The accusation is trafficking, the venue is a Cambodian court, the accused is a Hagar leader. At stake is the custody of a child who needs to stay safe and anonymous. How did it happen? Because, sometimes when a child is a key witness in a trial and the accused is powerful and wealthy, all manner of twisted plots unfold to find the child and deny them their day in court. It might mean turning anti-trafficking laws against their very champions – like Hagar.
The reality? The possibility of real jail time for Hagar’s leaders.
Of course I would rather share the “happily ever after” story. Clean, clear, black & white, compelling, encouraging.
But, when we choose to engage in these darkest of human conditions, the experience seems more like the “journey forever after.”
It’s serial pedophiles who’ve been– pardoned under suspicious circumstances, and now trying to reconnect with our clients. It’s children confined to safe houses, often for years, because the risk is so great.
It’s a mother’s repatriation after years of abuse overseas only to find her children dead when she finally arrives home. It’s consoling a child whose mother must go to jail for trafficking her. It’s patiently dealing with severe developmental and permanent psychiatric disorders due to sustained and severe abuse. It’s teenagers returning to destructive addiction or abusive relationships. And of course, there’s the children with pictures of siblings pleading to have them found and restored when years of searching leads to more dead ends.
The truth is, recovery is complicated and messy. It calls us to confront turmoil almost every day as we embrace that winding journey we call recovery. It’s coming to terms with the fact that collateral damage to staff is common and keeping the team whole is a critical leadership challenge.
Somehow through the fairy tales of our youth we’ve come to believe that all we need to do is rescue the child from bondage and all will be happy with a little love and hospitality.
Maybe we’ve forgotten that grief and pain are healthy. That a passion for justice requires genuine courage and that true maturity requires hard heart work. Maybe we need to rediscover the man described in Isaiah 53 who embraced suffering to restore wholeness. We don’t need to experience the abuse of Hagar clients to know that the great joys in life lie at the end of hard journeys. We know it from our stories. So we will stand with our clients through their journeys for as long as it takes.
The hard truth about recovery is that wholeness is forged in this adversity, and the journey to get there is complicated.