Excerpt from The Deliverer by Kathi Macias
The sun set early in late November, and though a pleasant warm spell had kept San Diego’s daytime temperatures in the lower eighties for the past week or so, the air cooled quickly as darkness approached.
Mara didn’t mind. She loved watching the sun go down over the Pacific at any time of year and in any sort of weather. Just being able to sit on the seawall and watch the colorful streaks in the broad expanse of sky, seeming to frame the dark and restless ocean, reminded her of how precious her freedom was and how much she’d endured before obtaining it.
She zipped her windbreaker against the encroaching dampness and then gazed down at the envelope in her hand, postmarked Juarez, Mexico. She’d nearly memorized the words in the one-page letter, handwritten by the fifteen-year-old girl Mara had helped to rescue just months earlier. Mara had been working at her waitressing job when she spotted Francesca with her owner and immediately recognized the signs of a girl caught up in human trafficking. The situation had dredged up many of her own dark memories, but Mara was glad she’d been in the right place at the right time to assist the girl’s release and eventual return to her family.
I’m just glad she had a family and a home to go back to, Mara thought, resisting the tears that bit her eyes as she compared Francesca’s situation to her own. At least Francesca had been kidnapped, not sold into slavery by her own parents.
Mara shook her head. She had to stop this constant slipping back into self-pity about her past and just enjoy the present. She was free now, working and hoping to start classes at the local college after the first of the year. It was more than she had ever dreamed of during her ten years of captivity.
She pulled the letter from the envelope and squinted to re-read portions of it in the fading light. The baby will come soon…not sure yet about adoption…praying for the right answer. Mara too had become pregnant during the years she lived as a sex slave—several times, actually—but she’d never even had the chance to choose to carry her babies to term. Always there was a forced abortion…and always she had to suppress her grief and go right back to the life she despised.
Never again, she told herself. And never again for Francesca. But what about all the others…?
The tears won over at that point, dripping onto her cheeks as she thought of Jasmine and others who had died at the hands of their abusers. She thought too of what she’d heard about a young Thai girl named Lawan, rescued from a brothel in the Golden Triangle and even now winging her way across the ocean to join her adoptive family right here in the San Diego area.
One more set free…so many left behind. No matter how hard she tried, Mara could not banish that truth from her thoughts. She’d often talked about that very thing to her friend Barbara Whiting, the lady involved with an outreach to human trafficking victims, and Barbara too had lamented the many who never escaped. “But that doesn’t mean we quit trying to help them,” she’d said. “We may save only a small percentage of them, but each life we save is precious and makes our efforts worthwhile.”
Each life? Even mine? Mara wasn’t so sure, though she wanted desperately to believe it. The reminder that she had also discussed this topic with Jonathan, the handsome Bible college student who had helped rescue her more than two years earlier, brought a rush of heat to her cheeks, and she was glad for the near darkness that hid her emotions. She had tried to deny her feelings for Jonathan and to hide them from him, but he’d faithfully kept in touch with her through letters since going back to school this past fall. One of the things he said to her over and over again was that her life was precious to God and that He loved her and had a purpose for her. At times she dared to believe it, but most of the time…
A taunting male voice from a passing car interrupted her thoughts as he called out a suggestive comment to her and then laughed as the vehicle sped away. Mara recoiled at the sound and shoved the letter back into the envelope. She stood up from the seawall, brushed the sand off the back of her jeans, and turned toward home. She had to work the breakfast shift in the morning, so she’d better get to bed early. Tomorrow was Saturday, and Mariner’s would be busy. She just hoped that meant some good tips because she could sure use the money.
Lawan had a window seat but was too frightened after her first glance downward after takeoff to look outside again. The closest the not quite eleven-year-old had come to an airplane prior to boarding more than a dozen hours earlier was occasionally seeing one pass by overhead. Even that hadn’t happened often once she’d been kidnapped and thrown into the brothel when she was scarcely eight years old.
Waking or sleeping, Lawan had clung to the hand of the lady named Joan Stockton, who had accompanied her on every portion of the long trip. Glancing up at the tall woman with the long brown hair, streaked with gray and clasped at the nape of her neck, Lawan felt her eyes fill with tears. Would she ever see this woman again? Once this terrifying plane got back onto the ground and Lawan’s new family claimed her, would Joan turn around and fly back to the orphanage and forget all about her?
With her free hand she swiped at the tears that trickled down her cheeks. Less than three years earlier Lawan had lived in a small village with parents who could scarcely keep food on the table. But we were together, she thought, and that was all that mattered. Now I know they’re not even alive anymore. I will never see them again until I go to heaven. She sighed. At least she knew they were now with their oldest daughter, Chanthra, Lawan’s older sister who had died right beside her in the brothel. That left no one in Lawan’s family still alive on this earth…except her five-year-old sister, Mali.
Anna, she corrected herself. She is now called Anna. Will Anna’s new parents give me a new name as well?
Lawan did not think she would like that very much. She liked her name. Lawan meant beautiful—and besides, her true parents had given her that name. She did not wish to change it, nor did she wish to call someone else Maae or Phor. Only her birth parents deserved to hold the revered titles of Mother and Father.
A man’s voice boomed in Lawan’s ears then, and the conversational English she had learned at the orphanage told her just enough to understand that they had nearly reached their destination.
