The strange white car pulled up beside me as I walked to school.
I was only a few hundred yards from home and remember turning to see if my parents were still out the front of the house, waving me off. But they had long since gone inside.
My heart started to race … I was all alone.
The car pulled in front of me and the passenger door immediately opened. The smell of cigarette smoke filled my nostrils as a man I’d never seen before extended his hand and offered me a ride to school. He wore a thick black sweater with faded white graphics on the shoulder, and smiled politely through yellow and crooked teeth.
I was close enough to also see that another man sat in the back seat … watching … a large black garbage bag balled up on his lap. Almost 35 years later, I can still see this second man’s face—unshaven beneath a dirty baseball cap—his eyes fixed on me, waiting expectantly for me to join him.
I was nine-years-old when this happened.
A week or so later, I was playing safely in my bedroom when my parents told me that the police had arrested a local man fitting the description I had provided. I can’t imagine how different life would be had I stepped into that car.
I’ve thought a lot about that encounter recently, and realized that my experience is the terrifying daily reality for many of the world’s poorest children. And for these kids, the stories don’t always have a happy ending. They may not have parents to run home to, a safe place to hide, or any local police keeping an eye out for them. But most of all they lack the knowledge, and are easily tricked by evil men.
Throughout the month of May, World Concern is focusing its efforts on raising awareness of child trafficking, and giving you the opportunity to protect a vulnerable child from the threat of exploitation, abuse, and slavery.
It started with an event—the 8th Annual Free Them 5k—a family fun-run that attracted more than 1,400 participants and raised more than $200,000 to help stop trafficking. And this effort now continues with a special initiative that allows you to go one step further, and help cover a child in God’s love and protection.
These children live in poverty, so when something happens you won’t see their stories featured on the evening news, or an article written about their disappearance in a local newspaper. An Amber Alert won’t interrupt your television program, and you won’t see their faces on the community notice board at the local grocery store.
From an early age, I was taught about the dangers around me. I was educated and kept safe in a loving home and nurtured by a community of people that cared and looked out for my well being. But in villages across Southeast Asia, children don’t have this blessing, or the awareness that potentially saved me all those years ago.
So when I think about the men in the white car, and what could have happened that day—it makes protecting a child an easy decision.