Woman behind the window in Amsterdam's red-light district
In honor of human trafficking awareness day--here's an Anti-Trafficking Hero!
Toos came to visit me last evening—(That’s TOOS-pronounced like “toast” without the ending “t”…) I’ve known her since 1997 when she made a pilgrimage to Thailand, trying to decide whether to become a missionary or marry her boyfriend. She did both! She married handsome Willem (I call them “Barbie and Ken”!) and she continued being a missionary—in her home country, in the red-light district of Amsterdam, Netherlands. She shared with me last night that after she felt God calling her to “do something!” about meeting women in prostitution with God’s Love, she didn’t know “what to do”. (Oh, how often I hear that!) She wasn’t sure she had anything to offer, really. But one thing she knew: she was good at talking to people! And so she just started: knocking on the store-front windows where the women work, and being her friendly self. The young women “behind the windows” responded to her smile and her openness—and she found that many of them wanted to talk and share their sadness, pain, betrayal. She was invited to join the staff of the Christian organization “Scarlet Cord” as their volunteer coordinator and eventually did an advanced degree in social work. But in those beginnings, it was just her willingness to be vulnerable, to surrender to Christ’s service with her simple gift of friendliness that led to the freedom of so many women who felt trapped behind those windows. Over these years, I’ve walked those streets with her many times—and I never grow tired of seeing the sad eyes of the women light up when they see her. She truly is Jesus’ “light-bringer” in the midst of that darkness!
Toos’ life and powerful ministry in this world of human trafficking is testimony to some simple principles: 1) We don’t have to have it all figured out before we begin and 2) there’s nothing like being faithful to “show up” in the places of darkness using whatever gifts God has given us in God’s service. Last week I wrote about God’s gifts of visa and housing coming to me. Similarly, God is opening surprising doors for Toos to walk through—on behalf of some of the most exploited and abused in our world. And many things are changing here, for the better. Not because she and her colleagues have carried banners or signs or protested or screamed or pounded on the doors of parliament. But simply because they’ve shown the most exploited and abused victims of our world the unconditional love of Jesus. Toos has continued to learn and grow and study and educate herself. About 2 years ago, now, she began working as the Director of the Netherlands base of the international organization “Not for Sale”, innovating and visioning ways that for-profit and non-profit organizations, together, can best combat human trafficking and bring hope and healing to victims. It’s an important job that came to her at a time when she was praying about more challenging and effective ways for God to use her knowledge and gifts. The most important thing: Toos has listened to the voice of the One who Called her those years ago and she has stayed close his heart. She realizes that, after all, combating evil is ultimately God’s work. And God is multiplying the offering of her life many, many times over—way beyond anything she could have ever imagined.