What is a shelter? As we consider what children in trafficking situations have to face, let us use this article to see how we might be able to step into prevention instead of restoration for these children.

I have been thinking a lot about shelters.

What it takes to build them and what it means to be one. I have got much more to learn about both of these.

lake with the small shelter

We have chased down girls stolen from their homes, taken and handed out to men in a jungle brothel.

I have sat crossed-legged across from a mother begging me to take her 13-year-old daughter away to somewhere safe.

I have wrapped my arms around a girl I watched grow up, now being traded and used.

How has Compassion First helped to build shelters?

Compassion First has been invited to build shelters throughout Indonesia, but what if we all became shelters everywhere we are?

Maybe she would not need an aftercare shelter now if she had a safe place to run to then… a neighbor, a teacher, a friend, someone who was paying attention, someone willing to stop and listen, or maybe even to stand in the way.

It is complicated. Poverty and desperation fuel measures unimaginable in the context of our western realities. In some parts of the world, the math almost adds up to selling one child to feed three others starving at home.

We are raising money, working with police, searching for buildings, and saying our prayers, but sometimes it does not take much to be the answer to someone else’s prayers.

Sometimes providing shelter means simply showing up.

We launched a sponsorship program to help care for the most beautiful and talented kids on the planet. They also are among the most vulnerable. They live in a red-light district where darkness preys on the innocent as a way of life. In addition to the education and practical care sponsorship provides, it seems the traffickers in the community are increasingly aware of which kids have a “sponsor parent,” because that connection could complicate their ugly agenda. It seems knowing she is not alone can be reason enough for them to leave her alone.

Opening the doors of a new shelter can bring hope to hundreds, but it is the wide-open arms of God that heal the world.

I think about her often. She is the inspiration and reason why we came. We came to build a shelter so she could heal. She is waiting, yet already on her way. With her arms raised high and tears splashing onto her sandals. I could see in her eyes and hear in her song she is figuring out where to run.

Not to a place.

Shelter is a person.

The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

About the author: Valerie Bellamy is the Director of Operations for Compassions First Compassion First (CF) operates two long-term aftercare homes, with a third home underway, and one transitional home for survivors of sex trafficking in Indonesia. CF also runs a community development operation for awareness and prevention work, including child sponsorships, family strengthening, and entrepreneurship programs.

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