Human Trafficking Story

Special Delivery: A Human Trafficking Story

Kathi MaciasBy Kathi Macias23 Minutes

Excerpt from Special Delivery by Kathi Macias


It was good to be back in San Diego, though Mara made it a point to avoid going anywhere near the area where she’d once lived as a modern-day slave. The memories were too ugly, and she did everything possible to block them out. When the topic came up—which it did all too often these days, as the general public became more aware of its prevalence—Mara immediately changed the subject or walked away. It was an evil best left for others to combat.

The early summer sun shone warm on her dark hair, cut short now in a modern style that complimented her dainty features and accentuated her large hazel eyes. Her good looks and trim figure often drew whistles and comments, but she ignored them all. Having a man in her life didn’t even rate at the bottom of her priority list.

Mara closed her eyes and let the mild breeze toss her hair and caress her skin. There was nothing she liked better than coming to the beach and finding a deserted spot to sit and listen to the waves rush in and break on the packed, wet sand. It was nearly impossible to find such a private place on the weekends, but this was mid-morning on Monday, and the place wouldn’t start filling up until closer to lunchtime. By then she’d be at work.

She smiled at the thought of her new job. She was a waitress now, making enough in wages and tips to rent a room and meet her basic needs. Though she’d taken advantage of UI benefits, specifically designed to help people from other countries who had been victims of crime while in the United States, it had still taken her nearly two years to get all the necessary paperwork cleared so she could not only come to the States legally but do so as a U.S. citizen. But she’d been persistent, determined to leave her homeland of Mexico, with all its violence and corruption and poverty, behind. Even with all that had happened to her here in Southern California during her youth, she knew that America held more promise for her than the country of her birth. And besides, what did she have to hold her there? It was her parents who had sold her into slavery, and her own uncle, her tío, who had stolen her innocence, held her captive, and served as her pimp until at last he was captured and sent to prison. So far as she was concerned, her family was dead to her. She had no desire ever to see any of them again.

Mara opened her eyes and watched a tanned, bathing-suit clad couple stroll along the sand in front of her, the waves lapping at their bare feet. Arms wrapped around one another’s waist, they seemed oblivious to anything or anyone else, talking and laughing together as if they were the only human beings on earth. The thought skittered through Mara’s mind that she might have a relationship like that one day, but just as quickly she excised it from her realm of possibility. At barely twenty years old, she’d already had enough of the male population to last her for several lifetimes.

Affirming that thought with a quick nod of her head, she grabbed the towel she’d been sitting on and stood to her feet. She didn’t have a car yet, but it was only a ten-minute walk to the seafood café where she was now employed.

Gainfully and respectably employed, she reminded herself. Tío used to tell me I’d never be anything but a prostitute, and that he’d kill me before he’d let me leave. But look at me now—free as a bird while he rots in prison. Maybe there really is a God after all….

Chapter 1

“So, what do you think, Sis? I’m halfway through four years of Bible college and you’re officially out of high school now. Where do we go from here?”

Leah, eyes closed and head tilted back to enjoy the noonday sun, felt her smile move up from her heart before she let it take over her face. It was so good to have Jonathan home for the summer! The excitement of his coming home in time for her graduation the previous Thursday was more overwhelming to her than the graduation itself. True, the ceremony had been nice, as had the family dinner and the overnight trip to Disneyland with the rest of her class afterward. But on a scale of one to ten, the importance of those events scarcely registered in comparison to having her only brother home for the next couple of months.

Leah used her bare foot to nudge the porch swing back and forth. She could feel her brother’s presence, even though there were several inches of green and white striped fabric between them. The modest home where they’d grown up in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista had always been a haven to the two siblings, the hub out of which flowed all their activities and dreams and plans for the future. What more appropriate place could there be for the two of them to envision what was yet to come?

