We will call her Maria*.
She is 19 and the mother of a young son who lives with his aunt in another town in Moldova. Her mother died when Maria was young, and her father wasn’t around. She and her sister went to live with their grandparents, but things began to fall apart when her grandmother died. After a short while, Maria ran away from her grandfather to the city where her cousin lived. This same cousin introduced her to the streets, and with only a grade-9 education, Maria was prostituted for the first time. She was 13 years old.
We first met her during a volunteer training day for our Mobile Intervention Clinic. A Christian doctor and counselor, both trauma-trained, were teaching five volunteers how to provide pre- and post-counselling for women being tested for HIV/AIDS. While researching ways the church could address the problem of human trafficking in Moldova, we learned that this test is one service women in the sex trade have said they would welcome. In response, we turned a van into a mobile clinic to provide rapid HIV/AIDS tests and health checks, as well as referrals to other services.
Maria was the first young woman we approached. We asked if she would like to be tested, and she timidly accepted the offer. Inside the van, she told us how she wound up in this life and was tested for HIV. Thankfully, the test came back negative, but Maria said she was worried that she was pregnant. She asked if we would stay until after she took a pregnancy test she had already purchased. We agreed.
The test confirmed her suspicions. Maria’s face fell. She said she was considering an abortion—she pitied the life another child might have with her. She still hoped to have more children later in life, though, and expressed concerns about problems with pregnancy after an abortion. The doctor confirmed that risks did exist.
I shared with Maria our desire to help women in the sex trade exit and begin new lives. I told her we could connect her with other organizations that can help. I told her we were there to walk alongside her and help in any way we could.
While I spoke, Maria kept her eyes fixed downward, avoiding eye contact. But when we offered to take her to the doctor to get an ultrasound of the baby, Maria lifted her head and said she would like that.
“When?” we asked.
“Now,” she said.
Three of us went with Maria to the doctor, who said her baby was already 11 weeks old. When Maria showed us the sonogram image, we celebrated with her. She didn’t talk anymore of abortion from that point.
Two weeks later, after frequent contact with our counselor, Maria visited a Christian residential restoration program for survivors of sex trafficking. While she didn’t make a decision that day, she did articulate a basic hope: “[I want] to have my family together with me.”
After thinking it over, Maria decided to move into the restoration home. Today, a new life is possible for her—and her children.
Rebecca Sukanen is a missionary with the Church of the Nazarene in Moldova.
*Name has been changed.
Moldova Mobile Intervention Clinic
Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, is a hotbed for human trafficking. Desperation, poverty, and lack of education make girls and young women vulnerable to traffickers who promise a better life, only to force them into slavery and prostitution. In response, the Nazarene church in Moldova has started a Mobile Intervention Clinic to provide free medical services and referrals to Christ-centered restoration centers that provide a way off the streets. The goal is to get victims and their children, as well as potential victims, out of this danger zone.
To learn more about church-centered anti-trafficking ministries, go to ncm.org/trafficking.