Joan opened her eyes and sat forward, craning her neck to look out the window. “Look, Lawan,” she said in English, following through on her promise to help Lawan learn the language of her new country and reverting to Thai only when Lawan could not understand. “Look out the window. There’s San Diego—your new home!”
Fear and curiosity wrestled in the girl’s stomach, but at last she turned her eyes toward the window. The multitude and expanse of the lights below took her breath away. It looked like the entire land was on fire! How would she ever fit in to such a place?
But it was not the language or the lights that most frightened Lawan. Though she’d been through more in her short life than any human being should ever have to endure, she was terrified of what was to come when she finally turned loose of Joan’s hand and went to live with her new family. True, Mali would be there to welcome her, but Lawan and her younger sister had not seen one another in more than three years. Surely they would be strangers.
Joan released Lawan’s hand and pulled her into an embrace. “It’s going to be all right,” she whispered. “You’re going to be just fine, I promise.”
Lawan knew Joan had never lied to her, but this was one time she struggled to believe the kind woman’s words. How could she be just fine when everyone in her family had died—except one little girl who would not remember her? And though Joan had assured her that her American parents would not think badly of her because of her past, Lawan could not imagine how anyone could do otherwise.
Joan had kept a close eye on her young charge as they crossed the ocean, as well as several time zones, on their way from Thailand to the States. How confusing and frightening all of this must be to the child who had already been through so much heartache, only to be delivered from captivity and then swept into a completely unknown way of life! Even the fact that they had left her homeland on a Friday night and flown for hours, only to find it was still Friday night because of the time difference, would make the poor girl’s head swirl. Would she be able to adjust to all this change? Had Joan made a mistake in helping to push the adoption through? Might Lawan have been happier staying on at the orphanage?
Joan sighed. How many times had she asked herself these very questions and come up with no clear answers? And each time she had simply had to place the situation in the nail-scarred hands of the One who loved Lawan unconditionally, the One who promised that His plans for her were for good, and that He would give her a future and a hope as she walked with Him, one step at a time?
Joan saw the girl’s eyes widen at the sound of the landing gear dropping into place, signaling their imminent arrival in San Diego. As the aircraft touched down, Lawan inhaled sharply and clutched at Joan’s arm.
“What is happening?” she asked, reverting to her native Thai.
Joan smiled reassuringly. “We are back on the ground,” she explained, pulling the girl back to English. “We have landed safely, and soon you will meet your new family.”
Lawan’s dark eyes filled with tears, and she shook her head. “I do not want to meet them,” she whispered. “I have changed my mind. Can I please go home with you, back to Thailand and to my friends at the orphanage?”
Joan’s heart squeezed and she fought her own tears as she leaned over to gather the child into an embrace. “Everything will be all right, Lawan,” she said, praying her words would prove true. “You are going to love your new home and family—especially Anna. Won’t it be wonderful to be with your little sister again?”
She sensed an almost imperceptible nod from the girl, but the child’s shoulders shook at the same time, and Joan knew Lawan was anything but convinced of Joan’s promises.
“Is she here yet?” Anna asked, tugging on Nyesha’s hand. “Is my sister here?”
Nyesha glanced at Kyle, who gave her a nervous wink, as the three of them stood in front of the carousel that listed Lawan’s flight number and where they had agreed to meet their new daughter and her escort once they had cleared customs.
“Her plane is here,” Nyesha explained, kneeling down to look into Anna’s dark eyes. “It’s been here for a while now, but we have to be patient while Lawan and Mrs. Stockton get through customs. I’m sure they’ll be here any minute now.”
Anna’s brows drew together. “What’s a customs?”
Nyesha smiled. “It’s just a place here in the airport where people have to go when they fly in from another country. As soon as they talk to some people there, they can leave and come right here to us.”
The girl’s smile replaced her frown, and her eyes nearly danced as she spoke. “And then we can take my sister home?”
Nyesha chuckled, and she heard Kyle do the same. “Yes, sweetheart. Then we can take your sister home.”
Anna clapped her hands together and bounced with obvious excitement. “In one minute,” she said. “In one minute my sister’s coming!”
“I said ‘any minute,’ honey,” Nyesha cautioned. “That means soon, but maybe more than one minute.”
Her words didn’t seem to dampen Anna’s enthusiasm as the girl continued to bounce in place and peer toward the doorway where her father had explained that Lawan would appear. Nyesha sighed and stood up, hoping for Anna’s sake that it wouldn’t be much longer.
“There she is! There’s my sister!”
The excited cry startled Nyesha, and she jerked her glance toward the doorway. Sure enough, there stood a lovely but frail girl, her eyes wide as she clung to the hand of a tall white woman beside her. The girl’s dark hair and eyes, her dainty features were so much like Anna’s that Nyesha knew in that moment that Anna had been right. Her sister had indeed arrived, and the challenges of their expanding “rainbow family” were about to become a reality.
Also in this human trafficking series from Kathi Macias: Deliver Me from Evil
If you need help, call the Human Trafficking Hotline (toll-free): 1-888-373-7888
For more information go to Humantraffickinghotline.org
Order your copy of The Deliverer by Kathi Macias
Kathi Macias is an award-winning author of more than fifty books. A popular speaker for women’s retreats, conferences, churches, TV and radio, Kathi also does outreach to prison and homeless ministries. Learn more at kathimacias.com
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