the man in the driver seat, expecting to find the handsome young man she’d seen in the pictures Caine had sent to her phone. Instead, Amber was shocked when a creepy-looking, middle-aged man stared intently at her with a leering look. She was terrified and frantically tried to exit the SUV, but when she heard the door lock, Amber knew she was trapped, and she began to scream, “Let me out of this car! I want to go home. Where is Caine? He said he’d meet me here!” The man slowly grinned and reached for his phone, and as he showed his last text to her, he started to laugh, saying, “Amber, I’m Caine. I couldn’t wait to see you! You look even prettier than you do in your picture.” Amber was stunned and began to panic, threatening to call the police. The man’s countenance changed, and he shouted with venom, “I’m never going to let you go. You better shut up before you get hurt!” Then Caine grabbed the phone out of her hand, and her hope quickly vanished that she could reach out for help. Amber crawled into the fetal position, desperately wishing she’d listened to her parents about not communicating with strangers. She was so distraught she cried all night, each mile they drove, taking her farther from home. Amber’s fear became even more heightened when they stopped in front of a rundown apartment building, in a dark and unfamiliar location. Then Caine jerked open her car door and gripped her arm tightly, pulling her towards the dilapidated building. She was trembling as they walked up the shadowed staircase, and when they reached the landing, Caine opened the door and announced sarcastically, “Welcome to your new home!”
Amber was aghast at the deplorable conditions in the old dingy apartment. The furniture was sparse and broken, and there was garbage strewn all over the floor. A single, dim light bulb hung from the ceiling, and the air felt evil and oppressive. Amber stood motionless in the middle of the room, petrified of being alone with Caine. Then he drew close and touched her hair, and she was horrified. Suddenly a voice coming from the back of the apartment startled them, and she watched as Caine stormed down a hallway, unlocked an old wooden door, and swung it open with a crash, to reveal the source of the noise.
Caine ordered her into the room, and Amber was stunned to see five frightened girls huddled in the corner of a cramped, gloomy bedroom. A few of them appeared to be teens, and the others seemed to be younger, but Amber realized they all shared the same tortured look in their eyes. The fear, despair, and sorrow emanating from their faces was so overwhelming Amber had to look away. She caught the gaze of her cruel captor, and chills went down her spine. “Quiet down in here,” Caine growled at them, “I need to get some sleep!” Then he turned to Amber, and with a threatening tone, said, “You will never be going home! No one will ever find you here, and if you try to escape, I will kill you!” Amber was devastated and fell to her knees, sobbing for him to release her. Caine gave Amber one last menacing stare as he was leaving the bedroom, and then they heard the door close with a deafening thud, and the lock clicked securely in place.
There was an awkward silence for a few minutes, as the girls were reluctant to open up at first, unsure of who they could trust. One of the teens named Tori helped Amber to her feet and showed her to a bed where she sat quietly in shock, waiting for this nightmare to end. They were all talking softly now, so they would not incur Caine’s wrath. Finally, Amber summoned the courage to speak, saying, “Why did Caine bring me here? What is going on in this place?” The young women all looked at each other nervously, and then Tori bravely explained that Caine contacts girls and boys online, or finds them on the streets, and lures them into a relationship with him so that he can use them for sex trafficking. Amber was shocked at the horrifying news and didn’t want to believe what she’d heard. She had read a little about human trafficking, but never thought it would happen to her. Several of the young women began to speak about their terrible ordeal, and Amber was appalled when she learned of the violence, abuse, and neglect they had suffered at the hands of vile people, without any hope of seeing their friends and family again.
Amber’s mind was racing as she sat shivering on the edge of her bed in the darkness, wondering how she was going to survive. A few of the young women had drifted into a fitful sleep but woke up in an instant when they heard loud banging on their bedroom door. Amber’s heart filled with terror when she heard Caine shouting, “Get out here now! Don’t make me come in there! It’s time to go to work.” Amber was shaken and so afraid, wondering what would happen to her. She followed the girls’ lead, eating a few bites of a small, inadequate meal until Caine yelled for her to follow him out to his car. Paralyzed with fear, Amber called out to Jesus to rescue her from this wicked man. Caine ordered her down the apartment stairs, and when they approached his SUV, he reached into his pocket to retrieve his ringing phone, but it slipped out of his hand and shattered on the ground below. He cursed angrily and bent down to pick up his damaged cell phone when Amber heard God clearly speaking, telling her to run. She knew this might be her only chance to escape, so Amber bolted down the busy sidewalk, carefully dodging patrons of the shops and businesses lining the boulevard. She felt panic rising within her at the thought of being recaptured and began frantically searching for someplace to hide.
Suddenly Amber heard a man shouting behind her, and as she glanced back to see if Caine was following her, she collided with a tall, young man who had just stepped out of one of the shops. She was stunned for a moment, then Amber cried out, “Please, sir. I need your help! He told me he’d kill me if I ran away!” The man looked bewildered, unsure of how to respond, when a middle-aged woman came to the doorway of the Christian bookstore beckoning, “Hurry, son! Bring her inside. She seems to be in a great deal of danger!” Daniel obeyed his mother, leading Amber into the store when they heard a commotion coming from out on the sidewalk. Suddenly Caine bolted through the door, demanding to see his runaway daughter. Amber was whimpering as she cowered behind Leah, who was fervently praying for God’s intervention. As Caine continued his deceptive tirade, a man purchasing books phoned 911. Caine stopped his angry outburst mid-sentence when he heard the man’s conversation with the police, then he knocked over a display as he rushed out the door and became lost in a sea of pedestrians.
