Work in the red-light district of Moldova is heavy, challenging, and sometimes heartbreaking, but local Nazarene trafficking intervention workers get to see the power of God’s love transform women and families in ways they may never have been able to experience on their own.
This ministry includes an intervention team and a mobile medical clinic to offer counseling, prayer, HIV/AIDS testing, and other free medical services. The team has worked with many people over the years to help bring healing and provide career resources to trafficking victims. One of those victims was a single mother named Allison* who lost her children thanks to her poor health and financial situation.
About two years ago, Allison showed up at a coffee club ministry that meets every Wednesday night. While the group discussed healthy relationships, Allison waited patiently for the study to be over.
“Afterward, Allison and our team met with a translator who is specialized in trauma counseling and has worked with trafficking victims from Moldova in the past,” said Becky Sukanen, a missionary in Moldova. “Allison said she had decided to visit our trafficking intervention clinic after first meeting us through our street outreach. She wanted to know if we could take her into our program. We listened to her painful story, shared through sobs.”
Ten years ago, Allison was young and pregnant with her first child — a son. Two years later she and her husband had a second child — a daughter. When her daughter was only 2, her husband abandoned her. As the stress of being a single mother took its toll on her, Allison began having seizures. The doctors diagnosed her with epilepsy.
Because of her seizures, she lost her job as a waitress. When she turned to her mother for financial support, her mom started to sell herself on the streets of Moldova. This was the only way she could support herself, her daughter and her grandchildren. Seeing her mother reduced to such desperation only intensified Allison’s stress, turning her hair entirely grey, although she was just in her mid-20s.
Unable to see any other option, Allison also turned to work on the street for money. She hated it so much that she stopped, and they lived in the woods for a while. During that time, she decided her children would be better off in a state orphanage — an institution she dreaded but which seemed to be the best option available.
While visiting a social worker one day, Allison had a seizure. This episode led to the approval of her children’s adoption outside of Moldova.
Allison’s situation left her a childless, broken woman, traumatized and alone with a medical condition that renders her nearly unemployable. Without clear options, she had turned again to sexual exploitation as a last resort. Despite being short on trust, she responded to the hope presented by the local trafficking outreach ministry.
Recently, team members were able to locate her children. Although they will not be reunited, she was able to see photos of them, safe and living together with a family from Switzerland. When she saw the photos, she wept, happy that they were safe.
Four months into working with her, Allison came to the team and reluctantly admitted she was pregnant and panic-stricken. The staff listened to and comforted her.
Unable to face the unbearable loss of placing another child into adoption, Allison decided to keep her baby, and the intervention team walked through the pregnancy with her. She now has a healthy baby boy named Igor*.
The team held a baby shower for him, and the team’s home church donated formula, clothes, toys, and diapers for her to use until she started to get help from the government.
Next, Allison needed help financially. The team asked her about her skills and learned she knew how to sew by hand. They bought a sewing machine with money from Living Word Church of the Nazarene in Houston, Texas, and she started sewing. To make Allison’s employment sustainable, they offered to let her pay for the machine in exchange for 36 pillows or pillow covers.
“We have seen a noticeable change in Allison, who used to blame everything on God,” Sukanen said. “She now takes responsibility for her decisions and is learning and trying new ways to sew.”
Although Allison still has a long road of healing and recovery ahead, she had come far from when the team first met her. She earns money selling her pillowcases and other crafts, and she has completed 20 of the 36 pillows to pay for the sewing machine.
“Knowing that our ministry has helped Allison, her baby, and many others to find a new future is encouraging to us and reminds us that what we do for Christ makes a difference,” Sukanen said.
This article originally appeared on nazarene.org