SOUTH AFRICA (BP) -- With violence increasing in parts of his Nigerian homeland, Sterling* fled to South Africa to pursue a business opportunity he had been promised by the man who sold him his visa.
Sterling soon realized, however, that it was all a lie when he got there two years ago. He had spent his savings to get to South Africa but became stranded without a job.
Sterling is one of thousands of foreigners looking for work in a country plagued by an estimated 25 percent unemployment rate.
After Sterling played a game of soccer with some guys at a park, one of them offered him a job. Selling drugs and girls, he was told, is a quick, easy way to make money in South Africa.
Now at age 25, Sterling is deep in the pit of trafficking girls into sexual slavery.
"There's no good in what I do," he says. "There's nothing good about who I am. I never wanted to be where I am today. I know I make God angry because of the things I do. I just know I am keeping myself from God, but it's not my fault."
Gabrielle*, 21, has been bought and sold by several traffickers over the past few years. Sterling owns her now.
She is one of an estimated 27 million victims of human trafficking around the world.
Southern Baptists' gifts through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program help IMB missionaries share with human trafficking victims how to find true worth in Christ. Among them: Martha Richards*, a missionary in Johannesburg, who was researching human trafficking in South Africa when God gave her an eagerness to help girls escape from the bondage of sexual slavery.
Richards provided a ride for Sterling and Gabrielle to meet with social workers at a safe home in Johannesburg. They wanted to discuss Gabrielle's option to give up her daughter Abbey* for adoption. After daily exposure to her mother's business, 18-month-old Abbey was taken to the safe home because of child neglect.
Sterling and Gabrielle had been kicked out of their apartment the night before because they were seriously behind in payments to their landlord.
"We don't know where we're going to sleep or what we're going to eat in the morning," Gabrielle said. "I would like for Abbey to be adopted by a family that can love her and care for her."
Both Gabrielle and Sterling want to get out of the trafficking business but do not know how.
Knowing they are desperate for a Savior, God used IMB volunteer Riley Reynolds* to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them.
"It is like God is saying: 'Get out of there. I don't want you here. I don't want you doing this anymore,"' Gabrielle said.
Sterling and Gabrielle can escape from the deceptive world of modern-day slavery by the power of God. Pray the Holy Spirit will open their eyes to their need for Christ and lead them to surrender their lives to Him.
*Names changed. Meghan Hendrickson served as an intern with IMB's global communication team.
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