“Sometimes I think I’d like to know what’s around the next corner,” Leah answered, not moving but opening her eyes to glance at Jonathan, who stared at the fenced lawn in front of him as he listened to her answer. Focusing on his finely chiseled features and short auburn hair, shining like fire in the mid-morning sun, combined with his six-foot-two frame and broad shoulders, made Leah wonder what was wrong with the girls at that college he attended. Either they were awfully slow on the uptake, or he was really playing hard to get. Leah imagined it was the latter. She remembered how many girls had crushes on her big brother throughout his high school years, but other than an occasional date, he scarcely gave them a second look. Leah’s smile widened. Sooner or later the right one would come along, and he’d be a goner for sure.

“Other times,” she continued, “I think it’s better not to know, don’t you? I kind of like letting God surprise me.”

Jonathan grinned as he turned toward her, his brown eyes dancing. “Absolutely. I used to think I knew what I wanted out of life—a professional baseball career, period. That was all I thought and dreamed about. Then God got hold of my heart and showed me how small my dreams really were.” He paused and sighed, his smile fading a bit. “I just wish that realization hadn’t come with such a high price for someone else.”

Leah sat up straight and laid her hand on her brother’s bare arm. It was warm from the sun, and muscular beneath her touch. “You’re not still blaming yourself for Jasmine’s death, are you?”

Jonathan dropped his eyes before raising them again and shaking his head. “No. I’m not. Not really, anyway. I know it probably would have happened, one way or the other, whether I’d run into them at that motel that evening or not. But the memory of her face, the fear in her eyes… I’ll never forget that. And I don’t think I’m supposed to. God had a purpose for planting that memory in my mind.”

Leah nodded. She had no doubt Jonathan was right. The events of those few weeks just two years earlier, when it was her brother and not she who was graduating from high school, had been indelibly imprinted on her memory as well. Each time she considered how close Jonathan had come to being hurt, or even killed, she experienced a fresh appreciation for God’s divine timing and protection. That God had used Jonathan to help break up a human trafficking ring that forced teens and even young children to be sex slaves—right here in the San Diego area—was nothing short of miraculous. God had also used the situation to draw Jonathan into a deep, personal relationship with Himself, and for that Leah was exceptionally grateful. Though she and Jonathan had always been close, their brother-sister ties had been limited to the temporary status within their immediate family. Once Jonathan moved from having a head knowledge of Christ to inviting Him into his heart, the bond between brother and sister had become eternal.

“Do you ever think about the other girls?” Leah asked. “I mean, I know you remember Jasmine, but…what about Mara? Do you ever wonder what happened to her after the authorities busted up that ring?”

Jonathan’s gaze moved away then, and he stared into the distance before looking back. When his eyes were once again fixed on her face, Leah saw his jaw twitch before he spoke. “I think about her a lot,” he admitted. “I only saw her a few times—the first time at the motel with Jasmine, and then the night we ended up calling the cops and seeing those scumbags that prostituted those poor kids arrested. And, of course, during the trials when we both had to testify. But yeah, I think about her and wonder what she’s doing now. Dad said he heard from Barbara at church that Mara went into a rehab ministry just south of the border while she waited to get U.S. citizenship through UI benefits, but I don’t know anything about her after that.”

“Neither do I,” Leah said. “I should ask Dad. He probably knows or at least could find out, since Barbara has ties with that ministry in Mexico. Do you want me to ask him?”

Jonathan paused before shaking his head. “Nah. Probably better not to. The girl needs to make a life for herself. I’m sure the last thing she wants is to be reminded of what her uncle did to her. I wonder about her and pray for her—the other kids that were involved too—but I think it’s best to just leave it alone.”

Leah nodded. Jonathan was right. Mara had undoubtedly moved on with her life, as had they. But she was glad that the events of two years earlier had thrown their entire family into the ministry of rescuing human trafficking victims and helping them recover and get established in new and productive lives.

It’s enough, she told herself. Mara and the others were all sent somewhere to get help, and we really don’t need to follow up on them. There are plenty of others who need our help. For now, like Jonathan said, we’ll pray for Mara. It can’t be easy trying to adapt to a normal life after living as a slave for so many years. Still, I can’t help but wonder where she is, and what she’s doing….