Leah attempted to comfort Amber, who was crying uncontrollably, knowing she had narrowly eluded a horrendous fate at the hands of a predator. Amber thanked God for answering her prayer by providing the help she so desperately needed. Police officers arrived to question Amber about her relationship to Caine, and when they heard about the trafficking, they called for backup to pursue her kidnapper. The officers asked Amber to come to the station to question her further about the investigation. She was grateful Leah stayed with her to provide support until her parents arrived. Amber anxiously gave a statement to a policewoman at the station, fearful Caine would make good on his threat to kill her. Leah hugged Amber gently to console her as they were being escorted to a small waiting room. They engaged in a superficial conversation at first, and then Amber opened up about what had happened to her the past few days.
“I thought Caine loved me,” Amber said with confusion in her voice, “How could I have been so gullible?” Leah responded compassionately, saying, “Child molesters like Caine are very manipulative and tell you what you want to hear. They pretend to be your friend and confidant and encourage you to be involved in a romantic relationship with them. You are still a minor, Amber, so it was Caine’s responsibility as an adult to behave appropriately. There are, however, things you can do to avoid the snares of a predator. You should never be online with a stranger because you don’t know who they really are or why they are contacting you. Talk to your parents or a trusted adult if you have any questions about communicating with someone. There are even blocks for your phone, computer, or other devices to prevent incoming pornography and unwanted content.”
Leah sighed and thought of the children who were sold by their parents to sex traffickers, so they could have money to live. If they could experience the horror, violence, neglect, and abuse their children suffer, they may not be so quick to hand them over to these monsters. We must tell parents Jesus loves them, and if they turn their lives over to Him, He will supply all their needs.
“I was mad at God for many years,” Leah shared, “for allowing my mother’s boyfriend to molest me. It wasn’t until I started reading the Bible that I realized how much Jesus loves me and didn’t want this to happen. Years ago, God created a perfect universe until Adam and Eve disobeyed Him, and sin came into the world. Now suffering, wickedness, and death are all a part of our existence on earth, but one day God will create a new Heaven and earth where there will be no pain or tears, sin, or death. We were designed to have free will and can choose to obey God or to sin. When someone like Caine decides to behave like a predator, it is not the fault of our Creator, but the heinous act of a sex trafficker. However, because of God’s great love for us, He sent His Son Jesus to be crucified so He could take the punishment for our sins on Himself. If we confess our sins to God and surrender our life to Him, we become His child, and Jesus comes to dwell in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. He will encourage, lead, and guide us, and someday take us to Heaven to live with Him.”
“It says in Psalm 34:18, ‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’ God cares deeply when we suffer from abuse, but He knows we can never be truly free unless we choose to forgive those who have wounded us. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you’re saying what they’ve done is okay, but you can have peace knowing you have given it over to God. He is in control of all things and will one day make all things right. It wasn’t until I believed God loved me personally and wanted what’s best for me that I could forgive my abuser and extend the same mercy to him that the Lord extends to me.”
“God made you unique and special, Amber, and you are so loved by Him. His love is pure and holy, kind, and good, and you’re very precious to God.” “I don’t feel like I deserve His love,” Amber said quietly. “None of us do,” Leah explained, “but it is unconditional, so there isn’t anything we can do that He won’t forgive. I spent many years despising my mother’s boyfriend for what he had done, and my mother for not believing me. I knew bitterness and hate were destroying my life, so I asked Jesus to forgive all my sin. I will never forget what happened to me, but I no longer live each day dwelling on the details of my past. The Lord has given me a purpose to share His love with others, so they’ll find hope and healing as they put their faith in Him. It says in 2 Cor. 1:4 ‘He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.’”
Amber had been listening intently and said, “I believe God arranged for me to meet you so that you could be a comfort to me. I don’t want to live with fear and anger in my heart, so I’m asking the Lord to come into my life and make me the person He wants me to be.” Amber closed her eyes and bowed her head, and she began to pray, “Dear Jesus, Thank You for loving me enough to die on the cross to pay for my sin. I am sorry for all the things I’ve ever done to displease You. I ask You to forgive my sins and be my Lord and Savior. I need Your help to feel safe again and know who I can trust. Please guide me as I read the Bible and lead me to people who can mentor me in Your Word. I want to live for You, Jesus, and be more like You every day and comfort others when I share what You have done for me. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Leah and Amber began praising the Lord for the young teen’s newfound peace. Then a policeman appeared in the doorway of the waiting room to inform them of Caine’s arrest. He asked Amber if she was willing to try and identify her kidnapper in a lineup. Her face became pale, and she grew fearful of seeing her abductor again, but she remembered Jesus was with her to give courage and strength to aid in the investigation. Amber was elated to hear the girls had been freed and arrangements made for their safe return. There was a joyous reunion when Amber’s parents arrived, and they thanked Leah for taking good care of their daughter. Amber would need to work through the trauma she had endured, but with Jesus as her Savior and friend, she knew that she would heal. She planned to tell others how the Lord had saved her and given her new life in Christ, so they could find hope in trusting in Jesus and someday be with Him in Heaven. By Bev Yellowley