International Ministries

Death Threat

May 16, 2011 Journal
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"Everybody not angry police; everybody angry you! You do this, maybe next time someone kill you.” The Uzbek woman’s angry eyes avoided mine but there was no mistaking the hostility. I heard the words but they didn’t sink in. We had come to this coffee shop hoping to talk with the trafficked women who come in to seek a few minutes reprieve from hours of streetwalking. Choosing a seat next to some victims, we attempted a conversation. The response was cold and abrupt-evasive. A phone call was made and though it was a different language, there was no doubt it was about us. The sudden arrival of the controllers who intercepted by sitting between the victims and us, confirmed our suspicions. They fired their fabricated accusations at us without pause. We had been framed for the police raid that led to the temporary arrest of a trafficker and accused further of abuse of the two rescued victims. The death threat was her final blow delivered on behalf of her boss, the trafficker.

I heard the words but I don’t remember feeling anything. She suddenly appeared to me as a small scared girl rather than an angry and aggressive controller. I reached out and took her hand. She didn’t pull it away. “Look in my eyes,” I said to her. She turned reluctantly but couldn’t hold the gaze. “Look in my eyes,” I said again more firmly, and she looked back uncomfortably. “Maybe someone kill me. Maybe.  I am not afraid. I will take the risk because we care about the women here. We care about you.” Her eyes had already escaped my hold, but I tried to tell her that we had not orchestrated the raid. We had only been called in to help the women and to translate. The woman asked a couple of guarded questions, trying to keep the upper hand of interrogation and intimidation, but she was losing ground. She made a phone call to the trafficker, and then left.

We waited awkwardly for a bit and then got up. As we left, we could feel the tension as the trafficked women we passed ignored our eyes and then stared at our backs. Our informant, who works in the area, sent word that we should be careful and that we were in danger. Somehow he felt we had blown it and would be better off not returning. The street was all a-buzz with the story of who we were, and what our supposed role was in the arrest of the trafficker. We could feel the story being twisted as it was relayed from one to another along our path. We had upset the system. The trafficker was out of jail and determined to regain her position of influence and undermine ours. Someone had to pay for this, and she wanted us to know she had made her choice. My colleague was worried and lectured me on being careful. I laughed and tried to make light of it.

It’s a strange thing to ponder the possibility of your own death as a result of ministry. I’ve read and admired too many stories of martyrs to exempt myself from the possibility. Each story I had read however, begged the question of me, “Would I be loyal to my Christ? Do I have the courage it would take?” As I pondered this death threat, the possible scenarios flash through my mind. How would they do it? An image of a gun aimed at me flashed before my eyes. Not likely, I argued – too obvious. These people are all here illegally, one way or another, and can’t risk an obvious crime. Maybe they would grab me, throw me in a taxi, and take me somewhere else to teach me a brutal lesson? Possible – Ugh! I quickly deleted that image from my mind. This was my martyr scene and I wanted it to be poignant - meaningful - heroic. I imagined another scenario in which my eyes and words communicated such a love of God that the killer is unarmed and falls headfirst into the kingdom of God. Why stop there? The whole ring – no, everyone involved in the case – they all would see the love of Christ, and the entire area would be transformed into a place of love and grace.

“Mom, are you going to court today?” My 14-year-old son’s question interrupted my sappy death scene from its delusional trip to nowhere. I told him we decided not to go fan the flame of conflict by encountering the trafficker. He was relieved. “Oh good, because I don’t want you to die.” My resolve to being a heroic martyr quickly eroded. “I am not afraid to die, but I want to live,” I told him. “I want to be around for you, and I believe God has a lot left for me to do here on earth.” He nodded with relief, and left me to process the situation with a new dose of reality.

Am I willing to die? Yes – I think. Probably – I hope. It’s a good question to ponder (in humility) but I realized that God is doing something bigger in this case then we can wrap our limited minds around. Personal safety, though important, has never been the goal of missions. There is a bigger story that is taking place of the battle between darkness and light, justice and injustice, death and life, good and evil.  We fought long and hard on behalf of the victims, but then desperate to return home and avoid retaliation, the victims turned against us in court. The trafficker, already out on bail, gloated over her small victory. We retreated as we processed the feelings of betrayal. One of the victims called us that night, and the anger melted away as we told her we loved her and would pray for her. It was the last time we would hear from them in Bangkok. Defying the letter of the law, they escaped charges for perjury and were quietly snuck out of the country. The law took a hit, but justice regained the upper hand in delivering the victims to safety.

It has been 10 years since God first planted the vision in my heart to help the Uzbek trafficked women in Bangkok. In the last 4 years, NL’s team has assisted 15 Uzbek victims in escaping their traffickers and returning home. We know it’s just the beginning and there will be many more. With the recent victims safely out of the way, we now begin to head back to the area of conflict. It feels anti-climatic, but still we re-engage, watching our backs and cautiously taking the offensive. “Can plunder be taken from warriors or captives rescued from the fierce? This is what the Lord says: Yes, captives will be taken from warriors and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save.” (Isaiah 49:24-25)  Fear and death lurk in the fierce shadows warning us to stay away, but there is no fear in love and we know that we are more than conquerors through Him. Compelled by the love of Christ for the broken-hearted, we will be relentless in pursuing justice and setting the captives free. In His name, we go forward to infiltrate the kingdom of darkness and we call to the captives, “Come out,” and we declare to those in darkness, “Be Free.” Your God is mighty to save!

Annie Dieselberg
CEO NightLight

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