This article was written by Kristin Keen during her time in India with the woman of the Sari Bari community.
I had a vision at the past staff retreat. God showed me a wall. I was behind it. I had weapons in my hand and was ready for war. I was scared and wild, and I was clenching the weapons with a fierceness that scared me. Then God said to me, “Kristin, look on the other side of the wall.” I peered around the wall, and, to my surprise, there was no one there. I was fighting an enemy that didn’t exist. I was so used to fighting my own demons and living in anger that I didn’t know how to put down my weapons and come out from behind the wall I had built.
I can see Jesus smiling tenderly as I cower behind that wall, making battle plans, directing my actions against invisible ghosts from the past – a woman in charge and in control of something she perceives in there. But He keeps pursuing me, reassuring me that He is calling me out from behind my walls in love. He is not going to humiliate me or point a finger at me or condemn me. He wants to heal me. He wants me to move from slavery to freedom. this is the process I must submit to, to be healed by love.
I can relate to the Israelites who complained when they left slavery, saying they were better off before they left Egypt. Their hearts weren’t submitted to the God of their journey. They had their own idea of what freedom should mean, and coming out from what was comfortable was frightening. They were so used to slavery that they didn’t know how to live in their newfound freedom. I assume they, like me, they wanted instant freedom from their pain and suffering. They wanted the Promised Land now instead of having to journey toward it.
I see this in the women of the Sari Bari, Our business that employs women trying to leave the sex trade. One of the original three employees had been sold by a family member into the sex trade when she was 14, was trafficked to various cities in India, and for more than half her life had been told, through words and actions, that she is worthless. Then she came to work at Sari Bari. And for the first time she was safe. No one was trying to hurt her – in fact, people were trying to love her. For the first time, she started to lay down her weapons so she could start the healing process.
But we watched her fumble and fight through it all. Her walls were too thick, and her grip on the weapons was strong. She couldn’t let go. She couldn’t submit to being healed by love, and she ended up leaving Sari Bari.
Another woman was in the sex trade for more than 25 years, until she was hired at our friends’ business. She told them, “You have to earn my trust.” Over the next six years, this woman was able to lay down her weapons and peek around the wall to see that the enemy was no longer there. She is walking a long road of healing, but she’s coming out on the other side. Now in leadership at that same business, she has started going back to the red-light districts to help other women gain freedom from the sex trade. She submitted to the process of healing and is finding herself moving toward the Promised Land cloaked in love.
sometimes leaving slavery takes more energy, patience and strength than one person can possess. Take our friends in the red-light area. They are fighting real enemies. Picking up their weapons and hiding behind their walls is a matter of survival. When they look over the wall, the enemy is still very, very real.
I often pray for safety for our community, the women at the Sari Bari and our friends in the red-light district. I pray that we would know that God is preparing a place for us with many rooms-rooms that are safe, where we can come out and lay down our weapons.
More and more I am beginning to understand that the journey from behind my wall to a healed and redeemed woman, from the red-light area to Sari Bar, or from slavery to freedom, is a road marked with many trials and much tribulation. this road has lots of pain, lots of reflection, lots of undoing the evil that was done to us and the evil we have imposed on others. But it’s a journey to which we must submit if we want healing. And it’s a journey marked by love.
Founder, CEO of Rethreaded
Kristin lived for five years in Kolkata, India where she co-founded, Sari Bari, a thriving business that gives survivors of human trafficking a way out of exploitation through employment. Sari Bari now employs more than 100 women. Upon her return to
Jacksonville, Kristin started forming relationships with women on the street. She found that the problem of human trafficking was flourishing in her own city and in 2012 she founded Rethreaded. Rethreaded is a safe, supportive work environment where women can start a new career while experiencing continued healing through community. When not at Rethreaded, Kristin is biking or swimming in the ocean at sunrise.