The lunch crowd was thinner than usual today, and Mara knew that meant less in tips. Good thing she lived in Southern California where the weather was almost always decent, making walking a viable option for getting around. Occasionally she splurged and rode the bus or trolley when she had to traverse large sections of the greater San Diego area, but fortunately that didn’t happen often and she was able to get around on foot just fine.

She smiled in greeting at the two middle-aged women who had just settled into a booth in her section. “Welcome to Mariner’s,” she said, placing a glass of ice water in front of each of them. “Our specials today are clam chowder and fresh cod fish and chips.”

The women glanced up and smiled, though neither responded to her greeting. Then they returned their attention to their menus. Good. Mara preferred the no-frills customers to the chatty ones. If her tips were going to be light, she didn’t want to spend any more time than necessary conversing with the clientele.

An elderly gentleman at the next table motioned to her. “Can we get our check, please?”

Mara nodded. “Sure thing.” She reached in her pocket and pulled out the ticket she’d been planning to deliver anyway and laid it in front of the old man, who sat across from a gray-haired woman who was still working on her chowder.

“I’m not quite done yet,” the woman commented between slurps. “He’s always rushing me.”

The man frowned. “I am not. You’re just slow, that’s all. Sometimes I think you poke along on purpose.”

The woman set her spoon down in the bowl. “Now why would I do that?”

Before he could answer, Mara interrupted. “Just take your time,” she said, immediately wanting to defend the woman from what she imagined was her unreasonably impatient husband. She smiled at them both and walked back toward the kitchen. Would she ever get to the place where she didn’t automatically blame men for every problem in the world? She doubted it.

She grabbed another couple of glasses of water, balancing them carefully in one hand, ready to deliver them to the two men she’d just seen walk in, and snagged the coffee pot with the other. The guy at the counter was making a point of draining his cup as he watched her from his perch, so he no doubt was ready for a refill. She sighed. She might still be making a living by giving people what they wanted, but at least now she got paid for it—and she could quit anytime she wanted.


Lawan’s tenth birthday had come and gone, and she was no closer to escaping the brothel than when she’d been kidnapped and tossed into the dark, filthy room two years earlier.

When Chanthra was still here, she thought, tears stinging her eyes at the memory of the older girl who had helped her survive those first terrifying days. Chanthra. How she missed her! They’d had only a few short weeks together before the teenager had succumbed to an infection brought on by a forced abortion, but it had been long enough for Lawan to be nearly certain that the girl named Chanthra had been her older sister.

A girl called Kulap, who was slightly older than Lawan, had taken Chanthra’s mattress and most of her customers, but though she and Lawan shared a room, they had never become close. It is easier that way, Lawan told herself. It hurt too much to lose Chanthra. If Kulap dies before I do, I do not want to feel that kind of pain again.

Of course, she realized such a loss would not be as deep as what she experienced with Chanthra, simply because she had come to believe Chanthra was her sister. Two years later, she was even more certain that was true. Would they soon be reunited with phra yaeh suu—with Jesus Christ—when Lawan died? For Lawan knew no one lived long in this place. A few lived into their twenties, but then they were thrown out onto the street to fend for themselves. Lawan shivered at the thought. She tried to hold onto her faith in phra yaeh suu, as her Christian parents had taught her—a faith that had been shared by Chanthra—but it was so difficult to believe in One who died and rose again so many years ago when all Lawan knew from one day to the next was more pain and darkness. From the time Lawan had foolishly ventured too far from home and been kidnapped and dumped into this horrible place, the only happy memories she had were the hours she had spent with Chanthra.

“I miss you, Chanthra,” she whispered into the pre-dawn light that peeked through the room’s only window. “I wish I could be with you. Is it really as beautiful there as our maae used to tell us it would be?”

The only answer was a moan from the girl on the other mattress, just a few feet away. Soon the sun would rise above their little Golden Triangle corner of Thailand, and it would burn hot and merciless, turning the room into a steamy oven as the girls rested until the cooler evening temperatures brought their first customers of the night.

Lawan closed her eyes. She knew from experience how hard the approaching hours could be. Until then, she would sleep and try to forget.

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