First Baptist Church of Rahway, 177 Elm Ave., Rahway, New Jersey 07065 is a multi-cultural congregation that has a Blended English Service on Sunday Mornings, a Latino Service at 12:00, and a Service in Telugu at 3:30PM. For more information, call (732) 388-8626. Or click here to send an email. If you wish to help the Mission and Ministry of First Baptist financially click the Donate Button.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Emma is Freed from Slavery through Courage and Trust in God

By Debbie Kelsey

A young woman who we’ll call “Emma,” was 22 years old when she left her African village for what she thought would be a brighter future in Holland. She had grown up without finishing high school and worked in a local shop to help support her mother and siblings. When the shop owner asked Emma to work in her husband’s large store in Holland, she gratefully accepted.

But Emma’s hopeful dream became a frightful nightmare when her plane landed in Italy, not Holland. Upon meeting the shop owner’s dishonest husband, she learned that she would owe him 30,000 Euros ($45,000) to pay for her air flight and living expenses. He then said that prostitution was the only work for her since she didn’t have a legal document permitting her to work in Italy.

The man took Emma to an area of his town where other African women stood waiting for customers and told them to teach her. Night after night when Emma produced only a little income, the man threatened to beat her. The other women asked her to stay with them until she could get her own place.

Emma was full of fear. Would the man find her and beat her? Without documents and not speaking Italian, how was she going to survive? She came from a culture where the police could not be trusted so she never thought to ask for help, fearing that she might be sent back to Africa. She felt her only option was to work the streets in Italy.

Eventually someone invited Emma to the Baptist church where my husband, Jim, and I were serving. Emma attended every week, but she still felt shame and fear. Without feeling there were any other options, Emma continued to work on the streets, just enough to survive. I explained to her and the other young women in the church how Italy had a program to help trafficked women get out of prostitution and stay in Italy. Out of fear Emma chose not to the program, and in time she was arrested for being undocumented.

When I visited Emma in jail I suggested that she enter this special program sponsored by the Italian government. Even though her fear was great, Emma announced, “I am not going back to the streets. God has let me be arrested so I can get out of that life.”

Following 60 days in jail, Emma worshipped again with us, giving glory to God, who had set her free! But she remained without work and in danger of deportation if she were arrested again. The church helped her financially as much as possible.

In 2009, we found a Baptist family who agreed to have Emma help with their elderly mother and work at their bed and breakfast. This family has been teaching Emma marketable skills that can be used to get other jobs once her residency paperwork is completed. Since they were not able to pay for the costs of getting Emma registered, we were able to use some of the funds from our American Baptist Women’s Ministries “Break the Chains” project. Because of the love of Christ shown through his church, Emma has been freed from slavery. She is now trusting God and is no longer a slave to a trafficker, to sexual exploitation, and to the fear of being arrested and deported.

Debbie and Jim Kelsey are American Baptist Missionaries in Italy. Learn more about them here.

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