Trustee, Blackbox International
It was about 5:00 in the morning, and after the best night of sleep that week, I awoke full of energy. Not a soul was stirring on the tiny Pacific resort in Ghana. I decided to go for a walk.
I had ben part of a Christ In Youth team that spent time training youth workers from around the country, and then assisting them in leading a large youth conference. As a way to express grattitude, the CIY leaders let us have some R&R on the last day of our ten day trip.
The ocean water lapped over my feet as I plodded along the beach. And just when the sun began to peek over the horizon, I saw signs of life ahead. My beach walk was blocked by several large boulders, so I climbed. At the top of the largest rock, I sat down and watched ten or so fishermen as they drug their boats and nets to the water. But there was something unusual about these fishermen – they were just boys. Some were maybe in their teen years, but most were much younger.
I watched them navigate their boats out into the water, where they began casting nets. I thought that they probably did not get to go to school, which is unfortunate. And I assumed that their families were poor. But the thought never entered my mind that they could be slaves. I knew that child slavery existed. I was pretty sure that I had even seen it a few times in the cities of Manilla and Accra. But it never entered my mind on that beautiful beach.
I recently read about Pam Cope’s remarkable story in her book “Janten’s Gift.” Just a few years ago, she began an incredible work to rescue and provide aftercare for children who were enslaved. They were forced into a grueling life of fishing for their master. Boys as young as four years old were found being forced to fish from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week. Many were beaten. Most were hungry. All of them knew many other boys who had drowned.
I have thought a lot about those boys whom I saw fishing on that serene morning in Ghana. Maybe they were part of an unfortunate family, just doing their best for their parents. Or maybe they were slaves. Maybe they were terribly mistreated. Maybe they were starving. Maybe they were wondering if their parents would come to their rescue. Maybe they saw me.
In my volunter work with Blackbox International, I’ve learned how often my story has been lived out. We talked to many people who had seen trafficked boys, but they just didn’t realize it. Maybe their minds just didn’t allow them the possibility of realizing such horrors. Maybe they were too busy to notice. Maybe they just did not know what to look for.
One of the beautiful things that Blackbox is doing is helping people see what is already in front of them.
I’m pretty convinced that my story gets lived out in different ways. We see a friend, but we miss the hurt underneath. We chat with a waitress, but don’t know that she’s broken. We ask, “How are you?” but don’t give space for an honest answer.
Jesus had a way of seeing people’s hearts. Did he have supernatural advantages? Sometimes, but I’m not sure how often he tapped into that advantage. The Bible often points to something else in Jesus – compassion. His great compassion for people led him to see beyond the surface. It led him to create space for people to talk with him. It caused him to step away from the mob in order to listen to the person, the broken woman, the educated Pharisee, and the young child. He never failed to notice that he was looking at someone who was hurting, broken, confused or enslaved.
Don’t you want to be like that? People desperately need us to be like that. And God can help us be like that.